Open Wheelin’ Blog: Fourteen Things I’m Thankful For This Holiday Weekend

Joel Sebastianelli Featured, Joel Sebastianelli Blog, Midwest, Southeast, Sprints & Midgets, Staff Columns, Verizon IndyCar Series 0 Comments

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Blog by Race Chaser Online Open Wheel Correspondent Joel Sebastianelli — Chris Jones/IndyCar photo —

As the comedian Louis C.K. jokes, “everything is amazing and nobody is happy.”

Very often, we take the things that are most valuable in our lives for granted and don’t realize the great things we have in life until they’re gone. That’s why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday; even for just one day, it’s nice to put our worries aside and appreciate everything that makes life pleasant to wake up and live every day.

Racing fandom is like a microcosm of everyday life too. We spend so much time speeding in circles that it’s easy to get caught up in complaining instead of appreciating what we love about the race in the place.

In IndyCar, not everything is perfect nowadays (if it ever was), but with another exciting season in the books and one more on the horizon in 2015, we sure have a lot to be thankful for. Here’s what I’m thankful for on this Thanksgiving weekend.

  • I’m thankful for an action packed 2014 campaign. From the thrilling 98th running of the Indianapolis 500, to three doubleheader duals, to a breathtaking duel under the lights at Iowa and everywhere else the calendar led us up to its conclusion in Fontana, this year took us on one heck of a ride. We have a deserving champion in Will Power, a new proud sponsor in Verizon, and just three more months until we take our seats and strap into another season once more.
  • I’m thankful for the great role models and veteran leadership present in the series. The competitive spirit is high, but so is the level of class. In a sport and a country that glorifies physical altercations and wars of words, it’s a refreshing source of pride to see the IndyCar drivers routinely handle themselves with dignity. They may not always agree with each other and sometimes they may feel like they’re racing with “a bunch of goddamn idiots” (Thanks for always being you, AJ Foyt!), but the racing is normally clean and even if they lose the race, they rarely lose their respect for each other and the fans. Charles Barkley once claimed that athletes aren’t role models, but I don’t think he ever had the privilege of watching guys like Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, and James Hinchcliffe compete.
  • I’m thankful for the fountain of young talent making waves on all rungs of the Indy ladder. Marketable drivers like Josef Newgarden bring a breath of fresh air and fun to the series. Rookies Carlos Munoz and Jack Hawksworth have shown they’re both capable of great things as they mature behind the wheel, and Sage Karam has displayed tremendous talent in every type of car he’s been given a shot in thus far. On the Mazda Road to Indy Ladder, young guns like 2014 Indy Lights champion Gabby Chaves, Jack Harvey, Zach Veach, and Matthew Brabham have all displayed high potential too. Even though the car count has been low in recent years, the excitement and skill level is still high.
  • I’m thankful for Conor Daly’s sense of humor and Twitter account, @ConorDaly22. A high profile, full-time ride for Conor is on my Christmas wish list. (Yes, that holiday isn’t too far off believe it or not!)
  • I’m thankful for those who have passed away after a lifetime spent making the racing community a better place. The list is long of those who have passed on both at the racetrack and away from it, but their respective impacts on the sport will live forever.
  • I’m thankful for those who give everything they’ve got to get another crack at Indy. Names like Andretti and Foyt get the mainstream attention, but it’s the blue collar dedication of homegrown people like Ed Carpenter in the present and the Bettenhausen family in the past that are the heart and soul of the Indy 500. Even without a 500 victory on their resumes, their hard work and passion is the reason this race means as much as it does to so many people.
  • I’m thankful for 36 beautiful renditions of “Back Home Again in Indiana” by Jim Nabors at the Indianapolis 500. Whether you’re a native Hoosier or just an avid fan of IndyCar, Nabors’ rendition of the song means something different to everybody. 2014 was slated to be his final appearance behind the microphone, but if I close my eyes, I can still hear the tune on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Thanks for the memories Jim!
  • I’m thankful for a knowledgeable and excitable broadcast team at NBC Sports Network that gives IndyCar the attention it deserves every week. I’m also thankful for fellow Rhode Islander Allen Bestwick, whose presence in the booth elevates ESPN/ABC’s quality of coverage and makes partners Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever more enjoyable to listen to as well.
  • I’m thankful for every big business and singular individual who spends their money on the IndyCar Series. When I used to work as a track announcer at Seekonk Speedway, my mentor, Kevin Boucher, signed off each night by telling fans to “remember to support those who support the sport.” I always knew that sponsors played a big role in motorsports, but as costs rise, it can become increasingly difficult to fund race teams. Whether it’s foreign funders like Russia’s SMP Bank that helped Mikhail Aleshin race in 2014, manufacturers Honda and Chevrolet, or small companies I never heard of until they spent just enough to adorn a front wing, every contribution helps. By supporting our sport, you keep drivers’ dreams alive, and if I get the chance, I’ll support you right back.
  • I’m thankful for the development of aero kits. We know very little about them, but we do know a run at the IMS record books may come in the near future, and the current secrecy surrounding the project adds an extra ounce of anticipation to the offseason.
  • I’m thankful for the generous access IndyCar gives to our racing heroes. In other sports, you’d be lucky to simply catch a glimpse of your favorite athlete up close as he quickly scampers of the field amid a multitude of game, media, and personal obligations. At an IndyCar event, the drivers are always friendly and make time for fans and media alike. In my experience both attending sporting events as a fan and covering them as a member of the media, I can say with certainty that no athletes conduct themselves more cordially and candidly than these drivers. I want to see IndyCar continue to grow, but I hope it never forgets the importance of availability when it does.
  • I’m thankful for the Boston Consulting Group…yes, that Boston Consulting Group. Although I admit that the majority of suggestions are either ill-advised or unnecessary, the consultants did bring a couple of ideas to the table that are worth considering (Head here if you want to look at my thoughts on that subject again). Everybody you come across has something to say worth listening to, and even if you vehemently disagree with everything they’ve said, at least the BCG served as a reminder to appreciate and fight for the things we love about the series.
  • I’m thankful for the entire IndyCar fan base. Sometimes we squabble, but at the end of the day, we unite in our love for racing anyway. Without the loyalty of fans of all ages, none of this would be possible. In particular, I’m thankful for any new fans that have been introduced to the sport this year. Keep on spreading the open-wheel Gospel!
  • Last but certainly not least, I’m grateful for the tireless effort of Race Chaser Online editor-in-chief Tom Baker, managing editor Jacob Seelman, and the rest of our staff for making something out of nothing through hard work and persistence over these last two years. I’m proud of all we’ve accomplished, and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for all of us.

I hope equally that all of you out there have thought on the things you hold dear over this holiday weekend. Whether they’re racing-related or not, we each have something we can take appreciation in and there is no truer reason to smile than that.

I hope everyone has had a happy Thanksgiving holiday, and wherever you may be this offseason — be sure to enjoy it!

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