Joining me are three of the Q's biggest race fans: Scott, Debi (JrCanuckFan), and Jen (JenX63). We will each alternate as the "leader" of the discussion, so to speak, while the rest of us chime in on the topics of week. We will look further into the NASCAR season and Daytona 500, but this week serves more as an introduction of where we're coming from as race fans, as well as some other odds and ends. What that, let's get to it.
What are your fan origins, so to speak? How did you become a race fan? Who are your favorite drivers past, and present?
Eric: As we all have known for some time now, I'm an IndyCar and open wheel guy. The origins of this for me actually come from an F1 racing game from the early 90s with Nigel Mansell on the cover. This led to me watching F1 races and thinking it was cool I could recognize people from the video game. I'm not just talking Mansell and Schumacher. I'm talking Erik Comas and Ukyo Katayama as well. Not long after, I realized there was a form of open wheel racing in America that didn't mean waking up at 7 am to watch. I was pretty hooked to start, and when Zanardi made The Pass I was hooked for life. I would have to be given I was essentially a child of The Split (the first Indy 500 I remember watching for beginning to end was 1995), and the sport hasn't exactly gotten more stable or popular in the years after.
My favorite driver is and will forever be Alex Zanardi. Currently, my two favorites and new KV Racing teammates Tony Kanaan and Simona de Silvestro, although admittedly I like most of the current IndyCar paddock.
Debi: My origins??
Jen: NHRA 3 day event in 1977/78, not sure which year. I got to see Shirley Muldowney and Big Daddy Don Garlits..it was very exciting to say the least. I then started going to the local race track on Saturday nights. Watching Dale Jarrett win the Daytona 500 in 93 while his dad called it got me hooked for good on Nascar. Jarrett will always be my favorite Nascar driver, Pedregon brothers over in the NHRA, Tony, Kevin and Matt for current drivers in Nascar....in the Truck/Nationwide series, I always seem to pull for the underdog, but have no favorite to speak of.
Scott: My fan origins for auto racing in general go back to the mid 80's, when my uncle raced on the local dirt track in my home town. Today, my brother in law is one of the best racers on the dirt track series in the Midwest and quite frequently you can find me watching him race on the weekends. As for Nascar, it wasn't until the late 90's when I started to pay attention to the sport. When fantasy nascar leagues and then FanIQ came along, I took it upon myself to study up even more on the sport and learn more about all the "quirks" that come with it. I'm not going to lie, I may be a fish out of water on some of the things that will be discussed but I'll do my best to not sound like an idiot...LOL. When it comes to Indy Car, I've always paid attention to the Indy 500 because IMO, it is the Super Bowl of auto racing. Only recently though, have I gotten into more and more of the sport.
As for my favorite drivers, the local boys of Rusty Wallace and Ken Schrader will be always be near and dear to my heart. I've met them both and they are both really good guys. Currently, I like Carl Edwards...another local boy... and Matt Kenseth.
Continuing with our race fan tendencies, what are the five races you'd most like to attend in person?
1. Indianapolis 500 - I know I've been there, but Indy is always #1
2. 24 Hours of Le Mans
3. Any of the European F1 races, or Canada, Brazil, or Austin - Yeah, I couldn't choose just one
4. Any of the other current IndyCar ovals - Ditto
5. The night race at Bristol - I can't think of a better atmosphere for stock cars
1. Indianapolis 500
2. Daytona 500
3. Any race at Bristol
5. Any road race for either Indy Car or Nascar
Now that you know more about us, turn the page for the first look of the 2013 racing season.
We'll preview the Daytona 500 more in-depth next week, but what are you looking for in the early part of Speedweeks?
Eric: The further development of the new car would be first, my continuing concern about pack racing second, trying to figure out what the heck the Bud Shootout or whatever is called now works third, and Danica and Stenhouse 490th.
Debi: I definitely want to see the car in race form. We've see it at testing, but in race trim, under race conditions, we all know the circumstances change. It appears the two car tango is gone (thank God) and we will have pack racing again, which can be entertaining, IF we get some decent coverage on TV. The problem is that they seem to show too many looooooong shots to get a lot of the cars in the shot. From far away you just don't see how dicey it can be. If FOX can give us some great on track racing shots we do get to see how close the racing is. Everyone says it is boring, but try being a driver, in that car. Show us more of that and we will be entertained, I guarantee it.
Jen: I am curious about the changes to the cars. It is now called the "Sprint Unlimited"....Nascar is trying to get the fans more involved (ugh) and I say that because I know there is going to be some stupidity. Nascar should of left it alone.
Scott: Outside of what Eric has said...minus Danica and Ricky....I'm interested in seeing how Matt Kenseth copes with his new ride and how Kevin Harvick fares in what could be his last year with RCR.
Debi: It is definitely Kevin's last year at RCR. It has also been confirmed that he will be with Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014. I think he will be left out of the mix somewhat at RCR
Finally (for this week), is there any other more "under the radar" news that you would like to discuss?
Eric: Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time is asking for government money, specifically $100 million of current state taxes to pay for improvements, which many are speculating mean lights. I'm very much against the use of public money for sports facilities, and I always admired IMS for never taking any public money, and building such a gorgeous place (albeit one showing its age) without it. It's not surprising given the way things are run now at IMS, but it's still saddening to see.
Debi: I'm torn in the IMS thing, because I believe lights would be a huge benefit to the speedway, but I agree that it is very sad they are having to appeal to the taxpayers to do so.
Eric: Debi, yeah, NHRA is always a good show on Sunday nights. The one negative is Paul Page won't be commentating anymore, and in fact is currently out of a job anywhere in racing.
Jen, I doubt ticket prices would be cut (although I think prices for the 500 are reasonable). All the rumors are is that IMS wants lights for the Brickyard 400. I'm pretty agnostic about it. It could be nice if there's rain in the afternoon on 500 day. What I don't want is a night start for the 500.
Thanks guys for your input, and thanks to all of you for reading. What are your thoughts as the 2013 racing season gets set to begin in earnest. See you next week for another edition of Start Your Engines.