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)

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13 responses to “An open mind…

  1. Do you get the sense (women are more emotionally-intuitive than men) that alt of people are ‘walking wounded’ -psychically wounded?
    Seems that people like you and Taegan, who are so enthused about racing, have to deal with so much ‘dead wood’ who should get outta the way.

  2. What bugs me is that some are referring to it as the inaugural Honda Indy Toronto. Um, no.

    The first running after the event switches series doesn’t make it ‘inaugural’ and neither does a change of naming sponsor.

  3. ha! I’m about as walking wounded as they come! so that blows that theory. hehe

    But seriously, I often wonder why I see things one way and get so passionate/riled up about it, while others poo poo it.

    I think because I came at this as a fan. My involvement grew organically from that. While I put on a “journalist/PR” hat and cover the sport, the various series and drivers, I still, and likely always will, agonize over it as a fan.

    You know that analogy “my head is thinking one thing, my heart another” Well, the journo/PR persona is my head talking/feeling, while the fan is my heart. Sometimes they are able to work in tandem, but a lot of the time, I have to reign in my “fan heart” and look at things much less emotionally.

    When you think of it that way though, perhaps those in control should unleash their fan hearts again (obviously they have been locked away too long) and allow some of that passion back into their thought process.

  4. Ya Pat. That’s a bit of a pisser. There is a 20+ yr history to this event. It’s “Inaugural” as far as Honda being the title sponsor, but that’s it.

    Curious, are they saying that Long Beach is inaugural too?

  5. I don’t believe they are but that may be because the sponsor remains the same..

    BTW thanks for the insight from the show.

  6. Don’t know who “they” are, but no, LB is pretty much being pushed as a continuation of the race we all came to love…as a CART event!!! Yeah, I know, F5000 and F1 (I actually worked on the track construction for the very first race, F5000) were there, but the heart and soul of American open wheel was always the Indy Cars (by name, not series).

    Typically when someone gets inside of any industry that has fans, the veneer gets taken off quickly. People become very calloused, feel somehow that they’re part of an elite group, and many (me included) tend to lose the ‘fan’ perspective and heart that goes with it. Only getting outside of the circle and being away from it for a while let me regain my fan’s heart…so the dispassionate attitude doesn’t surprise me…and the arrogant attitude has always been far too prevalent with many of the participants as I’ve observed them. It’s likely coming from the top down at AGR.

    I still believe that the best person for the PR stuff at Toronto would be one M. Beer. Qualified, passionate and enthused about the product and how to best market it and grow it.

  7. You’re welcome Pat. Certainly didn’t help you if you were looking to buy a car! LOL! I see everything through the eyes of racing unfortch.

    Mike: I totally get that. I certainly don’t look at the GAP in the same way after spending a year working for the company. Which is sad as I really enjoyed their clothes.

    It is definitely coming from the top down at AGR, as I was speaking with one of the top guys at the press conference.

    *bows head humbly* I thank you for your vote of confidence, but I fear no amount of “good ideas” would get through in this case. It is all being handled by AGR outside of the country. They come up twice a month for meetings, then take off again. Once the season starts, their focus will be pulled even further. (and I owe you an email I know!! it’s on my list)

  8. I’ve seen a number of writers in the press defend DP by saying that she’s nice in person.

    I had her pegged as a helmet screamer from her first season. She reminds me of my little sister—very intense. I’m Scots Irish, so hot tempers and scary-fast reflexes sort of run in the family. “Born fighting,” as they say. DP’s Irish temper is something I’m totally familiar with so it doesn’t bother me.

    RE Paul Tracy: she mentioned last year before Edmonton that when she was a kid racing Karts she wore a PT replica helmet ’cause he was her hero.

  9. I have met her several times throughout her career. (even pre-IndyCar) and she always rubbed me the wrong way, particularly after meeting and getting to know several other female racers who didn’t have the ginormous “I’m a girl, so I have to act tougher” chip on their shoulders. This was the first time I didn’t get acid reflux from the encounter. I’m hoping it’s a sign of better things to come.

    LOL a fellow “fighting Irishman”! Nice!
    I’m French/Irish/English Canadian (w/a little German in there for good measure) and I’m female. I know all about having a temper. (as some of you may have noticed hehe)

    Ya I remember that quote.

  10. Sometimes I think that sort of arrogance you’re talking about with them could be a defense mechanism. If they feign as though they know it all and show confidence (nay, cockiness), then people will fall for it and accept what is given instead of acting humbly and being straight to the point. I know this too well being the spoiled child that I am, lol. It’s easier to be arrogant and ignorant than humble and knowledgeable. Many of the people involved seem much closer to the former, sadly.

  11. I think that intensity can come across as arrogance. It’s tough to tease out if there is some arrogance there too. She obviously has a lot of scrutiny upon her and the weight of it must be tremendous – not unlike what Jr. has to deal with. She’s also young. Maybe she will mature into a good person that can deal without being a petulant brat. But I do think a more nuanced view is fair, and I am pumped to see Meesh giving her a chance! Now she’s got to bring that intensity to her driving or the good equipment will vanish. (Well, maybe her marketing/$$$ will give her Milka-like “Get-Out-of-Jail-Free cards forever. Or, at least until her looks fade.)

  12. I see everything through a racing perspective, too, and that means *everything*…

    As for females in racing, I’m a big fan of Liz Halliday’s approach, attitude and speed. And when not driving she makes a good commentator and pit reporter, I’ve seen her in both roles in LMS/ALMS.

  13. Nicely done, Meesh. Daniker is Daniker. I’ve never found her to be ultra-bitchy by any means in press conferences. She’s definitely confident (but most racers are) and I give her credit for trying to answer every question as squarely as possible. I also give her credit for consistency. She’s the same every time, so I appreciate Danica not trying to change to please whatever audience. She knows what she wants, has a plan to get it and is working her plan, so I give her credit for that.

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