Saturday, December 29, 2018

2018 In 5 (Non-Racing) Photos

Another year has come to a close. For better, but more often worse, 2018 was a busy year for me.
My attempts to advance my career in media are well documented, both here and on Twitter, so I instead chose for my photo essay to sum up 2018 a more personal collection of pictures.
(A piece with some racing related photos will appear tomorrow.)

So instead, enjoy the 5 most important photos of my 2018, in order.

1. In March, I purchased a car that wasn't exactly a dream car, but definitely the most fun car I've ever driven, my 1993 Miata. It's cheap on gas and fun as hell with the top down. I had wanted a Miata since I was 8 and started out with one in GranTurismo 3.

2. In Late July,  while my friends were all in Ohio for the IndyCar race that sucked to have to miss, I was reviving my alter ego, Lucas Lazarus after a 15 month hiatus from wrestling. It was supposed to be the start of a run at EWA in Chattanooga, but things just weren't meant to be.
In this photo I'm giving myself the "I'm a Star" speech from Boogie Nights.

3. Early October. Sometimes in life you make friends with someone who changes your life, someone who actually makes you want to be happy. I've been fortunate to meet many friends like that in the last 2 years. My friend Derrick (Still don't know his last name) came into my life in May, and he's been a constant source of inspiration and support since.
Here he is, me following him through the streets of Chattanooga at about 3AM.

4. Late October. My first published piece in the college newspaper. It would end up being my only published feature. The excitement of seeing my work in print on my birthday was divine. Even if the headline wasn't the one I had written.
To get to redeem myself for my poor quality of work 2 years prior was the best feeling in the world.

5. December. The end of the road. The last few weeks of my last semester, I had resigned from any and all social activity between classes to instead walk the lake behind the college. It was tranquil, the closest thing I've had to therapy in 8 years. This photo was taken on the final day of the semester. What an emotional rollercoaster it was.

So that's it. 5 Of the most important photos of 2018.
2019 Promises a new life, a new world of sorts. Let's see where it takes me.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

A Happy Ending (For Once)

It's 5:40 AM on a Wednesday. I have work soon, but I've been awake for 22 hours now with no sign of stopping. I'm wired. I'm talking, y'know, the kind of wired where you're so tired you just wanna keep going until you crash harder than J.R. Hildebrand on the last lap at Indy. (What? Too cheap?)

I must apologize for not updating this blog much this year. As much as I wanted 2018 to be defined by my pursuit of a career in racing media, twists and turns took me to places I never imagined, and thus, this website took a backseat.

Anyway, I'm also happy, coupled with being wired. Sure, I failed history class and I got shot down in asking for a date earlier in the night, but I'm still happy. After all, I'm curled up in my finest sweatpants, listening to my favorite podcast (83 Weeks). I've made it through another year, almost. 2018 is drawing to a close and I can't help but be reflective.

The year started with me alone, babysitting my friend's cats with nothing but a futon, a Hawaiian pizza, and a space heater in the room with me. I didn't even know midnight had passed until 6 minutes into the new year. I fell asleep 20 minutes later and began my 2018 at about 4 in the afternoon.
I was staying at a friend's house, having just quit my job after a lonely, dreadful holiday season. I had no idea what would be next. All I really cared about was fixing things with my Dad and getting away from drinking as much as I could.

The plan was to hit St. Pete in March, try to work the IndyCar date as independent media like I sometimes do. However, I ended up being unemployed for almost 3 months. Here's where the hellride began.

I found myself working 2 jobs in March. You see, moving back home to Chattanooga crushed me. I had moved to Dayton, OH the previous summer to run from the embarassment of my handling of Mom's death and a failed relationship. I thought I was free, but home came calling. My goal was to move to Indianapolis to not only be closer to the racing business, but to be around friends in the midwest who inspire me. It's good to have positive influences, after all.

So I worked away, worked my ass off to be honest. The local zoo by day, janky hotel by night. (And boy do I mean janky) The hotel job ended after almost being assaulted by an unwanted guest in the lobby. Wanting to get the hell out after that and the denied request off for The 500, I lied, told them I was already moving to Indy when I was just making my annual Memorial Day visit. I'll do anything just to go to The 500. Sorry, Christina.

After attending The 500, this time with the entire Caylor family, I stayed with my Dad who was on assignment in Kentucky for 3 weeks. I had a few job interviews in Indy, and it looked like I'd be a Hoosier in no time. But the opportunities fell through. My last gasp was an interview at a Toyota dealer in Avon. I felt I had the job in the bag, at least until they asked if I had any speeding tickets.
It wasn't all bad, though. I got to hit a few bars with my friend Chris and feel the freedom of blasting down I75 in Ohio with rain pouring while "I Miss You" by Blink-182 blares over my '93 Miata factory speakers.

By the time summer came, I was miserable. While my management at the zoo are some of the kindest people you could work for, the low pay and painfully long, hot days meant I was confined to a fryer 6 days a week while the world passed me by. I never heard or even knew what the #1 song this year was. if I had to guess I'd say it's that "Keke, do ya love me..." song. But I haven't actually heard it.

Late July came and I was gutted. I missed the race at Mid-Ohio after a summer of financial setbacks .(Funding race trips is tough yo)
It was a beneficial experience last year and I was looking forward to it, but it wasn't meant to be. My friend Pat told me, "There will be other races," and I sure hope so.

What did work out was my return to college. I had dropped out in 2017, in equal parts due to my aforementioned Mother's death  and failed relationship, which were the 2 contributing factors to my obscene alcohol problem. Simply put, I got too drunk and too weepy, and with no Mother to cry to, I called the wrong person and poured my heart out. Drinkin's bad, kids.
The ensuing fight (we're close friends now so it's okay) left me so humiliated and hurt that a quasi-intervention from my English professor made me realize I should try getting help before ruining my GPA. (That incident, by the way, is the sole reason I'm doing things like this blog or anything in racing. Blessing in disguise.)

So I came back, a little heavier and sans afro, but a whole lot more confident. I had my final drink on August 17 and haven't looked back.
I'll be honest, I've been pretty well distracted from racing this semester. I know who all the Champions are and whatnot, but finding out how they got there will keep me busy this offseason.

The semester went well, I suppose. I got a few pieces published in the college newspaper, and I was veey happy to redeem myself for the poor work I had done there at the height of my drinking problem. The highlight of the semester would have to be when my math professor showed me my grades and said, "You'll probably finish with a C."
So I studied harder than I have in my life to bring my grade up. I made up every spare point that I could, did my homework twice over to make sure I "got it." I left the final knowing I'd done everything I could. I just hoped it was good enough.
On the final, he botched a problem and gave us no correct option for the answer. For our trouble, he gave us all that one for free. The one point from that free problem, that I KNOW I'd have missed, was enough to bump me to a B.
Ugh, What A Rush.

But now, it's almost over. Christmas is looming and for the first time in years, I'm okay. I'm better now. You'll see what I mean. I'm happy with life as it unfolded this year, and with what's on the horizon for next year.
In 2 month's time, I'll be in Indianapolis. One of the best friends I could have is bringing me to town and I can't wait to share those stories with you.
So yeah, it's a happy ending, for once.

As far as this website goes, I'm turning into a mix. Some personal/photography stuff. But still mostly racing, when I can.

But what have I learned this year?
The biggest thing I've learned is that "Better" isn't akin to "Happily Ever After." It isn't a destination. I foolishly believed I'd have some big Don Draper moment of clarity, when in reality, I'm just slowly becoming comfortable in my new skin.
"Better" is a series of improvements and challenges that never ends. But it can strengthen you, as long as you take the challenge of improvement head on.
You can always do Better. So Be Better.

Or to steal from Jeff Krosnoff, Stay Hungry.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year, everyone. Thanks for your support.

Monday, May 7, 2018

"With A Little Help From My Friends..." (Barber 2018)

As long as I've been going to IndyCar races, as a fan and as media, each trip has had its own song, that 4 minute or so anthem that encapsulates the emotion and motions of the trip. They're often random and wildly differing from genre to genre ("What The Hell" by Avril Lavigne for Barber in 2011, "Heart Of Glass" by Blondie for any year at Indy since 2011, "Ball & Chain" by Social Distortion for Mid-Ohio '17, to name a few), but as time passes they go on to mean something special. It doesn't take long to figure out I'm a very sentimental person, so as my most recent trip approached I couldn't help but ponder what the standout would be to define my 2nd year as media at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
But as luck would have it, the question was answered before I even packed my bags.

To explain, let me back up. After Mid-Ohio last year, I was told I was invited back for Barber in April. So I spent the entire offseason and then some preparing for the trip. I bought new production equipment, relearned Adobe Premiere, studied up on my Road To Indy facts by reading every article on Racer, bought a domain (, designed new business cards, bought new prescription sunglasses, and even got a second job to pay for the trip.
But every force in the universe tried to keep me out of Alabama. Both jobs scheduled me to work, finances weren't as strong as I had thought they'd be, and worst of all, my media credential request for the race got declined. All that preparation, 9 months of planning gone down the drain, right?
Not as much as I believed.

Last year at Barber, I knew nobody. The only contact I had with anyone in the business was with Bob Varsha through DM on Twitter. (my fictional wrestling character's account, by the by.) But he put me in touch with Mike Kitchel, who introduced me to his staff. From there, I met Pat Caporali, with whom I became friends.
Pat actually saved me from what I believe would have been throwing/smoking my life away in a bone headed attempt to run from my problems and move to Colorado last summer. If not for a message she sent showing support for my media career that I read in downtown Chicago on my way to Denver, I'd likely have gone through with the move. Pat's a supportive person and a hell of a role model, needless to say I treasure our friendship and often look to her for help in various ways. This one happened to be professional.
Dejected at being declined, I messaged Pat and explained my situation. "Let me see if I can help," she said. Two days later, I received an email saying I was in after all. Great! But now how do I get the weekend off?
Thankfully, my restaurant job rescheduled me to have the entire weekend off. My hotel job, however, took some putting my foot down. I pulled the Hulk Hogan, "That won't work for me, brother," and was given the weekend off-at the expense of losing 21 hours as what I assume was punishment.

With a few days to go until the trip, things got even better as I bought one of my dream cars; a 1993 Mazda Miata. Ya know, the car you can start with in GranTurismo 3? I've wanted one since I was 8, and now I get to drive it to Barber.

Thursday morning came, and with it waves of excitement. I shot down I59 blaring a playlist featuring everything from Wyclef Jean to Metallica to Abba before settling upon the closest thing Alabama will ever get to paradise, the Whataburger in Trussville. I don't know why I'm so in love with Corpus-Christi's finest export since The Labonte Brothers, but that What-A-Chicken sandwich was heaven.

I finally reached the hotel on Rex Lake where you pick up your media credentials aaaaaand....
"Yeah hon, you're on my declined list. Sorry."
It took ten minutes for me to explain, name drop, and finally show email proof that my status had changed. It obviously inconvenienced the staff to have to go through this ordeal and add my name to the accepted list. But I got my media and parking passes! Time to head across the street and check things out!
Orrrrrrr not. My Miata wouldn't start. Damn.

I called another friend, occasional IndyCar dotcom writer Chris DeHarde, who was an hour away and had cables to boost me off. Chris is a damn good friend, helped me get my confidence up enough to stay on top of preparations for the trip. Throughout the weekend, he would introduce me to a rolodex of media members who may otherwise not have given me the time of day. I've never met someone so passionate about racing, nor so eager to help his friends like me find opportunities.
I didn't need the boost, that day anyway, so Chris and I went to the Barber Vintage Museum, which if you haven't been, is perhaps the most impressive motorsports museum south of IMS

My hotel experience was subpar to say the least. What was once a stellar place to stay just 3 years ago had now become an extended stay hotel, with rates cheap enough for constant loud parties, even on a Thursday. My bed had no linens, the microwave beeped uncontrollably. I complained to the front desk, and they moved me...To an already occupied room. When it was all settled, I got about 5 hours of sleep.

Friday morning came and it became apparent I was NOT going to shake the rust from having not produced anything in 9 months, racing or not. It doesn't help having spent the last year soul searching, struggling to find my voice as both an entertainer and a member of racing media, as well as beating myself up over lost love. Life got in the way of my dreams and I wasn't yet out of the fog.
I may have lost my groove, but I was determined to enjoy myself and do my best with what I had.
I had a more formal meeting with Pat, thanked her for bringing me in, and went to shoot video in the paddock. It was a gorgeous morning, albeit a bit cold, but the fans were out in full force and so was I, running from end to end in the paddock/pit lane, hitching rides all around the track.

I caught up with another pal, one who is always making sure I Stay Hungry and look for work. We met last year during pit practice at Barber and stay in frequent touch. But seeing Robin Miller felt much better than just seeing a famous confidant who believes in my work. After losing my Mom in 2016, "Cancer" is probably the most heartbreaking and terrifying word in the English language for me . Robin kicked cancer's ass and I couldn't have been happier to see him and give him a big hug. He's been a hero of mine since I was in 5th grade watching WindTunnel and realized some people can grow up to be blunt and unapologetically opinionated about racing on TV. He asked if I was finding work and suggested I hit up the folks at IndyCar about some production work, which I didn't exactly do thanks to the whole "losing my groove" thing. Sorry, Robin...

I shot some more B-Roll, walked the paddock (Where I learned autographed breasts are a real thing outside of Happy Gilmore, and the woman was just as old. You're welcome.), and decided to call it a day at 5PM. My Miata wouldn't start again, so Chris boosted me off and I decided to have a lonely man's dinner at Pizza Hut to end my night.

Saturday brought gorgeous skies and a record crowd of over 34,000 for Pole Day. From my media experiences, Pole Day is the most exciting part of the weekend. The prelim series run their major races (The MX-5 race was fantastic, and I'm not just saying that because I own a Miata), and teams scramble to give their driver the fastest single lap they can. It's a whirlwind of activity that takes immense focus to cover, but I was able to do have some peace and quiet, and to do some Blair Witch style 'splorin' in the woods, where I saw the best of Barber's quirks on display.

Qualifying came, and lo and behold, Josef Newgarden won the P1 Award. Josef won both races I covered last year, and now the defending Champ was well on his way to making it 3 for 3. Huh.

Colby Redmond from IndyCar helped me navigate the post qualifying media frenzy and trophy presentation, but she couldn't stop the #1 team from nearly running me over with their car on their way back to the paddock. Colby is great, though. Very kind and obviously loves to help those in need of it like me.

Chris and some of his colleagues invited me out to Rusty's BBQ in Leeds. I don't play around when it comes to BBQ and I was skeptical, but AJ Foyt was eating there when I pulled up, and if it's good enough for AJ then it must be good Q. Sho 'nuf it was probably the best BBQ that isn't from Bailey's in Ringgold, GA. Check it out if you're ever in the area.

Sunday came and the weather was flat out gross. Spittling rain when I woke up (don't you love that word? Spittle?), Pouring rain as the morning progressed, it never got any better. I lost sleep the night before, so I was exhausted. Most of my morning was spent watching Channing Tatum's police escort prepare to bring him into the press trailer as I was afraid of letting rain damage my camera. Riveting, right?

The rain let up, so I took a nap in the woods during Indy Lights. Then came time for the race, and man, was it soupy.
Normally I watch the start of an IndyCar race from the vantage point of a fan before going back to the media center to wait to shoot victory lane. But on this day I took refuge in the media center from the storm. It was a downpour, a deluge, easily the nastiest raceday weather I've ever experienced.

Unsurprisingly, the GP of Alabama was washed out until Monday, and THAT's when the real fun began. Everyone began to scramble to book a hotel for the night, and thankfully my fingers were fast enough to land a night at the nearby Hilton Garden Inn.
I was skeptical about my hotel choice after staying at the Sonesta the 3 nights prior, but when I walked in and saw the entire on air staff for NBC in the lobby (looking quite pissed as if there was a problem getting them another night), I knew I made the right choice.
After some succulent Chinese takeout, and $117 I hadn't planned to spend, rest for the busy Monday lay ahead.

Monday was stressful. I mean, stressful. It was cold and wet to start, and I was desperate for my car to start without flooding the hell outta the thing. Buuut she started right up, and I made the short drive to Barber. To enter the course with virtually no staff on hand was downright eerie. It felt lifeless, yet vibrant at the same time. Imagine The Wizard Of Oz, unrestored, on early era VHS, with all the colors muted and the sound subdued. That's what it felt like.
I was pointed to Lot C by a staff member, despite me showing him the email confirming media being allowed to park in the paddock. (Seriously, this HAS to improve next year. Knowing the rules and being debated on it only wastes everyone's time.)
So I parked in the swamp, walked my equipment to the media center, aaaaaaand then found out I could, in fact, bring my car to the paddock. Lovely.

After sorting that out, it was time to resume the race. I watched the first 30 laps or so of the resumption from the Alabama Rollercoaster section of the course.
After a bit more exploring, I decided to setup in victory lane, where things got a little tense with one of the photographers.
"Hey, who are you? You need a vest."
"I was told I didn't need one."
"Yeah right! By who? Who are you?"
I was in a panic, feeling like a child suspected of wrongdoing by a teacher that has never met you.
"P...PatCaporaliFromIndyCar!" I blurted, sounding like one word. Thankfully, that one word was enough.
"Good answer," he said, and backed away.

Rain was pouring by this point, and I faced a delimma: Pack up and go home with no footage of victory lane, OR shoot until the camera I can't afford to replace shorts out. After failing in every way possible to shield my camera from the pourage (is that a real word? Because I like it.), I decided to risk it and shoot.
I didn't get *as* good of shots as last year, but the shots were sufficient.
Josef Newgarden took home the checkers, sweeping all 3 races I've been media at in the process. Either I'm some kinda good luck charm, or he's just that damn good. Probably the latter.

After the brief press conference, business was ready to wrap up, and my boring life as a hack comedian/hotel night auditor was ready to resume.
As I sat in the media center, soaking in the final sights and sounds, I couldn't help but feel a little disappointed in how my weekend had gone.
I hadn't really made an impact, hadn't made as much of a networking opportunity as I had the year before, nor at Mid-Ohio.
It all just felt flat.

I made my rounds, gave my goodbye hugs,  hopped in the Miata, and drove back to Whataburger. While enjoying my meal, I got a message from Pat. It was a personal message, nothing to do with racing or work. It was a friend reaching out to a friend out of concern and encouragement. I began to think about what she said, how I'm considered part of the community, how "my time is coming." I began to think about how Robin implied I'm good enough for better work, how Chris was putting me over to everyone in sight, not only professionally but personally.
It hit me then as hard as it does while writing this: As much as I wanted the weekend to be about inching toward professional success, the powers that be had different intentions.
My soul has needed healing in the last year or more, and above all else, what I truly needed was a uniquely human experience; to be around positive people who not only want to see me succeed, but don't mind giving me a push along the way.

It's been almost 3 weeks since the race weekend, and I've only barely looked at what I shot. But it wasn't about that. I'll make something of the video soon, I'm not worried. It was about needing to be where I belong. To feel a sense of community I haven't felt since I worked in pro wrestling.

As I pulled out of Whataburger's downhill slope of a parking lot, the song of the weekend came up in my driving playlist.
"What would ya doooooo if I sang, outta tuuuune?," the voice of Joe Cocker belted over my overmodulated speakers.

As I turned onto I59 towards Chattanooga, I realized the story of the weekend matched the song's title. I Got By With A Little Help From My Friends.
And my, how special that was.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Presentation Is Half The Battle

The 2018 Formula One season is now underway, with the season opening Australian GP being claimed by Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel. It was a mildly entertaining race, with storylines like the double retirement of Haas and an impressive drive by Fernando Alonso for a confidence boosting 5th place finish.
It was a great start to the season...unless you were watching ESPN's coverage here in the United States. My God, what the hell was that? When we heard that The Worldwide Leader bought TV rights to F1 here, we all knew it was probably going to be less than stellar, but the maiden voyage of this TV deal was such a far cry from the days of Speedworld that it was genuinely depressing.

At 12:30 EST, ESPN hit the air with "F1 On The Grid," a simulcast of Sky Sports' prerace coverage, because apparently hiring a host or two for homegrown coverage was just too expensive. The only problem was, Sky wasn't even on the air yet, so we at home got static shots of turn cameras and spectators in the grandstands for 10 minutes. It didn't take long for everyone watching to take to Twitter to express their rage.

Then, The Worldwide Leader just gave up and dumped to reserve programming, something called "E:60's Dominant 20." They claimed technical difficulties. Whatever.
 Look, it's bad enough you went to reserve programming, but it didn't even have anything to do with racing of any sort, let alone F1. Go to qualifying, have a season preview show from Sky on backup, DO SOMETHING. But they didn't.

So finally, the race went green and all seemed well. As awkwardly timed as the breaks were, at least they were in side by side.
Well, okay, that sucked too. No warning of when breaks were coming, no updates upon return. Missed retirements, restarts, replays. Imagine if something big had happened, like a crash or a retirement by a frontrunner, not only would it be covered up by 3 minutes of Super Beta Prostate commercials, we'd be at the mercy of wherever Sky happened to be in their breakdown of the event.

By the time the race ended, frustration with presentation had set in for many. The hard, awkward, sign-off free cut from the race to another 30 For 30 ( ESPN's 30th anniversary was 2009 btw...) made no sense either, and served only to antagonize viewers. 
Conspiracy theories emerged.

Look, I don't know much about producing television. My only experience in the game would either be in low power TV with equipment from the 80s, or my time in pro wrestling, with largely consumer grade equipment. But I was taught one thing that has stuck with me, and that's that presentation is half the battle. Sky provides wonderful, commercial free coverage for F1 fans across the pond. F1's camera work and presentation of races is world class to say the least. The pieces are there, and all ESPN has to do is put them together like a toddler with a Lego set. Take what you're given, and if you give a damn, hire a producer, hire an announcer, even if it's to emulate Bob Varsha for Formula E on FOX, bringing viewers back from break with a recap of anything missed. DO A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G besides what we saw last night. It came across as amateur, low grade, and just bad.
I know caring about motorsport hasn't been within Disney's character in the last 15 years, but what we got this weekend was embarrassing. It's just sad. All the growth that F1 may have seen in the US with NBC in the last 5 years may well have been Old Yeller'd in less than 3 hours by a company once known for providing the absolute best in motorsports television.
If presentation really is half the battle, this is one that ESPN will lose. And it's a damn shame. 
F1 fans deserve better.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Stray Observations: 2018 Firestone GP of St. Petersburg

Happy Happy, Joy Joy! After an eternally long offseason, the Verizon IndyCar Series is finally back and by the grace of God I've got the day off so I can watch.
I hope you've read my 5 things to watch for, because today's race is sure to be a banger.

This is the first installment in a new blog series, Stray Observations. We all have that inner monologue when watching a race. I've decided to share mine with you. Enjoy!

12:21- It's 9 minutes to air for ABC, and this broadcast couldn't come soon enough. There's an infomercial for MyPillow disguised as a talk show. It's unbearable .Google the MyPillow guy's story though, it's pretty riveting. Former crack addict turned self made success is the makings of a totally rad Lifetime movie. But he wrote a terrible jingle for his product.

12:28- Infomercial over, IT'S TIIIIIIIIIIIME!

ESPN On ABC Signature hits and I get that "Make me feel gooooood" feeling from Monster's Ball. THIS IS GONNA BE SO GOOOD. That ESPN IRL music STILL gets me excited like I'm 10 years old.

Jon Bheekius caressing the new car of Will Power. I wanna caress the new car too, Jon. Such a sexy beast.
The car puts the racing "Back in our era," says Scott Goodyear. Does this mean Little Al's gonna steal your job? Please?
Incidents from practice shown and the impressively large crowd pops for Helio in the background.
Baby Come Back plays in my head as 'Piderman clings to the fence for the command. Command given. Damn, this was a compact prerace.
I'm gonna get a non alcoholic light beer, opening day only comes once a year after all.
Josef Newgarden takes viewers for a ride around the course and I still believe the visor cam is scary as hell.
"Hinchcliffe has the Lucas Ayul on board." Never change, Allen Bestwick. I better hear your voice crack like a teenager this year.

Field to the green AND HEEEEEEERE WE GOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!! Oh wait where's RHR?
And oh, there goes Tony. I guess the slump continues...Darn.
Replay of Power's spin. He hit kinda hard. Kimball goes off. Man, there's a lot to keep up with here. Yellow out.
Looks like TK experienced a Bash At The Veach, a heh, heh, heheheheheheheheheueueueheuehue, a hehhhhhh, heh, that was bad.
Power's team replaces the rear wing and ABC goes to break. OH BOY A MISSED RESTART!
Lap 7- Aaaaaaaaand Spigot goes around. Yellow again. This is gonna be one of  "Those" races!
ABC Profiling the rookies and uh. Did Scott Goodyear just take his headset off? Er. Uh. Okay, that was awkward. (ABC Went to break and almost immediately busted back in.)

Like anyone watching can afford an Alfa Romeo.
Restart and OH NOES! Rossi tags the wall! He's still making passes, so I guess his car's okay.
I'm impressed, 30 minutes into this race and no distracting plugs for network programming. It's like they figured out race fans don't watch The Bachelor. Oh wait....
Second time Scott Goodyear says the car is like those of old. I'm starting to think he's wishing he could jump into one.
Leist has a problem and my Lord, what a bad day for Foyt so far.
OOH, TIME FOR A WORD FROM MY ABC STATION!!! I just love WTVC ever since being purchased by *Shudder* Sinclair.
Lap 22- Hey wait when did the LED devices on the cars count pitstops? That's so cool, I just love new fangled technology.
Lap 25- I tell ya, Wicky's puttin' a hurtin' on these boys. I like it.
Oh, did I miss Bourdais' flat tire? I suck!

Lap 28- Ed Jones just got Power-Bombed. How was that not a crash?
Welp, there goes Leist. AAAAAND ABC MISSED IT. FUUU-
"I hope it's this nice where you are," says Allen Bestwick. Yeah, 53 and pouring rain while all my racing friends are in St. Pete, JUST RUB IT IN, RUUUUUB IT IIIIIIIN.
OOH, OOH, ROSEANNE PROMO!! WHOOOOOO JACKIIIIIIEEEEE I can't wait for that shit. Judge me all you want. I don't care.
 Formula 1 promo. My God, it's really happening. F1 back on ESPN. Allen Bestwick's laughter really weirds me out.

Lap 35- Welp, can't say I didn't see an incident coming between those two, Sato and Dixon.
Oh, shit, I didn't see one happening like that. Weird mistake for a former Champ to make.
 Scott Goodyear calls Marco "Michael." I guess he really is stuck in the past today.
Lap 40-UHHHH WTF Happened to Jack Harvey? Ooh, ooh, I got $5 on it that ABC missed it!
Yep. They missed it. And here I was praising ABC just 2 days ago in a blog I'll never post.
 My passing interest in American Idol makes me wonder if-aw who cares?

I should really, REALLY stop checking Twitter during races. It's awful.
Robert "Google Him, I Guess" Wickens is slicing like a hot spoon through a Cookiepuss today and it's beyond impressive.
Oh no, Bestwick, don't say "Cautions breed cautions," this isn't a stock car race on FOX.

"I wouldn't (be a crew member) for all the tea in China." I don't get it, would you want all the tea in China for its trade power or to drink? Help.

Rossi starting to chase Wicky down. Gonna be a "Hell of a race to the end," indeed, Sam Schmidt.

Is it just me or is it ALWAYS Lobsterfest at Red Lobster? I'm starting to think I'm being worked here.
ABC Missed pitstops, but has PLENTY of time to plug American Idol. Kill me.

OH NO, ROSSI! And barring incident, this one is going to Wickens. My, my, what a recovery though.
This, as the kids say, will be lit.
I can only imagine the swear words going around the SPM pitbox. Oh hey look there's Veronica.  HEY V, HOW YOU DOIN'?
We gon' have ourselves a shootout, boys and girls.
Green flag and spank my ass and call me Charlie, ain't this exciting?
This really has been a banger of a race, the hype for Wickens is real.
 Restart, 2 to go

As Jim Ross likes to say, that finish was bowling shoe ugly. But I liked it.
After last year, to see Bourdais get a win honestly gets me a little emotional. He's started with the same slate as last season, and no longer will we wonder what could have been. This year, we'll get to see it.

Takeaways from today:
Wickens is here and he's going to be a factor
Bourdais is back and just as good as ever
The new car is a hit, this race was damn near an instant classic

This one sure was a banger, eh? Well worth the offseason wait, and I'm glad I was off work to watch.

Time to watch the stock car race/take my afternoon nap.
Shall we do this again for Long Beach?

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Spring Breakout: What To Watch @ St. Pete

     It's springtime; love is in the air, I'm spending less time pinned inside at the movies, and that candy commercial with Marvin Gaye and the chocolate bunny is devouring TV air time again. Life feels as if it's begun anew, and so too in the air will be the sweet smell of burning ethanol. Yes, bust out the grillin' meats, crack open a can of premium, non-alcoholic light beer, and let's get the party started, because after one of the longest off seasons in American sports, the Verizon IndyCar Series is finally ready to roar back to life this weekend. It's truly the most magical time of the year.
With the anticipation of a large rookie class, new teams, and of course the new car, 2018 is shaping up to be a banger, and it all starts this weekend under the sun in lovely St. Petersburg, Florida.
Many things have changed over this offseason, and here are just a few that stand out.

1. SPM/"Team Canada"
It was a point of great interest last fall when Schmidt/Peterson Motorsports announced Robert Wickens as the replacement to Mikhail Aleshin in the then #7 Honda. His proven background and enthusiasm for the team have fans eager to cheer him on even before his first official lap has been turned behind the wheel of the #6. His national pride, alongside that of teammate James Hinchcliffe are also a hit with fans north of the border, with the duo now being dubbed "Team Canada."
But popularity is only half the reason to keep an eye on SPM this season. The addition of Leena Gade to the team as Hinchclffe's chief engineer is the other. Her pedigree as a winner as an engineer in the 24 Hours of LeMans and the FIA WEC "Man Of The Year" award make her one of the sharpest minds in the paddock. Many believe Gade has what it takes to bring the #5 team to the top of the list of Championship contenders.

2. New Teams
New Blood is Rising in IndyCar, and not just behind the wheel. New teams are debuting full time efforts, while teams are growing and expanding their efforts at a rate not seen in years. Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball left familiar rides at Ganassi to strap in with the budding Carlin IndyCar Series organization, Gabby Chavez and Harding have teamed back up for the team's first full time effort, and rookie Rene Binder will pilot the #32 for Juncos Racing this weekend in St. Pete. Look for these new teams to make a splash as the season progresses.

3. Ed Jones
 Perhaps the most captivating, under the radar story of last season was the performance of 2016 Indy Lights Champion Ed Jones, finishing on the podium at the Indy 500 and capturing the Series Rookie Of The Year honors. Did I mention this was all while his Dale Coyne Racing teammate Sebastien Bourdais was sidelined due to injury? Jones was tapped to replace Tony Kanaan at Ganassi for 2018, and one can only wonder what lies ahead for him as he climbs into the cockpit of one of the Series' highest quality rides.

4. Homegrown Stars
 In 2017, Josef Newgarden won 4 IndyCar Series races en route to his maiden Championship, and since then everyone wants a piece of the Team Penske racer. And why not? He's got the look, the attitude, and the skill it takes to be a sports megastar if everything continues to work out for him. But the Champ isn't the only American IndyCar driver with a shot to please the masses. How about 2012 Champ Ryan Hunter-Reay? What about Graham Rahal? And let's not forget what a hit Alex Rossi and Conor Daly were on The Amazing Race recently. (Although Conor, as of now, only has a ride for The 500.)
With the success of American stars being paramount to the regrowth of IndyCar racing, it won't be hard to notice heavy emphasis when one ends up in victory lane.

5. The New Car
 After 6 wonderful seasons, the DW12 body was retired from competition at the end of 2017. It's time now to see what the new car offers fans and drivers alike. With its sleek design almost serving as a call back to years past, many are wondering if it will do more than just look good. So far, testing has given great optimism and little skepticism to those uncertain of just what the racing will be like come Sunday in Florida. Thankfully we're not too far from finding out.

Now, let's get down to business and get the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season underway!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Ten Years Gone: Reflecting On A Decade Of Reconstruction

One score and 3 years ago, Tony George brought forth, in this sport, a new Championship Series, conceived in the spirit of competition, and dedicated to the proposition that oval racing remain the cornerstone of American open wheel motorsport.
Yes. I just paraphrased The Gettysburg Address. But as we're all aware, the split in American open wheel racing in 1996 brought about a Civil War of sorts within a sport at arguably its peak in popularity and profitability. It forced a rift between teams, drivers, fans, sponsors, and anyone in between.
The story has been told time and again from every angle, and with the IndyCar Series approaching its 10 year anniversary of reunification, I thought it would be interesting to explore a perspective seldom considered: That of media within the sport.
To do this, I reached out to former ESPN writer and IndyCar pundit John Oreovicz and he was kind enough to write back for a discussion on The Split, what it was like to cover, and his thoughts on the state of the sport today.
“Until I got involved as a writer in 93 I was a hardcore fan. Robin and Gordon Kirby were my main media sources,” he told me via DM on Twitter.
My first question was about initial rumblings of a possible split. “I suppose it was thru Robin’s coverage of (Tony George)’s trip to the late 1991 CART board meeting.” He said. “When he announced the start of the IRL in March 1994 it was shock and disbelief. CART was (in retrospect) at its peak in 1993 during the Mansell championship year. Why would TG (screw) up an easy cash cow for IMS?
Worldwide interest in the Indy 500 was never greater. They had to expand the media center to accommodate all the international media Mansell brought and IMS was resentful because it didn’t fit their dream American dirt car storyline.”

Our discussion then moved over to email the next day, where Oreovicz elaborated on the story of the split's beginnings. “TG made a presentation to a CART board meeting in late 1991 in Houston in which he outlined his plan for IMS to again lead the sport. The CART owners blew him off and the legend goes that he made the decision on the plane back to Indy to start the IRL.” “ was difficult to figure out whether he was bluffing. He was not. TG announced in July 1995 that the 75 percent of grid spots at all IRL races (including the Indy 500) would be reserved for IRL point leaders. That was the tipping point for CART. In the fall of 1995, CART began plans for the US 500 to be run at Michigan on the same day as the 1996 Indy 500.”

The split not only left an indelible mark on the competition side of the sport, but had a profound effect on media as I had suspected. “For most journalists, the split forced you to choose sides,” he said. “I covered Disney and Indy in 1996 for Autosport, but mostly concentrated on CART because it had 95 percent of the best teams, drivers and race venues,” adding that “Every step the IRL took toward reality made me sick to my stomach. People try to call me a "CART guy," but I never cared who was running the sport. I was drawn to CART not because I liked their management, but because I liked what the series developed into in the 1980s - sleek, technologically advanced cars, a great mix of American and international drivers, oval tracks and road racing venues. It was truly the best of all worlds, which is why in the first half of the 1990s it was a rival for NASCAR in the U.S. and Formula 1 internationally.”
He then stated, “I always attempted to cover what I wrote about fairly. It's impossible to tune out all bias, but I always try to give credit where it is due and assess blame in a fair way where appropriate. I hope that attitude is reflected in my coverage.”

Then, John lamented how The Split effected his personal life, “Ultimately, the biggest effect the split had on my coverage is my current state of unemployment...mismanagement allowed NASCAR to become the dominant (indeed, synonymous) form of racing in America and prevented Indy car racing from achieving the potential it started to demonstrate in the '80s and '90s before the formation of the IRL. It had a direct negative impact on people like me trying to derive a living from a sport that they love.”

As Sunday dinner passed, he ended our conversation with this, “The state of the sport is relatively stable, which is actually quite good in the current market conditions. IndyCar's attendance and TV ratings are growing slowly while F1 and NASCAR are in clear decline. The appointment of Mark Miles really seemed to settle things down on the political and marketing side, while Jay Frye has created the greatest level of trust and cooperation between the teams and the sanctioning body that I can remember. The biggest question mark is the next broadcast distribution contract.”

So what is the state of the sport today? While many agree it is healthier than during The Split, there's still a long way to go. With a diverse schedule, a (Slightly) growing fanbase, and hot young stars like Alexander Rossi and Josef Newgarden, time will tell if the pre-Split success of the sport will ever be obtained again. Many also agree that the 2019+ TV deal will have the biggest impact on future success, and being the first major American sport to go all-digital through a deal as rumored would be uncharted territory, for better or worse.

One thing I did notice in my talk with Mr. Oerovicz is his passion for racing, although subdued, is still very much alive. A historian with a wealth of knowledge, John showed me that even the most calloused still have a deep rooted love for the sport of IndyCar racing, and as long as that passion still flows, there's always a chance.

Thanks to John Oreovicz

Friday, February 2, 2018

What's The Big Deal About Windscreens?

One can argue that he inherent danger of motorsport plays a major role, if not the only role, in its appeal to the masses. The pulse pounding fear that chaos can break out at an instant resonates with many, but those of us who call ourselves fans aren’t so much in love with that thought when it becomes a reality. We want to see racers push themselves and their machines to their absolute limits, but we want to see them live to tell the tale.
Sometimes, things happen in racing that remind us just how dangerous the sport truly is, and sometimes we wonder if there were more steps that could have been taken than were in the name of prevention. Such has been the case with incidents involving debris striking drivers in open wheel cockpits, especially since the tragic accident that led to the passing of Justin Wilson at Pocono Raceway in 2015.
Since then, everybody has agreed that something needs to be done to try and prevent such a tragedy from happening again, but how?
It has become perhaps the most polarizing debate in open wheel racing over the past several years; should they close the cockpits, use a halo, a windscreen? Each series, each manufacturer, team, equipment company, and even fan have their own solutions, none of which can be agreed upon. Formula One has the halo, set to go into full time use this season, others have suggested closing cockpits entirely with a canopy, andthis past week, IndyCar announced plans for February 8th to test and possibly bring back a former friend in the windscreen, and the fan response has me puzzled to say the least.
The easiest way for millenials like me to judge reactions from fans is to use social media. Instead of unanimous support for a device that has not only been proven to deflect debris, but has been used many times over in the past, I witnessed comments complaining everything from it looking too much like a car from a video game to it being an overreach of safety. Comments on Facebook pages for IndyCar and others have quotes like, “One step forward, three back,” “(This) will turn it to little more than gokart racing,” “Next we will be wrapping drivers in bubble wrap, “Who expects safe? The danger is part of the appeal,” and much more.
While there is overwhelming support from fans for the windscreen in IndyCar, I do not understand even slightly the negative backlash.
I get it, you want to see danger. But there’s a line between overreach and common sense, a line between damaging the spirit of competition in the name of safety and something like this. And really, what effect would a windscreen even have on on-track competition? I don’t see any potential impact, other than another step to avert something terrible from happening again. You don’t even have to go back very far in history to find a time when windscreens in CART were the standard. Look at photos from any Indy 500 in the late 80s and you’ll find them. Where were the cries about overreach in safety back then?
The question I have to ask here is, would you rather see a simple attempt at solving a clear and present danger, or nothing done at all? Yes, there are debates over whether a windscreen could even have saved Wilson, and yes, thorough testing to reach the best possible outcome must be conducted, but semantics shouldn’t interfere with common sense.
When I was in the pro wrestling business, any time a bad guy was stuck in an armbar, the fans would scream “Break It!” One night, a wrestler I was working with screamed back in annoyance, “What would you do if I did?”
So while we’re all attracted to the danger of racing, while we’re all always on edge for that split second when hell could break loose, that moment where a windscreen could save a life, what would you do if it did?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Moving Ahead: Thoughts On 2017 & Beyond

       Man, oh man, what a year 2017 was, huh? It certainly was wild for most of the world, and mine was no exception. As 2018 is but a few weeks old, I can't help but still be in a reflective mood, as well as thinking about what the future holds.

2017 Was a pivotal year in my life. One year removed from the devastating loss of my Mother, I came into the year just hoping to survive, and survive I did. The year started as planned, beginning with my second semester attending Georgia Highlands College, working as assistant online editor on our school newspaper. We actually won the GCPA award for best college newspaper for a community college. Funny enough, my best friend Kenny's school, UGA, won the overall best award, something we were able to share mutual pride in.
But after a night of one too many Jack & Cokes and a fight with a close friend in mid-February (Limit yourself, kids), and the harsh reality of no longer being able to afford classes, I left GHC abruptly. Sure, I was ashamed, after all this wasn't the first time outside circumstances made me drop out of school, but I decided to make one hell of a comeback story out of it.

My miraculous comeback story begins as they all should; at 2AM under the influence at Waffle House. In an altered state, I overheard the night cook talking about how she was "hurting for help" on nightshift. So I slurred, "Hey, I'll put in an application." Fun fact: Waffle House doesn't have real job applications. Instead, you fill out the blanks on a small yellow card and hand it to the boss.
I had joked for a day or two about applying, but after a week went by, I forgot all about it and continued to press on in finding my way.

Ten days later, I was dropping a friend off at home from a night of "Netflix & Chill," as the kids say. I got a call at around 7AM. It was a local number, but still, it was a Sunday. Who would call me at 7AM on a Sunday? Turns out, it was the district manager for Waffle House calling to schedule an interview for later that day. I told him I didn't remember applying, but that I'd be in at 2 for my interview. Skipping NASCAR at Atlanta (A real loss, peeps), I went to my interview. It lasted all of 5 minutes before my new boss shook my hand and said "Welcome to the team." Yeah, more like welcome to Hell.

Training wasn't so bad, even though I couldn't stay awake to save my life. I had to hold back laughter during the cheesy training videos. If you can get your hands on one, they're a hoot and a half of bad acting. The job itself, though was a grease soaked nightmare. Waffle House has its own language, the "Pull, Drop, Mark" system, which really should have its own Rosetta Stone software. (as well as being forced to call buckets Bain Maries at all times, it's frustrating.) Between that and the ever-changing price system, it was impossible to keep up with customers, and I'm almost positive that I was the only worker not on drugs. "You ever smoke the reefer?," asked my trainer as if this were 1929. Not in years, and never would I with you, pal.

My time at WoHo lasted as long as The Chevy Chase Show, and in the meantime I decided to sign up for a media pass to IndyCar at Barber Motorsports Park. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain, after all. Eight days before the race, I was confirmed to have a pass. After scrambling to book a hotel room, I rushed to Birmingham. My name was etched in Sharpie, last on the list, but I made it.

There, I met three people who have really changed my life, one of whom is a prolific motorsports writer, one of whom works within IndyCar behind the scenes, one of whom is a fledgling reporter like myself. The trip reinforced the idea that not only could I do what I've always dreamed with my life, but that I'd belong there in doing it. It was three days in Heaven after six weeks in Hell, but life went back to normal soon after.

In May, I said goodbye to a friend who had a profound impact on me as he decided to pursue greener pastures out west, and I continued to plug away in my side-life of standup comedy, but nothing felt the same. Without people you strive to make proud, life isn't as much fun. So, I decided to move to Ohio with my brother and his wife.

Ohio allowed me to breathe and spread my wings a bit. I worked at a liquor store (which actually kept me from drinking so much) and genuinely loved life. I met my friend Paul, who has gone on to be one of my best and closest friends, and I was able to have another eye opening experience, this time freelancing as a journalist at Mid-Ohio's Honda 200.

In October, it was time to come back home. I've spent the last few months ramping up my podcast and bouncing between jobs. The plan for 2018 is to make a few IndyCar races before moving to Indianapolis to finish my degree. But I'm very proud of the things I accomplished in 2017, personally and professionally. A year may not be a very long time, but you can certainly do a lot with it if you know what you're doing.

Keep your eyes peeled like a fresh orange for more pieces this spring. I have some fun stuff planned!

"Hard work pays off, dreams come true. Bad times don't last, but bad guys do."
-Scott "Razor Ramon" Hall