With all apologies to Led Zeppelin, it’s been a long time since we’ve rocked and rolled at “Splash And Go.” There has been plenty of news since the North American season officially ended with the NASCAR Sprint Cup season finale Nov. 21, so it would be a bit tedious to review all of that.
Let’s just pick up with the last week or so, shall we?
The IZOD IndyCar Series season ended two months ago, but it seems that no series in America has more mojo right now than Randy Bernard and Co. The good news keeps coming and coming, putting more than a decade’s worth of acrimony due to “The Split” deeper and deeper into the rear-view mirror.
The Road To Indy ladder system for INDYCAR, consisting of Firestone Indy Lights, Star Mazda and USF2000, received a major boost this week when Mazda announced its title sponsorship of the program. The Mazda Road to Indy will provide scholarships to the champion of all three developmental classes to jump to the next level the next season.
Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. There’s no other way to describe this, on so many levels. The scholarships provide a legitimate carrot for aspiring open-wheel racers at all levels, and the addition of another manufacturer bullish on the future of INDYCAR racing is fantastic.
Combine the Mazda Road to Indy with the recently announced program to grant a Firestone Indy Lights oval program to the USAC National Drivers Championship winner, and few — if any — sanctioning bodies in the world have such a clearly defined road to the pinnacle as INDYCAR.
Team Penske continued to add sponsors to its stable, as series sponsor IZOD came on board this week. IZOD will use Penske driver Ryan Briscoe as its new poster boy, and the best series sponsor in INDYCAR history — by about 1,000 miles — already is activating both its series sponsorship and support of Briscoe through new TV commercials filmed in the desert with a live soundtrack provided by rock band Weezer. No more racing to the party, I guess. I shed no tears.
The addition of IZOD continued a hell of a capitalistic run for Penske, which also snared Shell/Pennzoil as an Indianapolis 500 primary sponsor for three-time Indy winner Helio Castroneves, AAA of Southern California as a primary sponsor for Castroneves at Long Beach and Texas and Midwestern grocery store chain Meijer as an associate sponsor for all three of its cars.
While Penske’s sponsor ranks continue to grow, Andretti Autosport lost both IZOD as Ryan Hunter-Reay’s sponsor and Meijer to its rivals.
Andretti Autosport is down to three drivers — Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Danica Patrick — for 2011 after Tony Kanaan’s release when 7-Eleven didn’t return as the primary sponsor of TK’s car for 2011. Kanaan’s future destination is the hottest topic in the IZOD IndyCar Series silly season, and blogger George Phillips looks at how TK might fit at DeFerran Dragon Racing.
There are other news bits stirring around, and Curt Cavin of The Indianapolis Star does a good job in his daily Q&A of sorting the wheat from the chaff in terms of IZOD IndyCar Series news and rumors. Definitely worth plugging Curt’s Q&A into your RSS reader or checking the Star’s site every day.
The IndyCar blog ranks continue to swell, too, another good sign. VERSUS, which broadcasts more IZOD IndyCar Series races than any other network, added superb IndyCar journalist Jeff Olson to its blog roll earlier this year. The latest additions are Jeff Iannucci, the proprietor of the late, great “My Name Is IRL” blog, and Roy Hobbson, who formerly wrote “The Silent Pagoda” at the official IndyCar site.
Mike Knapp has launched a new, independent IndyCar blog, “15 Days In May.” Best of luck to Mike, and welcome to the blogosphere.
Formula One never sleeps, and F1 czar Bernie Ecclestone never ceases to find new ways to make a buck.
Ecclestone was mugged near his London home recently, suffering significant facial injuries while his expensive Hublot watch was stolen. Bernie returned to work the next day, looking worse than a Manny Pacquiao knockout victim. But he devised a way to capitalize on his grotesque injuries, letting Hublot use an image of his battered face for a very clever ad.
Hublot is the official watch of Formula One, and the tagline of the ad read, “See what people will do for a Hublot.” If this ad sells more watches, Bernie can charge a higher sponsorship fee the next time the contract with Hublot is up. Cha-ching! Brilliant!
Veteran F1 journalist Joe Saward takes a look into his imaginative crystal ball and examines some of the mysteries of the 2011 Formula One season.
2011 also marks the 50th anniversary of the first F1 World Championship won by an American driver, when Phil Hill captured the title in the shark-nose Ferrari, one of the most elegant race cars ever built. Sadly, Phil died in 2008, but this nice feature story looks back at Hill’s championship season and his legacy.
The holidays are upon us, and if you’re like me, you’re probably scrambling for gift ideas for racing fans on your list. Here are three suggestions: 2011 Indianapolis Motor Speedway race tickets, some cool gear or swag from the Brickyard Authentics Online Store or a membership in the new IMS Kids Club for a special kid or kids 12 and under in your life. Bingo. Easy. Done!