I don't know if you've noticed, but it seems lately that INDYCAR, after starting this year with some admirable momentum, has, like that kid in the viral videos on YouTube who tried to jump the creek on his BMX bike but failed to pull up hard enough on the handlebars, come to a very very sudden stop, creamed its nuts on its handlebars, and is now puking blood in the dirt.
Some of this has to do with things beyond their control - like drivers performing as if they were inside in a giant Happy Days pinball machine - but other egg-on-face moments have sprung from an attitude of "We are doing this because screw you guys" on the part of both the series managers and the team owners that we all assumed was supposed to be merely implied instead of expressed vocally on national television.
In times like these, the standard doom-and-gloom and "Man, Sylvia Plath really had some neat ideas about inhaling poisonous oven gas" thought processes normally espoused by IndyCar fans as a matter of course seem a little more justified. It is for this reason that even the most cynical and snark-ridden pundits - like me, for instance - occasionally have to force ourselves to find nuggets of positivity to share with the rest of you suicidal freaks.
So put down those razors and prescription medicines and read along as we remind you that even a glass 1/4th full is not totally bone-dry empty.
- The 2012 IndyCar totally exists and has actually turned laps. Bryan Herta Autosport, the team that improbably won the 2011 Indianapolis 500, stuffed their driver, Dan Wheldon (and his gloriously capped teeth) into a rolling turbo-powered Dallara-Honda for testing after the Mid-Ohio race this year. Sure, it still had
an airboxan overhead turbo inlet which coincidentally makes it unnecessary for INDYCAR to change the existing corporate logos; but the car already was almost immediately faster and more nimble than the 2003 crapwagon it will be replacing. Okay, so the bodywork - which either made you mildly skeptical or fully ready to mount a frontal assault on Mordor armed only with a handful of dirt and slavering screams of fury, depending on your level of cynicism - probably wasn't the sexist thing ever built, but underneath that bodywork will be at least two, and probably three, different brands and types of powerplant. Did I mention turbochargers? And did I also mention that BHA and the Grandest Grin In All Britain, authors of the biggest feel-good story of the year, should be well-positioned for a full-time ride next season too?
- KV Racing is no longer just an extremely expensive punchline. Listen, there's really no way to get around EJ Viso and his Happy Multiple Impact and Collision Show. But Takuma Sato and Tony Kanaan have made huge strides this season, and while Sato still has a bit of polishing yet to do, he's getting more recognition lately for being fast than being someone else's trailer hitch or hood ornament. And Kanaan - well, I think it's pretty obvious that Andretti Autosport's case of sour grapes was all just bad whine (don't forget to tip your waitress, folks). Still work to do? Sure, but this is not the team of Three Blind Mice from last season.
- Oriol Servia has a full-time ride and is using it to kick ass. And you never know - in the next couple of days, he might even be labeled an IndyCar race winner! (If his protest goes better than Paul Tracy's did nine years ago, that is.) All of that aside, 2011 has been Oriol's chance to say, "IN YOUR FACE, PRETENTIOUS ASSMUNCHERS WHO BELIEVED I WAS NOT WORTH THE INVESTMENT!!!" - although, let's be honest, Oriol is too classy to actually say something like that. See? The good guys do still make good in this series every so often.
- INDYCAR has a ton of young talent in the wings (*rimshot*). JR Hildebrand. James Hinchcliffe. Martin Plowman. Pippa Mann. Simona de Silvestro. Josef Newgarden. Conor Daly. Bryan Clausen. Sage Karam. Petri Suvanto. Shannon McIntosh. Zach Veach. Look, if you aren't getting a serious chubby at this collection of up-and-coming talent, you really need to go pay attention to something else, like reality TV or the Westminster Dog Show.
- Will Power flipped off Brian Barnhart in glorious high-definition with both fists. Racing series all over the planet are trying to get their drivers to show some more emotion after decades of trying to get them to hide it under a smooth, plasticized, corporate-friendly Stepford Wife personality. The "boys, have at it" movement is just about as fake as the mild, benign, Coke-swigging spokesmodels that racers have become. Who knew that the most egregious public failure of INDYCAR Race Control would also unleash the Terror of Toowoomba, Hulk-like, with network TV cameras capturing every fabulous moment for posterity's (and YouTube's) sake? Hell, I nearly filled out a change-of-nationality card to make myself Australian after that. Don't apologize, Mr. Power (and yes, from now on, you WILL show him the proper respect, or else he will boomerang you with Crocodile Dundee's knife) - you injected some much-needed life, passion, and humor into a series that desperately lacked those elements for far too long.
What about it, INDYCAR fans... what has happened this year - or will happen in the future - that has kept you from Kevorkian-ing yourself into oblivion?