THE FUTURE OF INDYCAR WAS JUST BORN TODAY!
Children are the future of IndyCar, not the other way around! IndyCar is a series at this very moment engulfed with Baby Boomer’s (Generation X-er’s) and the Millennial’s (Generation Y’s, or the MTV Generation) for the most part. IndyCar has a very small scattering of “The Silent Generation” left, and “The Greatest Generation” which would have first seen Ray Harroun win in person, are all but gone. Personally I am having a hard time understanding what part of this equation IndyCar just does not get? But the future of IndyCar was just born today!
Please look at the chart below, and see where you fall:
|Generation Name||Births Starting||Births Ending||Youngest Age Today||Oldest Age Today|
|The Lost Generation –
The Generation of 1914
|The Antebellum Generation||1901||1913||102||114|
|The Greatest Generation||1910||1925||90||105|
|The Silent Generation||1923||1944||71||92|
|Baby Boomer Generation||1945||1964||51||70|
|Generation Y –
The Millennials –
IndyCar is not a sport that is either played in leagues, or schools during the year. And when as a child did you here a knock at the door, as your friend asked your parents if it was ok for Johnny to come out and practice racing? Financially, it is not like running out to buy your kid some new cleats, a glove, a soccer-ball, etc.. Entry level into our sport starts at karts. And karts that make you competitive are not cheap. You need a helmet, gloves, suit, car, spare parts, a trailer, or large truck, and parents that are willing to drive a kid long distances on weekend’s, and pay fees for track time, and race heats. If you happen to be fortunate enough to be born an Andretti, Unser, or Rahal, even this does not guarantee you success, or a free ride up the ladder series.
Let’s face it. For most of us IndyCar racing, or almost any forms of racing will be nothing more to us than a spectator sport for most of our live’s. And that’s ok, not all of us can be the next Mario Andretti, or AJ Foyt. Mario Andretti once said “If everyone could do what I can do behind a steering wheel, I would just go back to Italy and plant potatoes”. If we’re lucky, maybe the occasional Skip Barber weekend thrown in for good measure, or an Andretti Racing Experience at your local track, if you happen to have one nearby, makes being just a spectator more bearable. I was fortunate to be born into the Indy 500 race experience. But how many kids are missing out west of the Mississippi, and up in the northeast of this great country? Where lobster is eaten daily on a roll, or a Philly Cheese steak is ordered “Wit, or Wit-out”. Heck I feel bad enough that 95% of the kids, in America have never had a White Castle, or a Tenderloin at Ray’s Drive Inn.
So I think we all can agree that IndyCar is not a sport everyone can take part in. It’s not exactly a sport, that has kid’s saying “I wanna be like Mike” and then go out and buy the shoes he wore! Or the kind of sport that you can go in your backyard, to emulate your favorite driver. But hey that’s ok, we have so much more to offer a child. And yet I don’t see IndyCar realizing our sport is at DEFCON-THREE when it comes to this situation with involving the youth of America, and beyond with our series!
The bottom line is, that IndyCar is going nowhere, and when I say that I mean were not going out of business anytime soon. Why? Well because the IMS is our yearly Super Bowl, and World Series for our form of racing, as well as the state of Indiana. And as the fella’s at NASA once said “NASA needs good publicity for funding, and with “no bucks, no Buck Rogers” And so it goes with IndyCar. The IMS keeps us afloat, because they know that without Buck Roger’s there is no Indy 500. But having said that, IndyCar can not just rest on it’s laurel’s and depend on the kindness of the IMS, and the fact team owner’s, sponsor’s, and drivers have them by their pop-off valves is just not enough to fill seats during the month of May!
Why it is so important to get the youth involved in our sport at an early age
It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I lived in this little, sleepy town of Kokomo, Indiana located fifty miles north of Indianapolis, Indiana. The year was 1969, I was just a child. But what I do remember about that year were these four things: The first man walked on the moon, the Met’s won the World Series, Joe Namath said “I guarantee it” then won the first and only Super Bowl for the New York Jets for the AFC. More than anything I remember this! Our family picnic we held at Highland Park on a beautiful May day.
In those days of my youth, the Indy 500 was blacked out in the state, and the only way you knew what was happening was either by being at the race, or by turning on your radio and listening to it broadcast live. Times were tough in Kokomo, and the option of seeing the race first hand were out of the question. But everyone had a transistor radio in those day’s, and on that day we would just have to visualize what we couldn’t see in person. The reality was that I was to young to totally comprehend what was transpiring over the radio. But one thing was for sure. My father was enjoying what he was hearing, and as with most young boy’s. If it was good enough for dad, it was sure good enough for me.
My father was proud of his Italian heritage, and this is one thing I learned early in life, along with his love of God, and what he did in baseball. Now it didn’t take long for me to understand in life, if someone was Italian, my dad rooted for him. Not to say my dad didn’t have other favorites from other ethnicity’s, he did. But this was just Italian pride, and now racing and in the lead that day in May at the Indy 500 was this guy that I kept hearing my dad repeat his name over, and over again “Mare-Reo-Mare Reo”!
So at a very young age I got the speed bug. It also meant my dad would have to take me to time trials (Qualifying) and of course the big race itself. I can still remember being down in turn three of the IMS, standing right down against the wall. All I heard was a the screech of the brakes, a car hitting the wall flames rising up right in front of me, and pieces of debris flying through the catch fence. That was a whole different time, and place for kids, and for safety. Hell, if you were old enough you could almost touch the tires of a car back then, as it cut the apex through the apron.
Thinking back, I am surprised I even learned to read, write, and speak English during first through third grade. All I remember is sitting at my little desk, and drawing the coolest looking cars of that day. I was in Boy Scouts, and my dad helped me make the greatest Pine Wood Derby car. It had these lead drapery weights (drapery weights kept long drapes hanging down, and not curling up) on the bottom that we used as to give you speed. My car never did win, probably too much down-force from those weights? But I do know this. That car painted in fluorescent hot pink was the best looking car of the lot. And it wouldn’t be until a few years ago, that I was looking through some old photo’s of Andretti’s 1968 IndyCar, when I realized where my father got the inspiration for that great design.
My father would take me to Indianapolis to go watch kids use gravity, as their motor to propel a Soap Box Derby car down just about the only hill worthy in Indianapolis t do so. And as much as I always wanted to drive one of those Soap Box car’s. Fate would have it I was always a tall kid, which also meant I would weigh more than the other kid’s, and would never have a chance to win, let alone fit in one of these hand-built car’s.
The last race, I would see before moving to California from Kokomo, Ind. would be the crash of all the car’s coming down the front straight of the IMS in 1973. Then getting tangled up, and throwing fuel, and bits and pieces into the crowd. My vantage point? Turn one looking straight down the front straight!
It is all these years later, and I am proud to say obviously I am still a fan. I went on to keep playing sports that all kids do, through college, and almost the pro’s. But that story is for a different time. But what never ended for me was the love of the Indianapolis 500, and the driver’s, and excitement throughout U.S.A.C., CART, and IndyCar. I was in Yosemite Park once back in 1989, and bribed a cook at a restaurant to let me borrow his TV, so I could watch a CART race in my cabin. I was in Vegas in 1993, and found a CART Indy 500 party to go to, and gambled enough so the pit boss would give my girlfriend and I a comp to the party. I was in Hawaii, and put aside my vacation for four hours so I could watch the 1994 Indy 500. And in 2005 at my brother’s wedding in Monterrey, Ca I missed being at the race in Sonoma, but found a Irish bar open on a Sunday, so I could catch the race live before driving home that night.
What my father showed me, but did not “Make me love” was the excitement of the Indy 500 many years ago! Later on, I learned to love all aspects of what it took to race at that hallowed track. And you know what? Kids are out their now just waiting for that first experience I enjoyed, and the lasting impression it left on me. The funny thing is, it doesn’t need to be a parent that instills this love of our sport. It can be a friend, a grandparent, a relative, a boy scouts outing, or maybe a movie like “Turbo” that came out a few years ago? And here is the kicker IndyCar. When you get these children involved, guess who has to take them to our races? That’s right! The parents, grandparents, friends, etc.. And what does this do for our sport? In generates revenue, get’s more sponsor’s involved that never thought that IndyCar could fit their advertising mold. But more than anything it puts more butt’s in the seats at our races, and guess what else it does? It starts a generation of new fans that were “Born Today”!
Imagine this if you will? Twenty years into the future, you are driving with your child in Speedway Indiana, although the “Speedway” no longer holds much meaning to those who live there. You drive a little further, and arrive at 16th and Georgetown Road, when your child nudges you on the shoulder, and say’s “Dad what was in that big field, and why is it empty”? You pull the car over, and have to explain. “Well many years ago some of the bravest men, and women drove race car’s here really fast” “Really fast” your child ask? “Whats really fast”? “So fast” you say, “That in just two hours we could drive from our house, to grandma’s house in that other state she live’s in, if we had one of them.” “Wow” your child exclaims, that’s fast”! “Sure is kiddo”. “So what happened dad?” “Well people stopped coming to the race” “Why”? ‘Well mostly because all those who really loved coming here got older, and just stopped coming”. “What about the young kids like me dad, why didn’t they come?” “We just always thought it would be here, and we didn’t think about the future.” ” Well dad, you know I would have come with you don’t you?” “Of course I do darling, of course I do!”