What images come to mind when people think of spring? Considering that there are six billion souls on this blue planet of ours, it’s assured there are many different answers to this question.
But for IZOD IndyCar Series fans, their sign of spring came last week in St. Petersburg, Florida when construction of the winding, 1.8-mile Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg street course began in the company of race representatives and KV Racing Technology driver E.J. Viso. In a way, the sunny setting of the season-opening race personifies what spring represents: A time for growth after the bleak winter.
Sadly, it was indeed a bleak winter to begin with for the series, as drivers, teams and fans struggled to cope with the loss of two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon. The beloved Briton lived with his family in St. Petersburg, and although the INDYCAR community looks forward to starting the 2012 campaign there in late March, his absence will be acutely felt.
Even just by looking at the picture above – a simple concrete barrier being moved into position – one is confronted by the truth that he won’t be there. But even in times of great sorrow, even when we don’t want to believe it, we know deep down that life goes on. So it went for the series.
It is roughly one month away from another season of racing. Chevrolet, Honda and Lotus continue to prepare their engines for battle. Teams have been finalizing their driver rosters and major sponsors. ABC and NBC Sports Network are ready to push the sport into new places. The Dallara DW12, named for the man that played a vital role in its development, continues to make strides in turning positive potential into reality.
All the while, fans look forward to a year where new heroes are created, excitement is everywhere, and, most importantly, everyone comes home safely.
It is clear that despite the difficulties of the recent past – from the CART/IRL split all the way to Wheldon’s death – the sport is ready to show that its spirit remains intact. And like spring, which shows defiance in beating back the seemingly endless ice and snow, the sport’s leader has also shown defiance in the face of its many critics.
"No one could deny or claim we haven't made mistakes along the way -- we have,” said series CEO Randy Bernard in last week’s State of INDYCAR event in Indianapolis. “But our only goal every single day with INDYCAR is to better it and make it stronger. We have fantastic drivers, we have outstanding teams, and partners willing to invest millions into the series in an effort to help this series thrive and ensure INDYCAR will be here for another century."
Is there still plenty of work for the sport to do in making itself bigger than what it is right now? We know the answer to that question.
But it never hurts to start working with a feeling of new life.
After all, isn’t that what spring is about?