Speedway — The operative thing to keep in mind when watching MotoGP is to not judge a book by its cover.
The bikes? At first glance, they don’t look all that impressive to the untrained eye. Really, they don’t look that much different from a spruced-up motorcycle you’d see flying past you on Third Street on a Saturday night.
Then you hear them ... the sonic blast of a MotoGP bike would make your weekend two-wheel warrior run and hide. The aural impact of the bikes is no different than when you hear the Indy Cars in May. They are that loud. And they aren’t too much slower either; the 200-mile-per-hour barrier was nearly broken on Sunday.
The riders? If you look at the entry list, it looks like just your joe average list of faceless, mostly foreign, presumably forgettable personalities.
Then you find out more about Valentino “The Doctor” Rossi, an six-time MotoGP (world) champion and Hall of Famer in harmless self-aggrandizement. Among many other things, the Italian talks trash with the world media about his favorite soccer team in a press conferences.
Last season, he had a screaming version of his own face on the back of his helmet to mess with on-board camera shots on the worldwide TV feed.
There’s Nicky Hayden, an American who rides for an Italian company (Ducati) that’s under the radar as far as its marketing in the States. He looks like he belongs in a Monte Carlo club. But then the Owensboro, Ky., native opens his mouth, and his thick Kentucky drawl would indicate that “Pitino” is the only Italian word he would normally say instead of Ducati.
Finally, there’s Jorge Lorenzo, Sunday’s race champion. Between his straightaway-length victory wheelie, his Helio Castroneves-inspired fence climb, and the Captain America shield he carried on his victory lap, he was more entertaining than three Jimmie Johnson Brickyard 400 celebrations combined.
If you don’t know any of this — and its easy to not know, since MotoGP flies way under the radar in the sports consciousness — it adds to experience of the race.
Oh, and the racing is pretty darn entertaining too.
Does any of this mean MotoGP has a permanent home at Indy? The jury is still out.
Unlike the two other races at IMS, MotoGP insists that its attendance figures are public knowledge. Attendance on Sunday was 75,130 with a three-day total of 146,680.
Not bad at all considering motorcycle racing is a niche sport and the economy is bad. But is good enough for Indy? At most circuits, 75,130 would be a boon. At Indy, you kind of just shrug.
And one of the biggest “don’t judge a book by its cover” propositions is where those 75,130 fans were on the track. Nearly all of the action in road course racing, especially motorcycle racing, occurs in the turns. And they were jam-packed on Sunday, especially on the hillside berms next to the golf course. The Speedway is smart enough to charge its higher reserved prices for seats in those areas.
The only problem is that you can’t get many people, or sell as many tickets, in the turns.
The massive, iconic Paddock Pavilion, which runs the length of the oval’s front straightaway, was desolate. There were no more than a few thousand fans; it looked like an Indy 500 practice day. There’s a good reason for that: other than the podium celebration, nothing happens on the straightaway; there are no scheduled pit stops in MotoGP.
Because of that, the Paddock Pavilion is part of the $75 general admission ticket. By contrast, it’s where the highest-priced seats are located for both the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400. When you see a sea of aluminum, you can also add up in your mind much money IMS doesn’t make from what’s normally a lucrative part of the facility.
The people most instrumental in bringing motorcycles to Indy — notably former IMS President Joie Chitwood — aren’t at IMS anymore. Nor is former CEO Tony George, who I think added a lot to the Speedway’s culture by augmenting the traditional IMS experience of the Indianapolis 500 and the popularity of NASCAR with international events like Formula One and MotoGP. All four were/are very entertaining, even if completely different.
Those are concerns. There are benefits to the track too. Four of the five MotoGP manufacturers — Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki — all fight for market share in the United States and all see a benefit to racing, and winning, at the Speedway. MotoGP is also more soundly run and not anywhere near as expensive to the track as dictatorially run Formula One was.
No one has a good read yet on what the summer power shift on the IMS board and the elevation of Jeff Belskus to IMS CEO means to the future of any of the events at the track. Later this week, the NASCAR-affiliated Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series will test at the Speedway for the first time.
Does it mean the track is ready to expand its calendar, replace a race, or stand pat? Is the track willing to take time to build MotoGP to the point where it’s at least part of the local ticket-buying consciousness?
Time will tell. But if it stays, race fans should check it out at least once. There’s a lot to enjoy if its given a chance.
Todd Golden is sports editor of the Terre Haute Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or email@example.com
Speedway — The operative thing to keep in mind when watching MotoGP is to not judge a book by its cover.
- From the Press Box
TODD GOLDEN: Don't give up on ISU baseball just yet
If you had to pick one word that would describe the 2013 Indiana State baseball season, it would have to be frustration.
FROM THE PRESSBOX: Content McKenna has enjoyed seeing ISU's progress
It all happened so fast in June 2010.
One minute, Kevin McKenna was head coach of the Indiana State men’s basketball program. Then — poof! — he was gone.
McKenna resigned from his head coaching position at ISU on June 13, 2010 to take an assistant coach position on Dana Altman’s then-burgeoning University of Oregon staff.
MVC can't wait on Crieghton to move forward
Will they go or not? That’s been the question that the Missouri Valley Conference and Creighton have been faced with since rumors of the Bluejays’ potential exit went public in December.
FROM THE PRESSBOX: Can Sycamores reverse fortunes heading into MVC Tournament?
Mastery of a basketball season comes in many forms. Mostly, it comes in forms that involve avoidance of turnovers, anemic scoring and poor defense.
The mechanics of X-and-O success in basketball are obvious, but what’s often overlooked in building a successful campaign is managing the rhythm of the season, which is the hardest thing of all.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Accountability isn't Lansing's alone in ISU's recent struggles
Taking ownership has always been one of Indiana State men’s basketball coach Greg Lansing’s strengths.
When ISU has lost games in his three seasons at the helm that it was expected to win, Lansing has always been willing to fall on the sword and take blame for it.
TODD GOLDEN: Indiana State has far more occasions to rise to
Rejoice, Indiana State basketball fans. The Sycamores’ 68-55 victory at No. 15 Wichita State on Tuesday is worthy of celebration.
TODD GOLDEN: Big plays in last 10 minutes story of the season for Indiana State
You’d think I’d have learned by now.
It’s 20 games into Indiana State’s men’s basketball season and I still expect the Sycamores’ offense operate like a well-oiled machine from the opening tip.
Sycamores blossom on Hawaii trip
Quick quiz … what’s the state flower of Hawaii?
Don’t worry. I can’t just rattle state flowers off the top of my head. I had to look it up too, even though I’ve seen them all over the place in Honolulu.
I didn’t even know that Indiana’s state flower is the peony, which replaced the apparently unloved zinnia in the 1950s.
Hawaii’s flower, and they’re ubiquitous in Waikiki tourist shops and in actual flora on Oahu, is the yellow hibiscus.
The yellow hibiscus is big, bold and bright. I’ve never seen one blossom, but I imagine it has to be a beautiful sight.
What I have seen blossom — and it’s the only reason flowers would be brought up in my column — is the Indiana State basketball team at the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.
TODD GOLDEN: ISU needs to have its realignment head on a swivel
Have you ever driven past a cow pasture during a severe thunderstorm? If it’s really bad, the cows will congregate in a herd to protect themselves from the tumult.
TODD GOLDEN: ISU AD Prettyman keeps it close to the vest
Do you want to know who’s on the short list to become Indiana State's next football coach?
TODD GOLDEN: Trent Miles leaves Sycamores with giant legacy
To glean perspective on Trent Miles’ time as Indiana State’s football coach, I went back into the Tribune-Star’s archives to remind myself of what the football program was like when Miles arrived to rebuild it.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Scoreboard watching and the threat matrix for ISU
Indiana State football coach Trent Miles reaffirmed his belief Tuesday that a victory over Youngstown State on Saturday will propel the Sycamores into the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs for the first time since 1984.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Twists and turns, but Luck passes eye test
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck made his much anticipated Lucas Oil Stadium debut Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Looking back and forward at ISU athletics
It started in State College, Pa., and ended in Eugene, Ore. Few Indiana State athletic seasons have spanned the nation in as many sports as 2011-12 did for the Sycamores’ athletic teams. And from coast-to-coast there was glory and heartbreak alike.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: ISU progresses under Prettyman
He didn’t say a word, but it was as clear as Indiana State Director of Athletics Ron Prettyman sat in the PK Park dugout and watched the Sycamores take batting practice prior to their NCAA Regional at Oregon last Thursday, he beamed with pride.
TODD GOLDEN: MVC pitching helped prepare Sycamores for regional
Nick Petree, Pierce Johnson, Ty Blach.
These aren’t just elite-level starting pitchers Indiana State’s baseball team faced this season. They comprise three of the last five pitchers the Sycamores faced period.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: ISU baseball has pluses, minuses for tourney bid
Last Thursday, when Indiana State’s baseball jumped around in a celebratory dogpile after clinching the Missouri Valley Conference regular season championship at Bob Warn Field, no one thought that a little over a week later, the dreaded NCAA Tournament bubble would fly over Terre Haute.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Subtle switch has fostered MVC baseball parity
When Indiana State was crowned as the regular season baseball champion of the Missouri Valley Conference last Thursday, it marked the fifth different regular season champion the league has had since 2005.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: ISU has done enough to be in NCAAs
When you get older, you’re supposed to get wiser. I don’t know if I qualify, but I’m trying.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: TH’s Murans back in the Derby … this time with favorite
When Terre Haute native Paul Murans experienced his first Triple Crown horse racing run as part-owner of Mucho Macho Man in 2011, the experience was — to borrow a phrase from one-time Marquette coach Al McGuire — seashells and balloons.
TODD GOLDEN: IHSAA debate interrupts more pressing issues
State Senator Mike Delph has sowed a 15-year-old wind and put the emotional class basketball debate back on the public’s mind.
TODD GOLDEN: ISU eyes prize one game at a time
Most baseball fans know that the baseball season — even a college baseball season — is a marathon, not a sprint.
TODD GOLDEN: Grass is green enough for Indiana State in Missouri Valley
Take a look around the Missouri Valley Conference landscape and it would be easy to assume that a significant portion of the league membership is searching for perceived greener pastures.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Sycamores are Odum’s team now
Soooo … who wants to talk about the 2012 Indiana State men’s basketball season?
FROM THE PRESS BOX: ISU will face uphill climb in MVC in 2013
The Missouri Valley Conference Tournament semifinals are always scintillating. No more so than Saturday when Illinois State upset 15th-ranked Wichita State 65-64 and when No. 25 Creighton took care of business with a 99-71 victory over Evansville.
Arch Madness indeed.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Effort, heart, concentration are fleeting for ISU
Every time Indiana State’s men’s basketball wins a game, you think to yourself, OK, now is when these Sycamores live up to their potential.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Peyton’s place belongs to Eli
The good people of Indianapolis justifiably puffed out their chests throughout Super Bowl week as the city received deserved rave reviews for the job it did as hosts of Super Bowl XLVI.
TODD GOLDEN: Teammates, colleagues express their loyalty to Weatherford
Sometimes you worry whether someone is stopping to smell the roses when they smell rosiest.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Does melted ice reveal Belichick's heart of gold?
If you’re into Youtube — and who isn’t these days? — there’s a vintage television profile of then-Cleveland Browns coach Bill Belichick posted on the popular site.
TODD GOLDEN: Indiana State men caught between expectation, reality
The Missouri Valley Conference is hush-hush on how it puts together its matchups for the annual conference schedule.
- More From the Press Box Headlines
- TODD GOLDEN: Don't give up on ISU baseball just yet