Who is the face of IndyCar racing?

IndyCar Series (color).jpg There was a time when no one would ask the question “Who is the face of IndyCar racing?”

There was A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Rick Mears, Al Unser (Senior and Junior), Bobby Unser, Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan, Emerson Fittipaldi, Gordon Johncock, Johnny Rutherford, and Michael Andretti.  I’ve probably left out a few but that’s one hell of a list.

I’m a little biased about that list as I know each and everyone of those men from my days of broadcasting the Indianapolis 500 on radio and working CART events around the world for many years, but you can’t deny their star power and driving credentials.

Now, few if any of the current crop of drivers in IndyCar come anywhere near that stature and public awareness.

Courtesy Michael Levitt The most visible and well known and could claim the title was/is Helio Castroneves, especially after becoming a national phenom by claiming victory in “Dancing with the Stars.”  That in itself says something as a two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 should have a high public profile just from that fact. Unfortunately, because of his current legal problems, Helio is on the sidelines indefinitely.DixonScott-1696

I love current series champion and Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon, but let’s be honest.  Scott doesn’t have that high of a profile in the general public or even the casual race fan.

WheldonDan-6283 Dan Wheldon has the glamour going and is a great interview, but again, does the general public know who he is?  I bet other than hard core open-wheel fans, ask someone who Dan Wheldon is and you probably get a blank stare.

I could also add-in my old friends Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti, and Buddy Rice.  Two of those are former Indy 500 winners, in case you forgot.

AndrettiMarco-6848 Marco Andretti has to be the face of IndyCar right?  Wrong.  Marco has the Andretti name but so far has none of the accomplishments on the race track to back it up.  His one moment in the spotlight is when Sam Hornish, Jr. passed him coming to the checkered flag to take an Indianapolis 500 victory away from another Andretti family member.  Outside of that, nada.

PatrickDanica-4635 So, here is the person I feel is the “Face of IndyCar Racing” Danica Patrick.

Yes, Danica, who has one victory in her illustrious IndyCar career which came on fuel mileage and very seldom competes for victory while driving for arguably the best team in the series, is the persona of IndyCar racing.

This irks me to no end, especially in light of her being more famous for her Go Daddy commercials than anything she’s ever done on the track, but it’s the truth.  Just check out what Versus, the new TV partner of IndyCar is promoting in it’s pre-season programming.

Danica: Five Years Running will include highlights of Danica Patrick’s career, including her 2008 IndyCar Series victory, and her thoughts on the upcoming season.

Danica-SI swimsuit Five years, one win, very seldom in contention, terrible on road courses (which is suppose to be her strength) and shows off her body more than her driving skills.  Not one other driver in IndyCar currently has a pre-season show completely dedicated to them, which reinforces my point.

I know I’m being labeled right now as a “Danica hater” but facts don’t lie. When you are given the equipment and expertise that Andretti Green Racing gives her every race weekend, the results should be better.  Maybe it will finally happen this year.  I doubt it.

So, until a racing superstar is born that actually captures the imagination of race fans like Kyle Busch does in Nascar (this is for actually winning races and pissing off a lot of fans at the same time) Danica Patrick, IndyCar is yours to rule as its poster girl.

(IndyCar driver photos courtesy Michael Levitt)

(Danica Patrick swimsuit photo courtesy Randal Grant/SI)

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Fox Sports is letting down Nascar teams

Fox%20Sports%20Logo I’m sure if you weren’t in Daytona, just like me, you were parked in front of your TV Sunday watching the Daytona 500 on Fox.

We had to endure pre-race programming that was barely shorter than the six hours of pre-game hype for the Super Bowl.

Once the race started, we were bombarded with a commercial break it seemed about every 5 minutes.  If that wasn’t enough, commercial crawls came across the top of the screen and sometimes at the bottom.  How many sponsored “quizzes” were there in the broadcast? 

I know Fox needs to pay the bills but it got absolutely ridiculous in the Daytona 500.

What really upset me, Fox has now fallen into the ESPN habit of only concentrating on the front-runners and the “big” names of the sport.

How many times did you hear anything during the race about Bill Elliott? Did David Reutimann park his car and do some fishing in Lake LLoyd? What ever happened to Casey Mears, John Andretti, Ragan Smith, Robby Gordon and Sam Hornish, Jr?

It wasn’t just the back of the field guys.  You didn’t hear much said about Kurt Busch, Bobby Labonte, or Marcos Ambrose.

At the end, Fox all but forgot the likes of Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Juan Pablo Montoya, and even David Ragan who finished 6th.

Wasn’t anyone interested, especially in Edwards and Gordon if they could make it back to the front?

This only focusing on a handful of drivers and only those at the front is a trend that really started during the Chase for the Sprint Cup on ESPN last year.  It does a disservice to the other drivers and teams who need the publicity to keep their sponsors onboard and their fans informed.

At one time, Fox  would drop back in the field and follow battles for 17th or 25th.  They’d give a “shout out” to someone having a good day from a smaller team.  Now, it’s all eyes on the front and the “name” drivers and teams.

In these tough economic times, Fox and also ESPN, need to recognize they have a part to play in these teams surviving. Does it hurt to give every one of the starting 43 cars a few seconds of airtime during the broadcast?  Remember, the teams are selling that name on their car and if they are getting no TV time each week, those names disappear and so do the cars.  (Anyone remember that at one time, Fox had planned to use sponsor logos of each car during driver introductions?)

Fox, get back to your roots.  Let’s talk about the entire race that is going on and not just the one between the five cars at the front.