Throughout the season, INDYCAR Nation members participated in fantasy racing, selecting IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights drivers for each race to score points for their team. Over 6,000 teams across hundreds of leagues competed for top honors. When the dust cleared, three entrants stood above all others.
Barbara Nie is our 2011 fantasy racing champion! She won an IZOD IndyCar Series helmet autographed by leading drivers, an Indy Racing Experience 2-seater ride for her AND a guest, an IZOD apparel package, iRacing annual membership, a pair of Magnum boots, one-year AirMed membership, Just Pop In prize package, and Honda Power merchandise.
Second place went to Ann Longacre. Ann won an IZOD IndyCar Series flag autographed by leading drivers, an IZOD apparel package, iRacing annual membership, a pair of Magnum boots, Just Pop In prize package, and Honda Power merchandise.
Matt Callahan claimed third place. His prizes included an IZOD IndyCar Series flag autographed by leading drivers, an IZOD apparel package, Just Pop In prize package, and Honda Power merchandise.
All three fantasy winners all received an autographed photo of 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series Champion Dario Franchitti.
We interviewed all three fantasy winners, to learn more about their background, possible tricks of the trade, and how they’re enjoying their well-deserved prizes.
Thank you all for joining us. Tell us a little bit about your fantasy racing league.
Barbara: Our league is myself, my husband and two close friends (from Indy who have been fans for over 50 years). My husband and I are retired Air Force members and were stationed in Ohio when we attended our first race in 1997. That was the year it rained the entire weekend and it ran on Tuesday but we had to get back to the base and weren't able to see it. But we had such a great time we've been fans ever since. We started playing fantasy racing when Down Force was formed and we are the “Snakepitters”.
Ann: My husband and I did not realize that IndyCar hosted a fantasy racing league until the week before the first race. We decided to try out the league ourselves this year and invite friends and family next year when we knew more about it.
Matt: “Allthewaytk” is the league. I joined it solely for the name (see below). Everyone in it is pretty much a stranger. I follow a lot of sports, but most of my baseball/football /basketball friends aren’t interested in racing. I’ve hooked a number of them on attending the Indy 500, but not enough that they’re interested in fantasy racing.
Do you have any sort of motorsports background?
Barbara: No, no motorsport background.
Ann: Not other than being a fan.
Matt: No, unfortunately. My parents were not crazy about my interest. For my fortieth birthday my wife had friends chip in for a drive/two seater ride experience at IMS. My mom refused to put forward any money because she was afraid that something bad could happen. Between 2003 and 2010 I worked in Louisville, Kentucky at Actors Theatre of Louisville and would bring my staff down to Shepherdsville for a yearly Go-Kart outing. I guess I was trying to re-write my childhood.
How long have you been an IZOD IndyCar Series fan?
Barbara: Since 1997 (see above).
Ann: Before my father’s passing in 2009, he was involved for over 20 years with the IndyCar Series and USAC as a technical inspector and certification official. Therefore, with the involvement of my father, I have been a fan since I was born. Our family vacations would be to Indiana during the last week of May and we would spend the entire week at the track. I have been to the last 17 Indianapolis 500s and many other IndyCar races. My husband and I were engaged in 2007 before attending the race in Mid-Ohio.
Matt: Pretty much as long as I remember, the 1974 Indy 500 is probably the first I can recall. I was seven. Memorial Day weekend was spring cleaning weekend back in Massachusetts when I was growing up. My dad, my brothers and I would be raking and cleaning the garage while the race was on the old Bakelite radio. Then we’d watch the tape delay version with Jim McKay and Jackie Stewart. I seem to remember my brother and I doing a lot of shouting Chris Economaki impressions for every occasion throughout the year. “This is Chris Economaki in the kitchen. Mom?! What happened out there with Dinner?!”
How much preparation do you do before making your fantasy picks before each race?
Barbara: I don't make my picks until the last possible minute and I compare the driver record on how they did on that track over their career, and how they do on the type of track (oval or road and length). If they are a rookie I look at just the past couple races.
Ann: I actually do not put a lot of time into my picks. If they ran practice before the cut-off time I will take a look at how they were running and use that information to aid in my picks. I will use recent performance in races to help me as well.
Matt: I’ve been home with my 2 year old a lot this year so I got to listen to the on-line practice sessions more than usual. They give you a bit more insight than just the practice charts.
How much do you follow your “gut” instinct versus going with statistics and history?
Barbara: Before a race I look at the driver history on the track and how they are performing currently. Having to keep in mind I don't use the hot drivers too soon in the season is tough and I would pick some drivers because I thought they would win and others because I believed they would finish. My gut is always the final decision though.
Ann: I would say 90% gut and 10% statistics. I use the information I know about the drivers and their performance in making my choices, but do not spend a lot of time researching.
Matt: A bit of both most race weeks the past few years – 1) Penske car, 2) Ganassi car, 3. top of the speed chart car that’s not 1) or 2), then 2 “gut” cars who I think are in the mix. For Indy and any race I’m attending, I only pick drivers I’d like to see win. Fantasy sports make for odd alliances and I’d rather just enjoy the day without being conflicted.
What would qualify as your best moment from this year’s fantasy racing season?
Barbara: My favorite moment was when I realized I was in first place. It was after the Kentucky race which has special meaning to us because we have been to everyone since they started racing there.
Ann: New Hampshire. I won P2 place overall for the week with 911 points. At one point towards the end of the race my drivers were running 1-5; however, they ended up 1-3, 7, and 20.
Matt: I didn’t have any stellar weeks just a bunch of good ones. Probably, picking Dan at Indy. My first 500 was 2005 and it was always great to see him on that track.
What piece of advice would you give to struggling fantasy owners?
Barbara: I'm not sure what I can say to other fantasy owners other than not to pick based on who your favorite is. If you want to win watch the drivers and what they are doing for the season.
Ann: Don’t over think it. Find the right mix of history and stats and in the end, go with your gut. If the driver has not been finishing the race recently, good chance they will not again this week. You can’t take all the high performers in the beginning; you need to spread them out. Learn more about lesser known drivers and how they are performing. It’s not all about who is winning races, it’s about consistency.
Matt: I wouldn’t presume. But two things that I learned the hard way in past years:
1) Never underestimate Ed Carpenter on ovals.
2) Always have Dario on your team for the last race.
What do you think of your fantasy racing prizes?
Barbara: I'm not sure what all the packages are yet but I'm eager to see everything.
Ann: They have not arrived yet, but impressed about what is advertised. I am very excited about my autographed flag. It will be a nice addition to my racing memorabilia.
Matt: I’m looking forward to their arrival. Got a place set aside in my office for the flag. The Just Pop In snacks will be just in time for holiday consumption or re-gifting. I’m hoping that the IZOD gear includes one of the retro tees. I’m curious if the Honda Power equipment includes a slightly used 3.5 liter, V8 engine. I’m going to have one impressive lawn mower if it does….
Do you think you can repeat your performance in 2012?
Barbara: Can I repeat? It will take a lot of strategy and luck :)
Ann: I hope so! Next year I will spend more time on researching Indy Lights events as this year I did not put a lot of thought into my picks. I did not place importance on the race and it could have provided some bonus points to push me to P1.
Matt: Sure. It’s as much luck as anything else. Hopefully we can have 17 different winners with the new cars and engines.
Who’s your favorite driver, and why?
Barbara: I actually have two favorites. TK is such a classy person and has a huge heart. He speaks his mind but isn't obnoxious about it and seems to be someone who truly really cares about his fans and friends. Plus I absolutely adore Sarah, she's never used being female as a crutch or excuse to act without regard to other drivers. I'm so glad she is now an owner and think she will continue to do well. She is very nice and always has time to chat with her fans.
Ann: Helio Castroneves. I enjoy watching a driver that has such enthusiasm about the sport. Ever since I saw him win his first Indy 500 in 2001 I have been a fan. He is genuine, passionate, and charismatic.
Matt: TK. He’s always exciting to watch. I like his passion for driving and that he’s a larger than life character. Some find him a bit too much at times, but that’s part of the fun. He’s not in a timid profession. Also, up until this year his was the only car my wife could identify consistently. She’s adrift now with the switch to KV. Come back 7-11.
What’s your favorite part of INDYCAR?
Barbara: My favorite part on Indy is actually a pretty good story. A very dear friend of my husband and I, Ivan Lantry, introduced us to racing and our Indianapolis "family" Erin and Diane Lantry and Steve and Gail Rosberg back in 1997. We only saw about six laps of the race because of the rain delay but the experience of the event had us hooked. Everything leading up to the beginning of the race is a tradition that makes the fans part of the event.
Ann: I enjoy the diversity of the tracks and skills required to race them. There is little opportunity for error and the drivers must take care of their equipment.
Racing has always been an integral part of my family growing up. My family always comes together at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar racing will always bring me happy memories of my dad. I hope to one day pass my love for IndyCar racing on to my children as my father did to me.
Matt: The speed. Certainly, there are times, I question the thrill I get out of the sport. But Indycar drivers have always been of a unique bad-ass breed. If they are running, I’ll be watching.
Zachary Houghton runs www.indycaradvocate.com, which features regularly-updated INDYCAR, IZOD IndyCar Series, and Mazda Road to Indy interviews, commentary, and more. You can find him on Twitter at @indycaradvocate.