Thursday, May 14, 2015

Nets and Scavenger Hunts

You have probably seen Hélio Castroneves' accident from Wednesday's practice session for the Indianapolis 500. Today, Josef Newgarden went for his own wild ride. Both ended up upside down, both walked away.

When cars are going quickly as they are at Indianapolis getting airborne is an inherent risk if something goes wrong.'s Marshall Pruett wrote about why Castroneves got airborne and I recommend it. These things happen and while IndyCar should do something to prevent cars from being lifted so easily (safety flaps perhaps on the side pods?) I am not panicking about it.

However, what if it were the race and what if some debris been flung off Castroneves' car while in the air, that is going to land somewhere and there are thousands of spectators sitting between turns one and two who could be in danger. As I watch practice and I look at the catch fence, I wonder if a net could be attached to the top of the catch fence and to the top of the grandstands that why it prevents objects from getting into the crowd, somewhat like a backstop in baseball. The only difference is it would have to be strong enough to catch a tire and the suspension parts that could be still connected which weigh much more than a baseball and will likely be traveling much faster than a foul ball.

Will it be in the way of spectators' view? Yes. Will it make it unbearable to watch a race through it? Hopefully not. Will it hurt TV camera angles? Maybe but those can be fixed. Is it worth doing? Yes. You can't have spectators getting hurt. If spectators get hurt or possibly worse in this day in age at the Indianapolis 500, it would be a deathblow for IndyCar. The Indianapolis 500 is the only time IndyCar gets national attention for a race and the series and the track cannot afford a spectator injury or death from debris becoming the headline story.

Adding another layer of protection such as a backstop over the grandstands isn't the end of the world. It is something we can get use to. Nothing can be done for this year but for 2016, perhaps it is possible.

Scavenger Hunt
Watching practice and to no surprise, there are very few people at the track on a Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon. I get it. People work. You can't take a day off to go to the track and not everyone can go to the track after work. People have families they have to get home to. They have to make dinner, get kids to baseball, softball and/or soccer practice and then the kids have homework. Listen, I get it. If you can make a practice session fit into your schedule, fantastic. If you can't no big deal because I am in the same boat as you are.

However, what if we made it worth going to Indianapolis 500 practice. What if a fan could turn a $15 loss into a six-figure gain? What if the Indianapolis Motor Speedway turned into a daily scavenger hunt on practice days with a six-figure prize? Have a golden ticket, golden-checkered flag, whatever it the track wants hidden somewhere on the track property that is accessible to fan and the person who can find it and return to pagoda wins the prize. I was thinking $500,000 of course to get a prize of that size, the Speedway would need to find a sponsor who would be willing to participate and fund such an endeavor. Maybe to make it worth it to a sponsor have silver tickets, silver checkered flags, whatever around the track that get fans other prizes such as free products from said sponsor, t-shirts, maybe a pair of race tickets or a chance to meet an IndyCar driver.

Why a scavenger hunt? First off, if the prize is larger enough, you will get people through the door, which means more revenue for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Second, it gets people engaged with the track and potentially with IndyCar. People who may never have been to the track before could get to experience it first hand and while they look for a golden ticket/golden-checkered flag/whatever, they get to watch cars go by on track and could potentially decide to return for the race or for qualifying. Third, it's something to promote. I hate to say this but practice isn't sexy and it is tough to get people to go to practice (and I know you are thinking about Allen Iverson's famous press conference so here you go). However, promoting a scavenger hunt with a six-figure prize, is a much more interesting draw.