Monday, March 9, 2015

Musings From the Weekend: Color Wheel

From traveling to having family visit, I did not get to sit and watch as much motorsports as I was hoping to this weekend but I still got to see Supercross and half of Pirelli World Challenge opening weekend from Circuit of the Americas. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Color Wheel
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. got me thinking about this. The two-time Daytona 500 winner tweeted a photo of his father after he tried on a firesuit from his father's rookie season in NASCAR.
The firesuit didn't catch my eye, the car did. That paint scheme is beautiful. Sky blue base, yellow on top. Why can't today's paint schemes look as good as they once did?

At the end of last June, I wrote about how IndyCar teams should be know by their liveries the same way soccer clubs such as Liverpool, Manchester United, Barcelona and Bayern München are known by their kit or NFL teams such as the Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers or Dallas Cowboys by their jerseys. Team shouldn't be changing for sponsors. Manchester United is a red club. They didn't change their primary color to yellow when Chevrolet took over as shirt sponsor. Chevrolet knew what they were getting themselves into and after all, Manchester United is one of the most recognizable sports teams in the world.

No IndyCar team or driver is nearly as recognizable as Manchester United is and they never can be if teams keep switching liveries every week. How many different liveries did Tony Kanaan run in 2015? What about Simon Pagenaud? A fan needs to be able to turn on a race and know by color which driver is which. Let's go back to Dale Earnhardt. He was the man in black with the silver stripe on the bottom. Richard Petty and his family were known for Petty blue. IndyCar needs the same with their teams.

Each team should have a primary base color. Over the weekend I was thinking Penske could be the "black team," Ganassi could be red, Andretti could be yellow, CFH could be green, Schmidt Peterson orange, Foyt white, Rahal Letterman Lanigan blue and so on. For teams with multiple cars, you would then have a secondary color to distinguish who is who. If Penske is the "black team" then Will Power could have white be his distinguishing color, Hélio Castroneves could have yellow, Juan Pablo Montoya red and Simon Pagenaud blue. If Ganassi is the "red team," Scott Dixon's car could be red and white, Tony Kanaan red and blue, Charlie Kimball red and orange and Sage Karam red and black. Solid colors could still be allowed. Andretti could have Ryan Hunter-Reay in an all yellow car, Marco Andretti car could yellow and blue, Carlos Muñoz yellow and red and the fourth car for a yet-to-be-named driver could be yellow and white. The distinguishing color could be based on the sponsorship on the car while keeping the primary color as a way for fans to recognize which team each driver belongs to.

Primary, non-changing team colors could allow teams to stand out. KV could become the "purple team," Dale Coyne Racing could be the "teal team" and Bryan Herta Autosport could be the "magenta team." The teams could bring back all the wild and wacky colors from the days of IROC. Anything that will help the teams stand out. If IndyCar ever gets new teams then teams could have the same colors but just be more specific. Rahal Letterman Lanigan can still be the "blue team" but a team joining IndyCar could become the "sky blue team" or the "navy blue team." CFH can still be the "green team" but another team could be the "British Racing Green team" or "pine green team."

Alternate liveries would still be allowed but limited compared to the current situation to make them as special as they once were. In NASCAR, it was cool every now and then to see a driver running a different looking car, especially at the All-Star Race but now it seems Jeff Gordon is in a different looking car each week because of a sponsor and there is nothing special about those paint schemes when they are changed like they are underwear. Keep the alternate liveries to less than 20% of the schedule. For the other 80% of the schedule, keep the liveries or paint scheme the same, just change the stickers on the car if sponsors are rotating for the sake of identification for fans.

GT3: The Way to Be
Pirelli World Challenge's season started this weekend and while I think we all wished IndyCar joined them this weekend at Circuit of the Americas, it was great to see another series start. If I were an IndyCar team owner, I would expand my operation to include a GT3 program. One, the potential is endless. A car could run PWC full-time or GTD starting next year or a mix of both. You could run Blancpain Endurance and/or Sprint Series. A host of other endurances races from around the globe are open to GT3 teams. Personally, I would just run the North American Endurance Cup races (Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Petit Le Mans) and then a full-season of PWC with the trips to the Bathurst 12 Hour, Spa 24 Hour and, if the team does well enough, PWC pays for a trip to the Baku World Challenge, the season finale for the Blancpain Sprint Series.

Two, IndyCar has about 30 to 40 drivers trying to fill 22-25 full-time rides. Instead of having J.R. Hildebrand, Conor Daly, Justin Wilson, Ryan Briscoe, Oriol Servià, Simona de Silvestro and a handful of Indy Lights drivers who were never given a great shot at IndyCar (Wade Cunningham, Dillon Battistini, Jonathan Summerton, Richard Antinucci) sit on the sidelines doing nothing but an Indianapolis 500 one-off if they are fortunate, give them some seat time. All these drivers have talent and are competent. Let them show off their skills and potentially have their career blossom whether it is in IndyCar or sports car racing.

It makes more sense for a team to expand to GT3 than Indy Lights or Rallycross. By having a plethora of series to choose from, a GT3 program opens a team up to sponsors from all across the world. Many GT3 series have adapted to the changing tides of race viewership. Knowing the difficulty of getting traditional TV space, many of these series and one-off races have turned to the World Wide Web and stream their races online to the world. A few places geo-block races (CBSSN has been screwing the U.S. and Canada from the Blancpain GT Series) but many don't. The times are changing and being on top of streaming coverage while NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula One are stuck in the mud on the matter could benefit GT3 series such as PWC in the future.

Quick Hits
PWC ran a week too early at Austin. Next week is the start of the South by Southwest, a weeklong festival featuring music, film and interactive media. Circuit of the Americas should take advantage of all the people heading to Austin for the festival, get IndyCar and PWC to share a weekend, have concerts each night of the race weekend like they do for the United States Grand Prix weekend and potentially become the place to be for SXSW. It would be a great chance for both series to get new fans and make CoTA a place not just motorsports but for all type of events.

I have brought this up before but why does the Truck series run at Las Vegas in October all by themselves while the top two NASCAR division run in March? There isn't an IndyCar weekend at Las Vegas in autumn anymore. Move the Truck race to Friday night in March that way they don't have a month off between races.

Sad to hear Fabio Leimer lost his Super Formula ride. He is a talented driver who has done all that he had to do on track to be in a top series but unfortunately motorsports is more than just winning races. I hope he has a ride somewhere nice this season.

It was great to see Brian Vickers back on track. Let's hope his health doesn't keep him out of car again for the rest of his career.

Ryan and Beccy Hunter-Reay welcomed their second child, another baby boy into the world on March 5th. If the birth fell exactly nine month after conception that means the child was conceived on June 5th, just 11 days after Hunter-Reay's Indianapolis 500 victory. I wonder how many Indianapolis 500 winners have had children born within the first two weeks of the March after their Indianapolis 500 victory? Racer Magazine's David Malsher had a name suggestion.

Look for three 2015 Verizon IndyCar Team-By-Team Previews this week. First preview would be posted on Tuesday with the other two following on Wednesday and Thursday.

Winners From The Weekend
You know about Olivier Beretta and Kevin Éstre but did you know...

Kevin Harvick won the NASCAR Sprint Cup race from Las Vegas.

Sébastien Ogier won Rally México, making him three-for-three this WRC season.

Kris Wilson and Michael Cooper split the Pirelli World Challenge GTS races from Austin.

José María López and Sébastien Loeb split the WTCC opener from Argentina.

Ryan Dungey won the Supercross race at Daytona.

Austin Dillon won the NASCAR Grand National race from Las Vegas.

Coming Up This Weekend
The Formula One season starts with the Australian Grand Prix from Melbourne.
Formula E makes their debut in the United States as they race around Miami.
NASCAR remains out west as they head to Phoenix.
AMA Supercross heads to Indianapolis.