Since the public debut of new Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Jeff Belskus did not necessarily go over as smoothly as one would hope (though criticizing the man for lip sweat seems a bit much), the clamor for a different public face to IMS has begun.
Joie Chitwood was a man who at the least, understood the track - what she was, what she is, and what she can be once again (yes, I just personified IMS, and I don't know why IMS is a female. It just is in my literary mind). And he exuded that confidence and spirit every time I saw or heard him in a public forum. My wife, who had the opportunity to listen to Chitwood in May, said the same thing about his speaking skills; and while she isn't the biggest racing fan in the world, Chitwood's vision for the future and his ability to communicate it gave her confidence that the Indianapolis 500 would continue its resurgence.
And since Chitwood is gone, the track needs - no the track (and greater Indianapolis community) deserves someone who can sell IMS and enthuse the average sporting fan with their passion for racing.
So, who can do this? I'd nominate myself, but that seems too arrogant. Though I'd bring a full passion bucket to the job, I can promise that. Let Belskus continue on the business side, I'll face the cameras - done deal.
Now, since I'm not a viable candidate (my bank account weeps upon hearing that news), who else it out there? Curt Cavin, on his twitter page and in his most recent "Ask the Expert" suggests John Andretti.
And yes, you chuckle and say to yourself "little John Andretti?" I did. But if John wanted to retire, it makes a ton of sense. He carries the "Andretti" name with him, which still resonates throughout the racing community.
He has one foot in IndyCar and one foot in NASCAR, bringing credibility to both sides; in fact, he was the first driver to attempt the "double," racing the 500 and Coca-Cola 600 way back in 1994. Furthermore, we're talking about a driver who broke down in tears of joy upon qualifying for the 2009 500 - clearly there is some passion for IMS with John Andretti.
For you Sports Car fans, Andretti has raced those, too. In fact, he's dipped his toe into most forms of racing, so Andretti would bring credibility when sitting down and talking to the leaders of any racing league.
To further his resume, Andretti attended Cardinal Ritter High School and his wife is a native of Indianapolis, too. If IMS wanted someone who would resonate in racing circles and in the Indianapolis community, along with a person who could handle being in front of cameras, doing public relations initiatives throughout the country, and express what IMS means to racing and to general sports fans in a coherent manner, John Andretti is a name to watch.
Yes, he'll probably be more expensive than me (that's my last plug for myself as IMS president - I'd come cheap), but John Andretti would do a better job than me, too, more than likely.