Jay Frye, Mark Miles, and C.J. O'Donnell announce a new title sponsorship deal with Firestone. In exchange for Firestone making a new ode to the Indianapolis 500 advertisement focusing solely on the 1996-present era to keep a consistent narrative, the series will be re-branded as the Firestone Auto Racing Tour. To save money, the announcement doubles as a public appeal to Phoenix for a mid-afternoon, July date.
A mysterious countdown appears on the Fan Force United website with "big news" coming soon. The news is postponed when Tyce Carlson accidentally goes to Wendy's at the time he was scheduled to copy the announcement from Notepad. Carlson eventually updates the page, confirming that the fan donation program has reached a milestone $100. When pressed, Carlson later concedes that he donated the $100, which had been gifted to him by his parents for Christmas.
Realizing that there is no incentive to donate, Carlson comes up with some "EnTycements" for fans who support FFU's entry into the big race. The top contributor will receive a picture of Arie Luyendyk, Jr., signed by Carlson himself. All other donors receive a coupon redeemable at any "Tyce Carlson Bonding of Indianapolis" or "Brendyn 'Tyce' Carlson RE/MAX Indiana" office.
James Jakes signs to drive Andretti Autosport's fourth car as Panther Racing withdraws from the series. Jeff Belskus points out that it's a net gain, as the Andretti car has a driver, and the Panther car did not.
ESPN announces that Vince Welch will succeed Marty Reid as the television voice of the Indianapolis 500. Mark Miles adds that, more importantly, Welch will be the first ever voice of the Indianapolis Grand Prix. ESPN could not confirm if Welch actually spoke English.
Two hours later, Jeff Belskus, upon seeing the news, looks in the mirror and says, "there's a new voice of the Indy 500, and the voice is me!" He gives himself a firm pat on the shoulder, brushes his hair, and opens the Org Chart function of Excel. He puts himself at the top of each one and smiles.
Andretti Sports Marketing confirms plans to host a race in Baltimore have been postponed to 2021 to coincide with the DW12 being replaced by the IR21. Providence removes its bid for a Firestone Auto Racing Tour date, but Mark Miles reminds fans that it's a net gain, as Baltimore is closer to Hulman Racing's target market of Indianapolis.
Curt Cavin reports that Terry Angstadt will replace Mike King as chief announcer. IMSRN explains that there are a lot of facts out there, and the fans need someone to guide them through the tangled narratives. The press release calls Angstadt "a natural," despite his lack of experience. "The Buzz Calkins of commentators," it reads. Angstadt confirms that he will be "studying the classics," modeling his calls after the 2011 Indianapolis 500 finish, in which Mike King used poetic license to declare J.R. Hildebrand the winner. The network director offers that Angstadt has already been rehearsing for a photo finish in Qingdao.
Andretti Autosport adds a fifth car for Carlos Muñoz after Team Pelfrey-Schmidt-Hamilton-Peterson with CURB/Agajanian Racing withdraws both of its unsponsored cars. Jay Frye suggests that this a net gain, as FOX Sports Net Terre Haute "Hoosier SportsDesk Tonight" will "probably" cover the Muñoz/Montoya "rivalry" on a constant loop from 1:11 AM to 3:06 AM "eventually."
At the halfway mark of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Dale Coyne decides to write Simona de Silvestro's name on the entry list for his second car, now dubbed the "Entergy Special." Coyne hopes that by visualizing a "green" sponsor, he'll get a tax credit on his Schedule C. Coyne indicates that de Silvestro will debut as soon as the Holmatro Safety Team removes her from a 2011 wreck at the Texas Motor Speedway.
After sustaining crash damage in the race, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing withdraws the 67 car from the series. Michael Andretti buys up the engine lease, creating a sixth car for Johnny Cecotto, Jr. "Someone for Junior Nation to support," Jay Frye comments on this "net gain."
Mark Miles unveils a new plan for 2015. Qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 will begin on the first weekend of April, and run constantly until the race. Miles expects "aggregate attendance" to increase for Hulman Racing, and finds that this measure will be very consistent with "aggregate qualifying," in which the sum of the fastest 100 laps turned during qualifying will be used to set the field. "You'll want to be here for the whole two months," C.J. O'Donnell adds. "You never know when someone will set one of their top 100 times." Miles continues that timing and scoring will be outsourced to USAC, who will employ Daylight Savings Time and a Leap Year to add an extra hour of action to the qualifying months. "Forget 24/7. We'll be on a 25/8 calendar here. More bang for your buck!" To ease confusion caused by decimals, lap times will be rounded to the nearest whole minute. Ties will be broken at the discretion of Beaux Barfield.
From the audience, Jeff Belskus scowls, knowing that he, the real CEO, would have thought of this, too, if only they'd give him a chance. He interrupts to announce that he's cutting the Leader's Circle program down to one car. "Not everyone gets to be CEO, and not everyone gets to be a winner!" he shouts to the applause of Chip Ganassi.
A record-setting Grand Prix of Long Beach features more safety car periods than fans in attendance. 73 separate incidents make it the longest race in Firestone Auto Racing Tour history. "Road, street, oval, and endurance racing," Jay Frye beams. "NASCAR fans love long races; I bet ratings will be up a tick."
The wrecks, however, cause Dale Coyne to withdraw his second car from the rest of the season. "Total writeoff," Coyne says with a grin. "So much better than depreciating these DW12s at the standard rate of 56.5 cents per mile." Michael Andretti holds onto the option to take this engine lease, but chooses not to exercise it.
The Month of May begins with a Grand Prix on the Indianapolis road course. Ed Carpenter accidentally turns hard left in turn 13, ending his race. Four of the several fans go home, and another twelve block Jenna Fryer on Twitter for micro-blogging that Carpenter had crashed. "That's just not the truth," explained avid fan Beaver Swanson from Brazil, Indiana. "Ed wouldn't have crashed if the wall weredn't there. I just want the facts, not her opinion."
Carpenter's month worsens, as the FTC bans Fuzzy's Vodka from sponsoring race cars after (WARNING: TF) finding that the company was the primary backer of Korbin Forrester, a 20-year-old ARCA racer in 2013
. Ed Carpenter Racing closes its doors, and Andretti Autosport, being a Honda team, forms a subsidiary Chevrolet squad called Andretti Viva México Racing with Conquest Endurance to inherit the engine lease. Arnd Meier is selected as the driver.
The first ever "Kroger Cup" is presented to Indianapolis Grand Prix winner Ryan Hunter-Reay. The 16 ounce paper cup can be filled with the soft drink of his choice at participating Kroger locations.
With only 27 entries for the Indianapolis 500 after Fan Force United realizes that it already sold its DW12 to Lazier Partners Racing last year, management acts swiftly to fill the field with Indy Racing Experience cars. Six G-FORCE GF01s are dusted off and, along with the newly-renamed "Accelerate Your Life with Exciting Brazilian Products and Services" two-seater, are added to the entry list by Hulman Racing to ensure bumping. "Ageless" Arie Luyendyk and "Mindless" Mario Andretti serve as team leaders, with Arie Luyendyk, Jr., John Andretti, Jarret Andretti, and Robby Unser filling the remaining GF01s. Former Los Angeles Laker draft pick and current World of Outlaws racer Dale Blaney will drive the two-seater from the back seat. "We want to grow Hulman Racing in Indianapolis," Mark Miles states, "and boy, does Indianapolis love basketball. They're going to love 'The Gentle Giant,' I bet."
Although restricted to 180 miles per hour, the aerodynamic supremacy of the Indy Racing Experience cars proves overwhelming. The A.J. Foyt Enterprises #84 entry, driven by Junior Strous, is bumped from the field. Foyt refuses to pay Strous, and the dispute is settled with a broken glass
and a sledgehammer.
Vince Welch struggles to open the Indianapolis 500 broadcast, reading from his monologue, "This point-two-five...point-five...huhuh...point...two-point-two-point-five...two-point five mile rooooad...way is home to the NASCAR...the...tonight...on ABCSPN on ABC. And I'm joined now by...Dover, Delaware." During the commercial break, the director tries to ease Welch's nerves, pointing out that everyone makes mistakes. "Remember that time Leigh Diffey called Chip Ganassi's 14-year-old daughter Scott Dixon's wife? It happens!" With this in mind, Welch narrates a shot of Chip himself, "Scaaaaahtt Disick's wiiiife...um...looks on at I...RP."
With the leaders on the backstretch, a lapped car spins right at the finish line taking the white flag. His car blocks the course, but a photo finish between Dale Blaney and Arie Luyendyk, Jr. is imminent. Beaux Barfield keeps the race green, and a massive wreck ensues as the added length of Dale's car gives him the victory. Barfield immediately takes to Twitter to defend himself. "You would of (sic) complained if the race ended under yellow!"
Jay Frye calls SportsCenter to tell them that "Dale" won the Indianapolis 500. He cackles after hanging up the phone, ready to set off a media frenzy around his sport. The race is covered on SportsCenter...at 2 AM...in January...on ESPNNEWS.
The Iowa race is canceled. With the Firestone Auto Racing Tour removed from the bill, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series show on the same weekend sees immediate increases in ticket sales. "We're just 'doing us' right now. We have to focus on key markets like Indianapolis," Mark Miles tells Jenna Fryer. Jeff Belskus blocks her on Twitter for interviewing "the wrong CEO."
C.J. O'Donnell commissions a new advertising campaign for the Firestone Auto Racing Tour. Inspired by his time at Lincoln, which used a graphic of an early 90s Town Car morphing into a modern Lincoln, O'Donnell asks for the advertisement to show a 1995 Reynard become a DW12.
Derrick Walker resigns from Hulman Racing, realizing that fielding the Falken-sponsored Porsche and writing the rules for a Firestone-sponsored series was a conflict of interest. Walker is replaced as President of Operations and Competition by Tim Cindric, who will remain with Team Penske. "It's a shame Derrick had conflicting interests," Cindric says matter-of-factly.
Texas scores a 0.03 rating on NBCSN. "People just have so many more choices than they used to," Jay Frye says to console a confused Tony George. "We were up against Your Move with Andy Stanley: Be Rich Part 3
The Houston Grand Prix takes place amidst 107° heat. "If we run in June, everyone will be hiding in the shade. Then, flying cars can land in the grandstands no problem," an anonymous Hulman Racing board member tells Robin Miller.
Prior to the Pocono IndyCar 500, Beaux Barfield asks track officials if they would consider removing the catchfence on the main straight. "It...uh...impedes fan views, you know?" Barfield says, squirming a little. The track denies his request, and Barfield responds by running the entire race behind the pace car. Dario Franchitti passes seven cars to win the race. Barfield explains that "all we can ask is that you try. He tried to maintain caution speed, and we're okay with that."
Mark Miles sends an inquiry to Circuit City about the feasibility of direct-to-Betamax distribution for IndyCar races. "Kids love that retro technology in an ironic kind of way," he writes. After hitting send, he eagerly awaits a reply.
In Milwaukee, Sam Schmidt's Indy Lights entry sets a qualifying speed of 201.783 mph. Jenna Fryer investigates how a FILS car can break the track record when the DW12s were only qualifying in the 169s. Her article includes a quote from Kevin "Rocket" Blanch, who confirms that he checked the car and "everything was good. It's free enterprise. Winners win, losers lose." Fryer remained skeptical, and lost fourteen Twitter followers for her "unfair" publication. Long-time fan Herff Grissom opined, "Now, look. Jenna's probably good with a spatula and frying pan, but I bet she ain't never seen a wrench or a hammer. 'Rocket' tells ya it's fine and ya wanna make an editorial out of it, just report the facts, 'Rocket' knows cars and he says it's fine. So who are you going to trust? Jenna or 'Rocket?' I'm gonna side with the car guy."
Mark Miles rises from bed in the middle of the night and shouts, "that's it! A movie about a snail who wants to race in my Indianapolis Grand Prix!" Miles calls up IMS Productions to make the for-TV film, which will air on RFD-TV immediately after Low-Hanging Fruit: Harvesting with Randy Bernard
Scott Dixon is crowned champion once again. "We don't have to even keep score anymore," Barfield says to his race control partners, who take this as a binding order for 2015.
Due to demand for three whole 2015 Indy Lights cars, Dallara backs out of its Firestone Auto Racing Tour supply contract to focus on that project. Mark Miles negotiates a new contract with Paper to produce full-scale paper models of DW12s for the 2015 season. Jay Frye calls up NASCAR and asks to borrow the "NASCAR Green" logo. "We're going to be the leading recycler in sports now. It sure would be nice of you to let us have that one." He even adds, "please."
Upon an audit of the company's payroll, Jeff Belskus reports to the board that he has discovered ghost employees. "Look at this one. They're paying a guy called 'Mark Miles,' saying he's CEO! How'd they think they'd get away with that one? There's only one CEO here, and it's me!" Belskus laughs as everyone stares blankly.