When I was a print journalist, “30″ was a message to the copy editor: the story is over.
After five years and over 300 posts, this is my 30 column for this blog. In 2009, I began sharing my lifelong passion for motorsport with analysis and humor. I wanted to talk about great drivers, great races, great cars, and great controversies. I conceived of the blog as an online motorsport magazine, covering different aspects of the sport but also focused on the passion, the excitement, the joy of racing. Not a daily stat sheet; something broader.
I tried to provide readers with provocative writing accompanied by original images. I had nothing to offer aside from limitless zeal, past experience as a sportswriter, and the belief that I had something to share. I was also lucky to live near Laguna Seca and Sonoma Raceway, which collectively provide enough action to satisfy any race fan.
It started small, mostly posting after watching races on television (and attending live events in the Bay Area). Gradually, as the blog built support, it mushroomed into something more substantial. I fell back on my background in journalism and decided to approach the blog as if it were subjected to print journalism standards and ethics, as well as the same level of detail and passion (i.e., no spewing). I did all of this with a demanding full-time job and a family to raise.
The blog grew bigger than I expected. Tens of thousands of visitors have viewed these pages since 2009, from over 140 countries. I’ve engaged in a spirited debate over issues as diverse as F1 in the United States, the state of IndyCar racing, and the schism (and merger) of sports car racing. I shared hundreds of posts and photographs, met fantastic personalities and drivers, and brought an inside look at some of the biggest racing series in the world (the World Touring Car Championship, IndyCar, the ALMS, Grand-Am, USF2000, and Pirelli World Challenge, to name a few). I was privileged to receive inside access and tried to share it as honestly and vividly as I my skills allowed. I learned more about racing in five years than in all the years prior to that. It hasn’t always been perfect, but it’s always been true and hopefully accurate.
And I’ve been honored to interview so many great drivers and racing personalities, including Dario Franchitti, Will Power, Helio Castroneves, Alain Menu, Yvan Muller, Mario Andretti, Lyn St. James, Roger Penske, Marcello Lotti, and many more who were generous with their time, guys like Robb Holland, Rob Huff, and Peter Portante. These are real people, more than just celebrities. If some drivers are known for being arrogant or unapproachable, there are ten who are wonderful, funny, great to be around. I feel like the luckiest race fan in the world sometimes.
Over the years, I obtained greater access through the efforts of some very nice folks at Race Sonoma (thank you Diana Brennan, Jennifer Imbimbo, Laurence Lea, and the late John Cardinale), amazing media people who showed generosity of spirit with a blogger. Similarly, good friends at Mazdaspeed Motorsports helped gain access to the teams, pit and paddock at Mazda Raceway. I was able to receive an inside line on developments in the ALMS and Grand-Am Series, and the Road to Indy, many of which I could not print because they were entrusted to me as confidential.
I have read a lot of racing blog posts over the last four years, some of which rival the top newspapers and specialist publications in their coverage of auto racing. There are some amazingly talented bloggers on every form of motorsport today. These folks put their passion and heart into writing for the love of it, and they keep the sport alive. We are all tied together in a common desire to extol the virtues of auto racing, I love the passion of the fans, the teams, the media and other stakeholders. I have been inspired and challenged like never before. This is especially important in an era of declining journalism outlets and fewer reliable sources for racing news.
However, there is also a constant din of negativity about finance, politics, and other issues. No one can rise above that din, nor should I try. Social media can become an echo chamber where sarcasm and criticism trump insightful analysis. There are too many voices shouting at each other, and very few people doing any actual listening. Mine is just another voice, no better or worse than the rest.
These are not easy times for racing, and some of the time and enthusiasm that I had in the early days of the blog has waned. I started out writing about F1, IndyCars, the ALMS and the Grand-Am. I stopped writing about F1 when I realized that my reach exceeded my grasp. It’s good to know one’s own limitations, and the fact is, no one can write credibly about a racing series unless he is there, at least some of the time. You miss a lot watching television. F1 has serious issues to face: DRS, double points, horrible-sounding engines, degrading tires – these are gimmicks to shore up an increasingly aging and disinterested television audience. The issue of so-called “pay” drivers is a disheartening post all by itself.
The ALMS folded up its tent last year, joining the Grand-Am to form the awkwardly-named Tudor United Sports Car Championship, an amalgam of teams from the current Grand-Am and the former ALMS. The series immediately terminated the P1 class, added a “GTD” class, and forced all but the GTLM runners onto Continental Tires. Le Mans is about innovation, whereas the Grand-Am has never been about tech. The DP prototype is a dinosaur, made from a steel tubeframe rather than carbon fiber, a cost-conscious car built for a NASCAR-supported series. I love the WEC for the machinery, but I don’t see that replacing the ALMS in the hearts of American sports car fans.
After the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Sebring 12 Hours, I think I’ve seen the future of sports car racing in America and I’m not sure how I feel. Teams and drivers are less than enthusiastic, confused by late rule changes and an ever-moving balance of performance. IMSA has blown the GT finish in two straight races, both of which constitute its “blue ribbon” events. It’s the end of a chapter in sports cars, and the beginning of something different. Call it managed competition, if you will. The TV issue must also be addressed; the race is called the 12 Hours of Sebring, not the Three Hours of Sebring.
The IndyCar Series has lurched from crisis to crisis, although it seems to be on an even keel at the moment. The most popular post on this blog called the DW12 an “ugly duckling.” I didn’t get into blogging to endlessly criticize the product, but others do it for me. The series seems to unwillingly court controversy in almost every facet, but each summer, the thrill of an IndyCar race brings me back to the hills of the wine country. The product is good, but more people need to know about it. Signing Verizon is a huge step.
The IMS folks believe they know what’s best for the series as a whole, but they’ve only got one circuit on their mind. I hope that the series partners with local circuit owners who are on the financial front lines of racing, companies like SMI (which operates Sonoma) need to work collectively with the IndyCar Series. Adding a race in Indianapolis does nothing for the series as a whole, it doesn’t help anyone outside of Indianapolis. The series cannot thrive without healthy fan support all over the country, not just in the midwest.
This has always been a broad-based motorsport magazine. However, over the last five years, my available time for the blog has dropped off due to real world concerns. I want anything I do to be great and worth reading. If it cannot be, because I do not have the time to devote, maybe it’s time to transition. I’ll always be a racing fan and will always go to races, but I think this blog has seen its time come. The posts will stay up, Twitter will continue.
After today, I’ll be shifting my focus to building the ultimate collection of race cars at a new blog called ecurie415.com. The site features more images celebrating the art and style of racing and race cars. It will also feature brighter and bolder images, in keeping with my own interest in motor sport photography.
I will continue to write about Sonoma and Laguna Seca events (as long as they’ll have me!). These events are under-served by the racing press, which is often concentrated in Southern California, Charlotte or Indianapolis. The motor sport world is fortunate to have Marshall Pruett based in Northern California, but there are fewer and fewer print publications writing about racing (even outlets with a substantial Northern California presence). I have been lucky to share those experiences with Twitter users and blog followers who are not able to make the trek west each summer.
I still love racing, and that’s why I’ve been doing this for almost five years. The only thing left to do is to say thanks to you, for reading this blog, for commenting, for re-posting and re-tweeting, and for letting me be a part of your community. I’ll see you at the track, or at ecurie415.com.