Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Polarizing 2014

It’s been a heck of an offseason in terms of some wild driver announcements for IndyCar. Earlier today, Kurt Busch added to that by announcing he’ll try the “double” between the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600. Busch has long been rumored for such a try, but it’s still cool to see it materialize, especially with an Andretti Autosport outfit who knows a thing or two about publicity.

In another sense, though, this is the latest in a series of off-season announcements that seem guaranteed to ensure IndyCar fans will have no shortage of polarizing drivers and figures to follow. Sure, there are guys like Martin Plowman, who is about as unobjectionable a human being as has ever jumped in a race car, and would be difficult to cheer against, but there are also guys like Juan Pablo Montoya, known for dominating the 2000 Indy 500, but a checkered NASCAR career. Drivers like Jacques Villeneuve, who is an Indy 500 and F1 champion, but is also known for his ping-pong ball impersonation when he’s a NASCAR road course ringer. You throw those two in with Kurt Busch, who has had as many notorious moments as he has on-track successes, and it’s a triad of tempestuousness.

There are a lot of drivers that very easy to cheer for in IndyCar. Whether it’s James Hinchcliffe being hilarious, Justin Wilson being an incredibly nice human being, or Pippa Mann continuing to scrap and fight for every chance in an IndyCar, we all have our favorites. But that’s not the only thing to make a racing series. I’m no fan of soap operas, but one has to admit, there’s a certain amount of baggage with drivers like Busch, Montoya, and Villeneuve. That’s a good thing! That means strong feelings. Strong feelings mean an interest in the proceedings, and an interest in the proceedings should mean better ratings and/or fan attention.

I wish all the new arrivals in IndyCar and for the 500 the best of luck. I think we’re seeing not only some good talent come in, we’re also seeing some very interesting talent, which is even better. If you have a racing series full of personalities, but no poor racing, that doesn’t interest me. But if you can combine personality with great racing, that’s something folks should want to see.

Whether it’s in regards to the 2014 season or the Month of May, IndyCar is going to have some potentially volatile mixes on the track and off. How nicely everyone plays together is anyone’s guess.

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