Because You Know I’m All About that (fan)Base

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For the better part of the past two Verizon IndyCar Series seasons, I have been involved with, co-hosted, or organized and hosted, the Indy Fans Tweet Ups that occur over our series race weekends. The only reason I am a part of this awesome grassroots movement is because of IndyCar driver, Pippa Mann, and IndyCar Mom blogger, Amy Chisler. They started this fan-oriented initiative a few years ago and were gracious enough to invite me in to help out with events. My ability to attend the majority of races on the schedule the past few seasons has allowed me to become a bigger part of it, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that opportunity.

The fan feedback has been amazing – sometimes we have 5 attendees and sometimes we have 100 – but regardless of the number, the engagement and interaction of those who come has always impressed me. IndyCar Series fans are truly knowledgeable about this series, the current drivers, the deep history and the personal connections that it encompasses.

This past weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course was no different. We had a turnout of about 3-4 dozen fans and asked trivia questions like, “Who was the winner of the first IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio?”, “How many laps did Conor Daly lead at Belle Isle this season?”, and “What was the most recent caution-free race in the IndyCar Series?”. (In case you wanted to check your knowledge… Johnny Rutherford, 12 and Mid-Ohio 2013 are the correct responses.) Fans answered these and received prizes like autographed mini-helmets from Team Penske, an autographed diecast car from Will Power and even two hot lap passes in a Honda pacecar at Mid-Ohio! The autographed items were donated to us care of IndyCar Series title sponsor, Verizon Wireless, and we had regional reps Laura and Phil in attendance at the Tweet Up! The hot laps were donated by Honda HPD Performance.

A group that has been absolutely pivotal to the success of The Indy Fans Tweet Up is the entire team at ArmsUp Motorsports. From the owner, to their communications/PR manager, racing coach and their USF2000 driver lineup from Mazda Road to Indy – these folks have attended nearly every single Tweet Up we’ve hosted. Their support is unparalleled and we consider them a Tweet Up staple! Thank you so much to Kelly Brouillet, James Dayson, Max Hanratty, and Keyvan Andres from the ArmsUp team, for partaking in the Q&A session with fans this past weekend at Mid-Ohio!

We also had IndyCar drivers, Conor Daly and James Davison on hand to meet & greet with fans, answer questions, and take photos with those that attended. Daly has driven an IndyCar this season for both Dale Coyne and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. He is currently looking for a full-time ride in the series in 2016 and we are rooting him on in this endeavor! Davison races full-time in Pirelli World Challenge and has piloted a DW-12 in the Indy 500 for the past few years. He podiumed in both PWC races over the Mid-Ohio weekend with the Always Evolving Motorsports and Nissan NISMO teams. His impressive driving resulted in a P2 Overall finish both times! Congratulations, James!

Thanks to the support of all of these sponsors, teams, companies and individuals, the Mid-Ohio Indy Fans Tweet Up was a huge success! We couldn’t have done it without them.

And Then, There Was Raceday…

20150802_075736The Honda hot lap winners from the Indy Fans Tweet Up were Eric Mondi of Indianapolis, IN and Craig Tomastik of Columbus, OH. They arrived bright and early around 7am on race morning to take part in this experience. We registered at the Honda sign-in station, received Firestone Racing wristbands and waited for our turn in a Honda Civic SI, piloted by a licensed IndyCar professional. While we waited patiently, taking in the beautiful morning and stunning sunrise over the carousel, I had the opportunity to chat with Eric & Craig about their experiences at Mid-Ohio.

This year’s Honda Indy 200 was the first time at Mid-Ohio for Eric Mondi. He came with a group of friends and they opted to camp for the whole weekend. He admitted that they fell in love with the camping experience, the close proximity they were to the track and the access they had to everything at Mid-Ohio. He went on to say that not only was their group impressed by the niceness of everyone at Mid-Ohio, but being able to walk around and see the different styles of racing and maneuvers at the Keyhole (Turn 2), witnessing the speed firsthand and being able to truly appreciate the elevation changes of the track, all mean one thing in the long run – they will be back!

Eric is from Indianapolis and has been attending the Indy 500 for the past 7 or 8 years, in addition to a trip to Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania, and Mid-Ohio is now a staple in his race season. He explained that he and his friends had already made plans to come back in 2016 – and this time with paddock passes. Eric said fans “never” get the access to NASCAR that IndyCar provides its fan base. He said you basically have to be a CEO or a spouse to get in the NASCAR garages. So next year, he and his friends are definitely spending the $30 to have that access to the IndyCar paddock all weekend.

Eric’s friends had only been to the Indy 500 and a few NASCAR races prior to this weekend and they are now hooked on IndyCar! From having the ease of access to the entire infield, the group found a spot on Saturday that would be perfect for watching the race. Eric said it was nowhere close to their campsite but they didn’t even care. The camp sites themselves got a great review from the group – they were clean and quiet hours were actually quiet which is great for families. He said he recommends renting or bringing a golf cart as well, just to add to the camping weekend experience.

Craig Tomastik has been coming to the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio ever since his first trip here in 2012 with work associates. The weekend is a sensory overload in the best way – the sights, the sounds, and the smells of the track are what keep bringing Craig back. Not to mention the people. He told me that the folks from Mid-Ohio and IndyCar itself are the friendliest group of people he’s ever met in motorsports. He always gets the paddock pass and expresses that it is absolutely worth it, and a huge part of the whole IndyCar weekend fan experience.

Craig explained to me that his appreciation for the sport of IndyCar racing itself, in addition to the drivers talent has increased exponentially since attending IndyCar races in person. There is simply no comparison between watching at home and experiencing it live. He considers himself a bigger fan and more avid follower of the entire series since coming to a track and witnessing everything first hand. He encourages fans that haven’t been to a race to come out! He’s been to the Indianapolis 500 for the past two years and to the vintage races at Mid-Ohio in past summers. Craig’s goal is to check out many more tracks on the IndyCar circuit in the future.

I asked both Craig and Eric which current IndyCar Series race weekend they would attend if given the option of an all-expenses paid trip. Craig wants to experience the Milwaukee Mile because the history behind the track is legendary. Eric opted for the Long Beach Grand Prix street circuit because he would love to check out the different atmosphere of IndyCar in California and the entirety of the event weekend.

At this point, it was our turn to jump in a pacecar and take a lap around the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course! Check out our on-track experience in the video below, as well as a synopsis from Michael Young of IndyCar, on exactly how the Honda Civic SI is tricked out for race conditions, how it handles different aspects of the track, and of course, the immediate reactions of our Honda hot lap winners, Eric & Craig! One of the absolute best moments post-lap was their feedback on how the Honda Civic SI gripped the turns and handled on such a diverse course. I think Graham Rahal of RLL Racing would agree with how capable Honda engines are at Mid-Ohio… given his Honda Indy 200 win later that afternoon!

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