Saturday notebook from Indy
- It’s not exactly calm here at Indy, but there certainly is a rainstorm brewing. 68 degrees and showers forecast for tomorrow’s race. Last year featured record temps.
- The 2013 Jigger Sirois Award was given by the American Auto Racing Writers & Broadcasters Association to (who else?) Michel Jourdain. The award is nothing to aspire to, as it commemorates Jigger's dubious distinction of waving off a Pole-winning run on the first day of qualifications in 1969, only to fail to qualify for the race due to a series of woes that followed. One winner described the award as "whipped cream on a turd." Jourdain not only failed to qualify the car -- which was deemed "evil" and "undriveable" -- but also managed to be fined $1000 for bodywork violations in the process. Rahal officials were not present to pick up the award, and so far have refrained from comment.
For his part, Jigger (his real name is Leon) is grateful for the 1969 event. As he told the AARWBA, this notoriety has enabled him to help the Stuttering Foundation, which combats a condition that afflicted him for much of his life, and still causes him pause when he gets in front of a crowd -- which he did today.
- Long Beach has been in the rumor mill lately. It seems to be true that the organizers of Long Beach are indeed meeting with F1 officials, and F1 journalists such as Joe Sewald are hyperventilating with the thought of three American F1 races, not to mention putting a ding in IndyCar.
However, some background is in order here to understand what is happening. First, word has it that the unification agreement which ended "the split" included a sweetheart deal for Long Beach's sanctioning fees, somewhere around $500,000 if the rumors are correct. Normally, according to rumor, IndyCar likes to see sanctioning fees of $5 million or so, depending on various variables. Word has it that Long Beach is due for a renegotiation of those fees, and one might understand why race organizers might want to keep their options open. IndyCar officials, of course, declined to comment.
Meanwhile, in F1, "Bernie" -- and the word "Bernie" might or might not simply pertain to Bernie Ecclestone, or F1 officials in general -- have always played games with race organizers. F1 might indeed want a third F1 race in the USA. F1 might also want to have an option in case the New Jersey thing falls through, or might want to use this as leverage to motivate either CotA and NJ officials. Then again, they might also be using this as a "threat" to a current race, that they might go to Long Beach instead of some other venue outside of the USA.
So what are the chances that cash-strapped governments in California would cough up the money to upgrade the Long Beach site to F1 standards, and find the estimated $25 million or so for the sanctioning fees, just to put up with the complete silliness that the F1 organizers bring to any venue, knowing full well that every prior F1 venue in the USA has cut ties in bankruptcy and/or disgust, when they pulled 6-7 times the crowd at their event that the F1 event had that weekend? Then again, I can't believe they built a $400 million circuit in Texas either.
- I was lucky enough to sit next to legendary NHRA drag racer Don "The Snake" Prudhomme. Don told us stories of AJ Foyt's team picking up some nitromethane, and suddenly finding speed. What is Don doing here at Indy this week, in a series that includes left turns in the event? Well, he's working with Chip Ganassi's team......
- Last minute sponsor deals are happening here for some teams. The Buddy Lazier effort is trying to sell "top of side pods plus rear wing" for $20,000. Or you can just have the top of the side pods for $10,000. They did compliment series and track officials, who have been sharing sponsorship leads with the team. However, one needs to ask whether the team will see much TV time, unless they do like Richard Petty did it in the 1988 Daytona 500 -- where the "STP" logo was featured as the car barrel-rolled down the front stretch. For that matter, isn't most of the fun of being a sponsor had when you get to have VIP passes for the month? Tim Wohlford reporting from Indy