Monthly Archives: February 2009

In case you missed it…

you missed NOTHING!

What a colossal waste of air time and my time. Seriously. It was basically just a big infomercial with ZERO information of any substance. Most of what was said was pretty much what everyone has been talking /speculating about since word “leaked” that this team even existed. SPEED made a big todo about this Live press conference with USF1 Team Principal Ken Anderson & Sporting Director Peter Windsor, but unless they are more forthcoming with the reporters in their one on ones off camera, it was much”todo” about nothing.

One thing we did learn is that they both have the “side step the question like a politician” thing down pat! Especially when it came to the first question, the one we are all interested in, the “who’s driving” question.

After about 3 minutes of bloviating by Windsor, he finally got around to saying that they are looking at younger drivers  “the next generation”, mentioning a few of the offspring of several F1 drivers. Also thrown in the mix were Rossi & Summerton, then Scott Speed, (who himself has said he ain’t interested) He mentioned that Nascar drivers could be “groomed” and then tossed out the name Kyle Busch. ??? And of course finally mentioning the Princess (gotta keep throwing the kindling on the fire)

Mario Andretti was brought into the discusssion via telephone and immediately began pimping out his grandson. Hey Mario… didja watch the A1GP race this weekend? Do you really think that Marco has what it takes?? Maybe once his testicles drop…

A pre-taped segment featuring Dan Guerny’s opinion on this thing added even less enlightenment, but hey, shout out to DG for being spunky!

According to them, they sold a small part of the team, so they have funding in place. They’ve no preferences for engine suppliers and they don’t seem bothered by the recession. Also, they’ll hire the ‘best most experienced” crew, but not the “best most experienced drivers”?? backwards thinking there…

IMHO, they need to scrap the “U.S Driver” concept. If it happens organically, great. But wouldn’t you want the BEST driver in your F1 debut, not just the one with the “correct’ lineage?

meh… back to watching spring training…

An open mind…

is a terrible thing to waste…

So I’m sure y’all have been waiting with bated breath for my report from the Princess’ press conference here in Toronto this week. (sorry, life got in the way, and I didn’t feel like clicking away at the keyboard)

First let me say, after the shitty week I’ve been having, I really wasn’t sure I should even attempt this event, knowing how this type of Danicamania sets my blood pressure sky rocketing! But I reminded myself that any chance I get to hang with my fellow auto racing media types and bounce ideas & opinions off them is a welcome escape from my reality and always a great honour.
So… I talked myself into going.

I decided that I was going to leave any preconceived bias at home and come into this with an open mind. New year, new attitude. Second chances all around.

I put on my “I’m a professional” face and headed to the show. I knew in advance that I had another storyline to distract me. A little girl named Taegan who is a karter. She’s been at it since she was 5 (she’s now 10) and was there for the photo op w/Danica. Turns out she was a very inspiring little distraction. I got in a little interview with her before everything got going. She’s very bright, and already very media savvy. If she can put it together on track & move up through the ranks, she will be the total package.

Anyway, as my colleagues began to arrive and gather, we immediately started nashing away at the hot topics (Jr. losing his talent in Daytona, Danica to F1, etc…) I’m telling you, there is nothing like a fired up (in a friendly way) face to face racing themed debate to put you in a good mood!

Then the time came for the presentation. I was working very hard to keep a neutral expression and not roll my eyes or sneer as the roll call of her “accomplishments” was read out.

I have to say, the turn out was rather underwhelming (see pics) Then again, the build up to it was too. (More on that later) Not to belabor a point and show my PT bias, but when the big guy is in town for an appearance (at this very same event), the crowds and the line ups are much bigger.

Some mucky muck from Honda Canada blathered on for a bit then he introduced Charlie Johnstone. CJ used to be the big cheese here in Toronto for this race. (the last two years running) Now he still has a title (VP/GM) but I don’t think he really has that much say in what happens here anymore. He is normally a very smiley, positive guy. That day I don’t think I saw him smile once. In fact he looked like he’d aged and had the weight of the world on his shoulders. (hey, I’m a girl, I notice these things) He read a bunch of propaganda off a sheet of paper and brought out the guest of honour.

I am always so taken aback at how tiny she is. Seriously. And she looks even smaller in street clothes. (as opposed to a nomex suit) She was in dark jeans, boots with a slight heel, a dark team shirt and her hair was pulled back into a neat ponytail. A far contrast from the S.I image, which I’m guessing was the point. She is very pretty, but that pulled back hair gives her a very hard edged look and only highlights her scowly face. (I didn’t posted those pics, but she does make some hilarious faces when she talks)

She was actually personable and had some funny moments (jawdrop) Yes I just gave her a compliment.

She is a very intense little person though. Not angry intense, just wound a little tight, shoulders up around her ears. She was much more pleasant from the usual. I’m thinking her new PR reps might have schooled her a little in her how she comes across in interviews, cause she definitely had improved her “light hearted” banter, and had lost some of that cocky sense of entitlement she usually sports. It’ll be interesting to see how if this new and improved version carries through the season. I also wonder if it’s the pressure of the racing that makes her come across as a colossal bitch during the season and if her new handlers will nip that in the bud this year.

Anyway, CJ asked her a bunch of questions about racing in Toronto and the Toronto event. (she raced here in Barber Dodge & Atlantics) They broached the economic situation & sponsorship, which lead to her quipping “you mean IndyCar was part of the bailout?”

Then there was this funny exchange (yes, I’m giving credit where it’s due)
CJ: We understand there will be few changes for you this year as Michael Andretti will be calling your car.
DP: who?
CJ: *chuckles* So as he’s a 7-time winner of the race in Toronto, how do you feel having Michael on the other end of your radio?
DP: I think maybe he should drive it!

Yes, even I laughed.

She went on to talk about the ‘bossman’ and the benefits of him being a driver and having a drivers perspective of the car and the tracks, yada yada yada…

They did the photo op with Taegen, then we did the media scrum.

She gave a nice shout out to the Canadian fans and our knowledge of racing. She talked about the challenges of street courses, our track in particular. As you’ve already read elsewhere I’m sure, she had had zero contact with the powers that be at USF1, yet another strike against them and their legitimacy. (first strike was throwing her name into the mix in the first place)
“There weren’t any quotes from me because no one contact me” she went on to say:
“It’s very flattering anytime your in the same sentence as Formula 1, but I’m really happy where I’m at. I love racing in the US. (the continental US (Canada, Mexico, etc..) So I don’t really… ya, I haven’t really expressed a lot of excitement and interest in world travel. But, we’ll see what they say though, maybe they’ll call”

The PT question came up of course. She was very complimentary about him of course. Said he was a ‘great name” and very exciting. blah blah blah… (really, what else is she going to say to the media scrum of Toronto racing journalists!)

Even I asked her a question.

MB: Danica, it had been rumoured earlier in the season that you were going to race A1GP, but that hasn’t happened. What, if anything have you been doing to prepare for the upcoming season to up your game on road and street courses?
DP: I did the 24 hrs of Daytona in January, so that was a lot of seat time, hrs in the car, so that was good. And you know what, next week we start testing, so it’ll be nice to get in the IndyCar seat again. But, you know, to keep the cost down, they really prohibit a lot of testing, so unfortunately not many of us get to go out and do a whole lot.
MB: Will you be making an appearance in A1GP at all this season.
DP: No. No, nope. I’m not going to be doing that. Thanks.

So there ya go. My day with Danica.
I didn’t snap her like a twig or feel the desire to drop kick her in the head for once.

Who I did want to drop kick was one of the AGR mucky mucks. I stupidly had turned off my digi recorder by this point, so I won’t name or quote. Besides, I was participating in a side conversation with him and two other reporters.
There is a palpable arrogance regarding the running of this race, and what is needed to pull it off successfully. I get the sense that they believe that the people of Toronto are so grateful to have their (our) race back, that very little placating needs to be done to coerce us back to the event. I don’t think they could be more wrong.

There is an equal arrogance with the perception of the racing and the series. The topic of car count came up. How many cars would be on the grid in St. Petes. While my cohorts lowballed at 18, I pushed it to 20. He seemed to think there would be a full pitlane (23-24 cars) and that would carry through to Indy, when he nonchalantly added “it would start to drop off”.
He was perfectly content with that. (why not, less competition on track for his team)
I however was gobsmacked by this laissez faire attitude. It only served to highlight once again the inherent problem with this series. It revolves around one race. Everything else is of no real consequence. I argued that it would seem, in my eyes, more important to have a solid grid of 18 cars for an entire season, from a sponsorship and event point of view, then 24 cars for a handful of races. He disagreed with me saying “that’s always been the case”
Sorry dude, but we never had teams fall off the grid mid season on the Champ Car side of the fence. (ya ya, Champ Car is gone, whatever, not the point here)

I also think the irony was completely fucking lost on him that the Toronto race, of which he (his team) was now in charge of, falls post Indy 500, so would be one of the events to suffer greatly if a depleted grid rolls into town.

It’s bizarro thinking like that that makes me wonder if we will ever have a strong, healthy American Open Wheel to watch and support and bitch about 😉 years from now.

Anyway, blathered on long enough. Here’s the gallery of the Princess’ visit. (that’s what y’all came for anyway)

article photo FAIL

So, I get what they were going for…

the drivers in the pic are all race winners in 2008…

But that big guy in the middle…

the one overpowering the whole photo?

Ya, he doesn’t have a fucking ride this year.

Probably not the best choice for the photo accompanying the article trying to blow smoke up our ass about the warm fuzzy “unification” of open wheel.

just sayin is all…

Boogity Boogity Boogity!

it’s Daytona 500 day kids!
Yup… watching.
Apparently I’m desperate for racing.

Actually, I figured I would start watching at the start of the season and semi-follow it this year. I’m gonna hop on the Stewart/Newman bandwagon, with a little extra for Marcos Ambrose and Joey Lagano.
(I still can’t believe Carpentier isn’t in the field this year… bullshit)

I have my laptop and my spiffy new (loaned to me) monitor going. I’m telling you, it makes a huge difference. Especially when you’re watching via internet stream, blogging, following T&S, twittering (@whatimthinking), etc… This is good practice for our (openwheel) season coming up.

The “racing” itself is about as exciting as watching paint dry. (especially on ovals) at least until the last 20 or so laps, so I’m not doing a typical live blog like I do for Open Wheel. I’m concentrating on the broadcast itself. It’s quite eye opening to watch the PR/marketing machine in motion. NASCAR certainly is a Juggernaut when it comes to that.

Every commercial is related to NASCAR in some way. (driver/series/teams sponsors) Every commercial break has an ad that features one or two drivers via their sponors. Even the tracks are getting in on the act, showing vintage footage and promoting ticket discounts. (very smart)

IndyCar has got to up their game in this avenue on all levels. Each team/sponsor has got to up their game too. The ad buys for the races have got to be filled with more than Danica ad’s. NASCAR drivers can’t be the only drivers with personalities. Hell, if all it takes is a southern “good ol’boy” accent, then I’ll personally coach our boys to put one on! LOL!

Lap 80 my NASCAR pool pic for this race just got introduced to the safer barrier. He’s ok.

Awkwardly placed Big movie trailer premiere to kill off the yellow laps. (The Watchmen)

That NAPA commercial is funny. (Waltrip should stick to commercials hehe)

Rain is imminent. Race is now “official” at half way point. Folks are now racing for the best position in the pack should this thinkg get red flagged.

HUGE wreck on lap 124. Taking out a crap load of cars, including Kyle Busch who had lead the most laps and can’t seem to buy a break this weekend.

About that…Something I’ve noticed over the course of the last week: Kyle Busch has definitely done some PR/media training in the off season. He is a completely different person from the cocky, petulant child we saw throughout the season in 08. Maybe he didn’t like the moniker of NASCAR’S “bad boy” he was labeled with last year.

Well, rain & tv windows decided the race. Anti-climactic ending to a pretty anti-climactic race. meh. Congrats to Matt Kenseth. It matters not how you got there, but that you were at the front when the checkers waved.

Autoshow revisited…

So I dropped by the Autoshow on my way home last night. Since it was the official opening day, I wanted to see what the crowds were like and what, if any, improvements/tweaks had happened since media day.

My biggest concern of course was the Honda Indy Toronto booth (or well, the Toronto Sun booth supporting the race)

Of  course I had no choice but to first pass by the NASCAR Pavillion. (it’s right at the bottom of the escalators heading to the main exhibit hall) (see pics)

Say what you will about it, but they’ve got it right.  Two show cars (CDN drivers) flank the front. Two large ultra cool tv screens hanging above the booth broadcasting SPEEDTV live coverage. (conveniently it’s Daytona Weekend, so there’s lots of coverage) “Have bus will travel” is there. They run tours to several Nascar events. They have uniforms that look like crew shirts, and are very knowledgeable about the series. There is a pit crew challenge set up. (half a car where you change a tire and pretend to refuel) and two Nascar racing simulators. Several banners featuring drivers, and branding everywhere. And it’s loud. The girl running the pit challenge is mic’d, the simulators are cranked and the tv’s are live and loud. It gets your attention whether you like racing or not.

My heart sank into the pit of my stomach as I made my way into the main hall to find the Honda Indy Toronto booth. I was pleasantly surprised to find it moved to a much more visible, central location and a much bigger set up. I wandered around, took some pics. There weren’t many folks milling about. Some kids on the simulators (not Open Wheel unfortch), and a girl sitting on the couch ignoring the racing video playing, texting someone on her phone. I walked around to the front desk where the three booth bunnies were engaged in a conversation about something. (one with her back to me) It took a few minutes but finally one of them asked me if I wanted to fill out a ballot. I explained I was media, which snapped them all to attention, and prompted them to ask me if I had any questions. I asked how the response had been so far, if people were asking questions about the race, etc… They said that the response so far had been positive.  Over the course of the conversation all three revealed they knew nothing about racing. :bangs head on desk: To their credit however, they were mature and engaging, and inquisitive while talking to me about racing, so I guess that scores them points. Also, they are representing the Toronto Sun, not the race, so not their fault really. That said, would it really break the bank to have someone actually representing the race it self, who is knowledgeable about the series and the event, to also be on hand to field questions?? Also, I would have had the show car down in the main booth. Or the main booth up by the show car. Keeping everything together.

Sadly there is no real information on the race itself at the booth. Nothing about the schedule, the series, the support races, etc… Just several contests that you can enter. Win tickets to the race, win the pace car, win a trip to St. Petes (for the race) Actually there was a lot of St. Petes stuff. (travel brochures, etc…)

The Princess will be there next week to sign autographs. No need to express how I feel about that. It was explained to me earlier this week when I questioned the logic of not using a CDN driver to promote that being an AGR event, they will be utilizing their own resources to promote the race. (ie: drivers, cars, etc…) I get that, but I don’t have to like it.

For those not going to the Autoshow or not locals but planning to attend the Toronto Race, here is a little heads up for you. If you go to before Feb 22 and enter the promo code: Andretti, you will recieve a FREE paddock pass ($40 value) with every grandstand seat purchased. So, if you’re planning to buy, might as well pony up now, and get a deal. Ticket sales are actually going well according to my source. Everything else aside, I want to see my race not only succeed but flourish for many years to come, so again, happy to hear that.

The crowd was pretty sparse last night. I would  imagine most folks are waiting till the weekend to spend a full day there. Also they have a great family weekend pass offer.

I have to say too, that their are a lot of people manning the little side boths who are about as engaging as a tree stump. No smiles, no hello, no “can I answer a question, interest you in the product I’m supposed to be hawking?” Nope. Just disinterested, blank stares. Now I’ve done several booth bunny stints for a variety of different shows. It really doesn’t take more than a smile and “enjoy the show” to bring someone to your booth or make them feel welcome. It amazes me that some of these people are earning a wage to do this.

OH, there was a booth… “buddy” I guess as he was a he… LOL.. who was at the Sunoco display upstairs (which also has a NASCAR show car) and who engaged in a conversation with me, even after I told him I wasn’t interested in entering the contest. He noticed my racing cap, and started a conversation. (smart) which kept me there making his booth seem more appealing to other passersby. That also sparked him to inform me that Ron Fellows was going to be there on Monday between 2-4pm to sign autographs. (of course there was no signage to that effect, so unless you’re psychic you wouldn’t have had a clue about it…)

Engaging and knowledgeable.

In this economic climate, when purchasing a car is more of a fantasy for folks than ever, the more appealing you can make the whole experience, the better for all involved.

Anyway, here are some more pics. I’m going to try and make it down on Monday, and then of course I have to grin and bear it and go cover Princess Danica’s appearance on Wednesday.

Autoshow Gallery 2