OK, here are the results of the comparison shopping. First, the background. I have been involved in a project here in Toronto since the first of the month. I have with me on the project an African American male, my age, from Boston who has never been a racing fan or to a race. Red Sox? Yes. Bruins? Yes. Patriots? Yes. NASCAR? ‘Huh?’ Indy Cars? ‘Huh?’ c^rt? ‘You mean like at the grocery store?’ South Boston Speedway? ‘Huh?’ Utterly clueless with regard to racing. He had heard of Formula One, and could name Jackie Stewart.
I arranged for press credentials to the Molson Indy so we’d have the run of the place in Toronto. We had a great time. We got there early, and walked around the entire place, inside and out. The paddock area, various hospitality areas, Thunder Alley, the top of the food building, Dodge corner, you name it. He had a pretty good time.
I asked him for some observations afterward. Here are some of the most revealing.
‘There wasn’t much racing. It was sort of like a really fast parade.’
‘Too bad you can’t see the entire track.’
‘Wow…they’re pretty loud.’
‘Does anyone ever get passed on the track?’
‘The pit crews are awesome . . . they can really make a difference, can’t they?’
‘Paul Tracy sure seems like an arrogant a**hole.’
‘How come they won’t sell single day grandstand seats? Wouldn’t they fill them up if they did?’
‘How come there are not more cars?’
‘This is pretty expensive.’
We also visited the Canadian sports museum that had the racing stuff in it. We saw some cool vehicles in there.
He asked me how the ‘Indy’ car drivers in this ‘race’ did at Indy this year. I sort of chuckled and explained how there was, like, one guy in the race who raced at Indy, then explained how Molson uses the word ‘Indy’ to basically try to add legitimacy to a dying series (mind you, this was AFTER he had seen the ‘race’), and that the cars he saw were not really ‘Indy’ cars, but were ‘champ’ cars. He looked confused.
He is a basically a chauvinistic, grunting pig-like horny heathen like me, and definitely appreciated the quality of scantily clad young women running around in droves. He got a lot of freebies . . . everything from Simple Green samples to a Players DVD to mint flavored condoms and a sex ruler. He had some roasted chicken and enjoyed it. Beer, too. He was amazed the longest line inside the facility was to meet a couple of Toronto Maple Leaf hockey players.
He was particularly excited that the Molson Indy girls were staying in our hotel and would work out in the conference room next to the room where we ate breakfast.
Now, fast forward to this past Saturday. I had arranged for hotel accommodations in Canton, Michigan, about an hour from the track. Freebies. Rented a car. The ticket for him was a mere 40 bucks. Garage pass, too. He kept seeming to make excuses why he couldn’t go. Finally, one night last week at dinner he said he just didn’t think it was that great, and thought he’d stay in Toronto for the weekend and go to the blues festival.
I told him he HAD to give it a chance . . . that I was genuinely interested in his opinion. It was a tough sell, because he REALLY did not want to go. He was convinced he’d be bored. He was convinced it would be a waste because it was going to rain. Nevertheless, I talked him into going. He was somewhat belligerent, but we got to the hotel, settled in, and got ready to go the next morning. We got to the track about 9, and I immediately sent him to a trailer to rent a scanner, which he did not have in Toronto. I then sent him inside to the garage and various points around the facility. He ended up at the turn one side of the main stand, and he upgraded himself to fourth from the top on the end. I had him meet me at the car right after the race so we could hit 12 to 127 to I-94 then back to Canada. Worked out great. We had a lot to discuss afterward.
‘Wow.’ ‘I’m speechless.’ ‘Those guys are GOOD.’ ‘They must have stones of steel—how do they do that!?’ ‘Amazing.’ 'How come there aren't more accidents?'
He thought Barron's save was phenominal and couldn't believe the doughnut on the sidepod. He liked the Target cars. He liked Sam.
He was asking about wing angles, push, weight jackers, all kinds of technical stuff he picked up off the scanner.
‘How do they see to their sides when they are three side by side going into a turn?’ (This is where we had the spotter discussion).
‘I think I like the way the champ cars sound a little better, but the Indy Cars look a lot better.’
‘Did THESE people race in the Indy 500?’ (I laughed and said ‘and THEN some and pointed out all the former winners. He had heard of Al Unser, and enjoyed his battle at the front).
‘What a cool track . . . beautiful. But I kind of feel like the gardener at a plantation with some of these ******* looking folks running around. This is an extremely rural setting, and it kind of makes me nervous.’ I explained how they were all basically racing fans and how MIS holds NASCAR events which always sell out, and that they like Indy cars, too.
‘I thought Dale Earnhart died.’ I don’t know what prompted that other than perhaps the Elvisian display by people and entrepreneurs all over the place of all things Dale.
‘Why don’t they put Indy cars on display? I’ve seen lots of NASCAR cars, but not many Indy cars. How come?
‘I could not keep my eyes off the track. Even during caution periods I did not want to get up because I thought I’d miss something.’
‘You can see the whole track.’
‘How come I’ve never heard of any of these people?’
‘That was really exciting. Thanks for making me do this. This is what I had in mind.’
‘Where do these guys race close to Boston?’
‘There were not enough cars racing.’
‘The women are not as pretty here. Lots of fatties wearing things they shouldn’t.’
‘Sarah Fisher’s got a little potty mouth sometimes, doesn’t she?’
‘A.J. Foyt is fairly colorful.’
I asked him if he’d watch IRL races on TV in the future, and he asked when they were on and who carried them. Then he said there’s probably no way TV can catch what goes on. In terms of speed, no, except for a few cool in-cars. He’ll probably watch when he can. He said he does want to borrow my tape when we’re finished here.
The next day he told me he heard the cars in his sleep, slept well, and had some good dreams. He definitely wants to go to Indy.
In summary, c^rt nearly tuned him off forever, and Indy Cars ignited his interest and ensured a good possibility he’ll be back.
I think we may have a new Indy Car fan. Good demo, income and ethnicity, too. Plus, he has sons on the cusp of teenage. One fan at a time. As we rebuild it, they are coming.