Unfortunately, things didn't go as planned, and I wasn't in attendance for the State of INDYCAR address. Still, checking in from home, a few big items stood out to me from the evening's proceedings:
1) Firestone Stays:
When it looked like Firestone was one-and-done with the IZOD IndyCar Series before last year, it looked like big trouble. Firestone's history with IndyCar (especially at the Indy 500) is beyond compare. Fortunately, they'll now be around at least through 2014, which is a big sigh of relief, and means one of the most dependable aspects of IndyCar racing will continue to be just that.
2) Increased TV Coverage:
This. This is a big step in continuing to build a viable and successful ladder to the top tier of American open wheel racing. Firestone Indy Lights will see each and every one of their races broadcast this season, which is a nice boost over the part-time schedule we saw in 2011.
Additionally, NBC Sports will be producing "INDYCAR 36", a show featuring a driver and what happens during 36 hours of their race weekend. It's exactly the sort of storytelling extras IndyCar fans have been asking for, it seems as if NBC is poised to help.
Oh, and don't forget live streaming in-car footage on ESPN 3 during ABC's races, and NBC Sports' promise of Indy 500 qualifications coverage. There's no sign of a return to streaming video of a race feed, but it's still progress.
With LIDS stepping in to help with trackside and online merchandising, the hope is that the options for fans to grab INDYCAR merchandise will become less of a hunt and more of a simple task. We'll have to see how this partnership works out, but this is one area where the Series desperately needs to improve.
4) Lindy Goes, Townsend Joins:
Nothing against Townsend Bell, who's always fun to watch at Indianapolis, but many fans were severely bummed to hear Lindy Thackston will not be part of the 2012 NBC Sports Network IIICS coverage. Townsend should be a good add to the otherwise intact crew, but losing Thackston is rough. Lindy is a smart, knowledgeable, dedicated pit reporter (not to mention a former Indy 500 princess), and she will be very much missed. Hopefully someone at NBC realizes their error and brings her back before too awfully long. This was the big bummer of the evening, from my online perch.
5) The 'Nard Dog Stays:
Rumors of Randy Bernard's departure from IndyCar have been floating since he first took the job, and no one can deny it's likely one of the toughest, most challenging tasks in all of sports. He's also had his share of sadness and contreversy to deal with over the past couple of years. Yet Bernard seemed dismiss any signs of his leaving, stating he'll be around so long as the Hulman-George family will have him. In my opinion, let's hope that's a long time.
There will be plenty more written about the State of INDYCAR over the next few days, but ultimately, the success of the season will be counted in how things go when 20-something engines roar to life in St. Petersburg next month. Thank goodness it's getting closer.