The International Superstar reflects

Posted by Iannucci | 7/10/2009 | 2 comments »
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Ladies and gentlemen, Shane Rogers has left the building. And that's a shame, because while we've been belly-aching about two-team dominance, single-file racing, and the possible loss of yet another oval this fellow from Australia has been traveling to every race from Indy to The Glen, cheerfully tweeting and blogging with undaunted fervor about the entire experience.

But now he's gone home to resume his life as something of a digital pit boss, sadly leaving us here in North America with a void. I know - he's just one guy, one fan - but if you were fortunate enough to meet him you'd realize in about the time it takes for an IndyCar to make a pit stop that this guy has a passion for the sport that stands as a solid measure for the rest of us.

In other words, he never shuts up. So why let the fact that he's gone back Down Under stop him now. Ladies and gentlemen, here are some parting observations on the America, the IRL, and being Hideki's invisible wingman from Shane, a.k.a. "the International Superstar".



MNII: First off, how did a guy from Australia become such a big IndyCar fan?

SR: The earliest memory I have of Indycar racing is the 1985 Indianapolis 500. I can remember watching it, but it can’t have been live, because I wasn’t allowed to stay up to watch Formula 1 races until 1986.

Oval racing was a completely new concept to me, and the mystery of it at the time was probably the greatest attraction.

Once the Gold Coast event started here in 1991, the interest started to peak, although I didn’t have the series accessible on TV for me until 1992 being in regional Australia.

Once I saw a few of the races in 1992, I was hooked. It was hard work during the split to keep an eye on the IRL, because there was no coverage at all, but once the Internet got up to speed it got easier.

MNII: What made you decide to make this massive multi-week trip?

SR: I needed to see the Indianapolis 500, and I had the opportunity. Do I need another reason?

Originally it was going to be six weeks, but the budget situation and the leave situation at work improved, and with the schedule stacked like it is, it was an attractive proposition dollar wise to get in as many races as possible.

MNII: Curt Cavin wrote a story about you in the IndyStar, there was much discussion about you on blogs and twitter, and just last week you were featured on IMS Radio. Was this total media domination part of the plan for your summer?

SR: (laughs) No! To be honest I’ve been totally taken back with the attention and response that I’ve received.

Granted, I’ve got passion for the sport and a degree of insight from some of the stuff I do in Australia, but really, the only difference between me and 5,000 other people at every event is that I’m geographically disadvantaged compared to them and when you say “Too-Mutoh”, I say “Too-Matos”.

I have to say, all the media I dealt with was fantastic. Curt Cavin was fantastic in helping me out while I’ve been here, he could have got his story at Indy, and left me to my own devices, but he went out of his way to find me with advice on places to go when I was at each venue. That info was invaluable to a first time tourist.

MNII: Near the end of your trip you “tweeted” about being recognized in the Memphis airport. (In my best Jack Arute voice) Describe the feeling of transforming from “Shane from Australia” to “International Superstar”?

SR: Ha (laughs again). T.J. from Bloomington; good bloke too. I had to catch a flight, would have loved to have a proper chat.

Given you started this International Superstar thing, maybe you should be explaining it! It’s odd. It’s gratifying to know that people actually enjoy what you say and value your opinion. I live in a bit of a vacuum here being an Indycar fan, people here just smile and nod when I go on a Donald Davidson style motor racing tangent.

So to be able to interact with fans was fantastic. I hope they got as much out of it as I did.

The nickname is a good laugh, I’m already getting picked on about that. I suspect I may not live that down here.

(Ed Note: It's true - I kinda made up that moniker, but Curt Cavin carried that water to justify it as much as anyone. Still, when Shane decides to release "International Superstar" gear I'll gladly take accept a marginal percentage of the proceeds.)

MNII: Did you get a chance to hang with Ryan Briscoe, Will Power, James Davison or any other Australians?

SR: No, not really. Really only because I was always running around and so were they. Will hasn’t forgiven me yet for perpetuating the “Toowoomba Tornado” nickname. I don’t blame him. I said congrats to Ryan for pole as he wandered past at Milwaukee.

Would have like to have seen James, he’s from my part of the world in Melbourne, maybe next time. I did some volunteer work last year for the Australian Motor Sport Foundation (www.amsf.org.au), when he was a funded driver for them, he’s a good kid, they should have funded him another year.

One of my drinking buddies in Melbourne was running around for NHLR while I was here, so we caught up.

MNII: How about Hideki Mutoh? Does he know about your relentless efforts as his invisible wingman, and was it a successful endeavor?

SR: Never heard anything from Hideki, so I don’t think he’s using any of my techniques. I saw Lauren (Bohlander) with Hinchtown (James Hinchcliffe) on Up To Speed, she wasn’t interested, she was dreaming of Hideki. Ball’s in his court there.

MNII: Did you find that IMS was all that it was billed to be? What was most striking to you about The Speedway or The 500?

SR: Absolutely. The standard of the facility and the event is phenomenal. The thing that impressed me about the track was the standard of maintenance for a race circuit. I understand why they have so many staff now. Most football fields in the area here would kill their grandmother to have that much green grass. And the architecture is amazing. The pagoda is a beautiful building.

The Race Day atmosphere and pre-race was an awesome experience. That 45 minutes before the green flag went like a blur. It’s a very special time.

MNII: Which other tracks/events left the biggest impression on you?

SR: All the tracks had elements that surprised me in some way. The event I’d like to check into luggage was Iowa. When people outside Iowa say “why are all you media guys excited about this race with only 40-odd thousand people?”, they’ve obviously never been there. The track is awesome, the crowd is very knowledgeable and “into it”, which produces a unique atmosphere. One that you don’t get when half your crowd is there purely to get the full value of their NASCAR based season ticket.

MNII: You actually traveled over a good portion of North America. Which spot was your favourite?

SR: Gee, that’s a hard one. I loved Indy. I know full well that this opinion is biased towards the fact that the racetrack is there, but I really enjoyed Indianapolis.

But really, there weren’t many places I didn’t like. Milwaukee, Iowa, I really enjoyed the heartland America experience that these places delivered. New York is great, but frankly, standing in Times Sqaure, you’re as likely to learn more about Scandinavian culture than you are American culture if you start a conversation with the person next to you. I feel I got a far more genuine U.S. experience compared to your average tourist, and that aspect I really enjoyed.

MNII: What was the final verdict in your Hot Dog comparison?

SR: There was little doubt about Milwaukee’s position in P1. There was some serious taste action there. The middle four were close. Indy’s were passable, and so were The Glen’s, but the Glen’s did well to come in at two dollars. Richmond was the Dale Coyne of the bunch, they didn’t look like a Penske on paper, but surprised. Texas was disappointing given Eddie’s attention to detail.

MNII: How would you characterize today's IndyCar fans? Are we excitable die hards or a bunch of unappreciative whiners or what?

SR: All of the above perhaps? I don’t know. The split has done some weird things to the fan base that we had, say 20 years ago. I think the fanbase is a lot more segmented than it used to me.

We have some very unique markets now, for example, we have a bunch of Canadian fans, who haven’t seen much of the IRL on ovals, because they’ve been on the Champcar side of the segmentation. If you ask them what the key brand values of this series are, you’ll get some significantly different answers from somebody say, in the Iowa market.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the people that watch the series regularly are knowledgeable. Combine that with the segmentation, and the IRL have a tough time keeping everybody happy.

MNII: Taking a month off was probably a pretty pricey venture. Will you be trying this again anytime soon?

SR: Yeah, we’re still pulling apart the budget figures now, but it’s five figures in Australian Dollars, and some. Without finalising a number and a grand plan for the next tour, I’m thinking the new car would be the right time to do it again, which means 2012 from what I’m reading.

Of course, if I could figure out a way to feed myself and watch Indycar racing, that’s possible too. I’m not averse at this point in my life to going overseas to work, and I’d like to think I have some skills that would be useful to some people in the paddock. I think if I want to broaden my knowledge of racing, working in a different series is something I have to do.

MNII: Final question: what moment will be your biggest lasting memory from this summer?

SR: Oh, that’s a hard one. (pause) The last bars of “Back Home Again in Indiana” being drowned out by the roar of the crowd are something that every sports fan should experience in person.

But, you know, I had so many great experiences, both within and outside the confines of Indycar racing. Fantastic doesn’t do the experience justice. Can’t wait to do it again. I’ll be back. I have to come back; I have to find out if pressdog has eaten any of my Vegemite.

(Thanks to Shane, and IndyCar superfan and all-around great guy, for agreeing to this magnificent recap. I'm trying to talk him into being a guest writer at My Name Is IRL, and not just so we can have alternate spellings of and "finalising" and "favourite".

2 comments

  1. Bash // July 12, 2009 7:01 AM  

    I had the pleasure of meeting Shane at the Texas race and was impressed with his ideas for improving and expanding the IRL's racing product. He's always thinking, and from every angle: on-track, marketing, business, etc. It'd be a shame not to put his passion and knowledge to work - I hope he gets a chance to join the league in some capacity.

  2. pressdog // July 12, 2009 8:26 AM  

    He's a supahstahhhhh. I haven't had the courage to try the nasty Vegemite, which Bash bought him and he is holding in the photo and sent me before fleeing the country. Maybe after many beers of the race.