Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Dancing to create a star

We all know how this worked the last time.

Helio Castroneves danced. He flashed that dazzling smile. He won the hearts of America.

The minds, however ...

Well, whatever traction IndyCar hoped to gain from Castroneves' winning Dancing With The Stars in 2007 dissipated quickly, because, for reasons that have been enumerated ad nauseum in this space, the best auto racing series in America vacates America's mind as soon as the checkers wave at Indianapolis on the last Sunday in May. After that ... crickets.

This is a shame, frankly. More than a shame.

Here's what's even more of one: While IndyCar will be going down the DWTS road again, I don't know if it will raise the series' profile any more, or any more lastingly, than Castroneves did.

For sure, they've got the right guy. James Hinchcliffe will be dancing the nights away this time, and no better public face for IndyCar exists. He's handsome, he's witty, he's disarmingly charming. And no one in IndyCar owns social media better; his Twitter feed, @Hinchtown, is so popular he's become almost as well-known as the Mayor of @Hinchtown as he has one of IndyCar's brightest stars.

If only he could get more eyeballs on the product. If only anyone could.

Even NASCAR, the 800-pound Magilla Gorilla of American motorsports, is down about 400 pounds these days. Which means IndyCar, which has lived in NASCAR's shadow for at least two decades now, makes an even lighter impact on the American sporting landscape. And again, that's a shame, because the quality of the racing in IndyCar right now puts Magilla in the shade.

Four or five of the greatest Indy 500s in history have happened in the last 10 years, for starters. And the final 10 laps in Texas last Saturday night were perhaps the best 10 laps of racing on American soil in recent memory.

Unfortunately, hardly anyone was watching. Many more people will be watching DWTS, presumably.

Here's hoping Hinch can wow 'em the way Helio did. And can make it stick this time.

The product deserves it.  

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