Today's Vision Racing a welcome sight for IRL fans

Posted by Tony Johns | 8/30/2009 | , , | 4 comments »
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It used to be called "Tony George's Folly." The name alone sent most wags and pundits into paroxysms of ironic laughter.

With apologies to the Monkees (and to you for bringing up the Monkees), that was then. This is now.

Vision Racing has gone from being the paddock joke to a sentimental favorite among IRL fans, and it has done so on the strength of an unprecedented and trend-setting outreach led by its crack PR staff, its drivers, and one of its owners.

All you have to do is look at the explosion in popularity of the team's "tweetups" - get-togethers at IRL events organized via the team's Twitter feed - to see how eager the team is to engage the series' fans. Starting as something of a lark, the concept proved to be so popular that the most recent tweetup at Chicago featured Curt Cavin emceeing, loads of guest drivers and personalities, and even a speaking part for "friend of the blog" Pressdog.

In the hands of Vision's PR chiefs Michael Kaltenmark and Pat Caporali, the Vision Racing Twitter feed is one of the most popular destinations of its kind in motorsports. Michael and Pat believe that public relations means reaching out to the public instead of shielding their clients from it - a somewhat old-school approach in their field these days. Vision driver Ed Carpenter has gotten into the act too, putting his Twitter URL on his helmet and making sure to tweet often.

Perhaps most intriguing are Lauren George's regular blogs at Vision's website. Frank, funny, and surprisingly revealing, Lauren's observations run the gamut from action on the track to experiences off it, all within the context of one of open-wheel racing's most famous (and, in some corners, criticized) first families. They're compelling reading, refreshing for their unexpected honesty.

Vision Racing isn't the only team doing these things but they're one of the only teams that make it appear as if the fans are partners and collaborators in their racing enterprise. In an age of red car dominance and diva drivers, what used to be an IRL irony has turned into a fan favorite.

4 comments

  1. pressdog // August 30, 2009 5:54 PM  

    Hear hear. Well put. Well spoken. Pat and Michael and the whole Vision posse do a fabulous fan-friendly job. Very next level. And other teams are starting to take notice. AND, I ran into a goodly amount of my fellow MyNameIsIRL.com fans at the tweet fest as well, so manly tears all around.

  2. Butler Blue II // August 30, 2009 7:00 PM  

    Thanks to Tony for the kind words and great assessment. Much love to Jeff for giving him the space to do this sort of thing as well. Props to Bill Z too.

    I must say, I'm honored, humbled and very appreciative as a result of this. It's just so nice to be recognized every now and again...gives one the motivation and drive to keep pushing foward.

    Your piece is also a cause for celebration as it means that the things Pat and I are doing are being noticed and are working. That was the goal and we'll do our best to keep it up.

    I have to give thanks to Pat, my driver, Ed, team owners Tony, Laura and Lauren, and of course our team manager Keven Kaye and all of our crew. They are all willing to get behind these efforts and that's whats making it all go.

    Pat and I work with some pretty amazing people and partners too. In addition to you guys (our fellow bloggers) we also work along side some great members of the media, fellow team PR reps and of course, a great IRL staff. We also have a solid web partner in RACERSITES.COM.

    Sorry, I digress. I just felt like it was appropriate to give out some kudos to those who are deserving.

    Thanks again. This means a lot.

    MK

  3. Tony Johns // August 30, 2009 7:19 PM  

    You guys deserve every bit of the kudos. Although I haven't been in a media center in a couple of years, I have spent my share of time in them. I remember meeting Pat briefly when she was working for Ganassi and I thought she did a great job there - but what you and she have done with Vision is simply on another level.

    Having done PR too, the way you have gotten your team engaged with the fans staggers me. One of the toughest parts of the gig, I thought, was trying to convince my driver and owner that fan engagement was more than a necessary evil. So what you've accomplished is definitely praiseworthy.

  4. Megan // August 31, 2009 3:50 AM  

    I have to agree wholeheartedly, as a fan. I didn't pay much attention to Vision in the past, but the team has become my favorite this year! I started really following FIL this year, so I've been cheering on Vision in both leagues. I love the twitter feed. It really makes it feel like it is "my" team when I know what is going on behind the scenes as well.