With 4 Indianapolis 500 wins, 57 total race victories, 53 poles, 7 series championships, and the owner of the 1999 Indy 500 winning entry, I'd prefer A.J. Foyt before Justin Bieber when it comes to pretty much anything, but not when it comes to the 2011 '500' pace car driver.
Nothing against A.J., I absolutely love the guy. I challenge you to find better footage than that of the angered driver unbelting, wiggling out of his ride, throwing his gloves and helmet into the seat, tossing away cowlings and pounding away at his 1982 '500' entry with a hammer. Mid-race. But he's just not what the IZOD IndyCar Series or Indianapolis 500 need in a pace car driver.
In no way do I blame IMS brass for letting Donald Trump, the originally scheduled pace car driver, go. At the time of the announcement back in early April that Trump would be piloting the car, rumors of his run at the White House were just that. Rumors. There weren't daily segments on national news programs calling into question his latest statements, or growing amounts of outrage to his repeated request for the publication of a certain persons birth certificate. Right or wrong it doesn't matter, Trump was receiving a lot of bad press, and that's obviously not something the track wants to be associated with. I can't blame them for that. But the loss of a celebrity such as Trump leading the 33-starters in their parade laps leaves a gaping hole in what could be a highly productive position.
While your searching for that nonexistent superior video on YouTube, I also challenge you to find someone that believes the TV ratings and popularity level of the series and race are where they need to be. They're absolutely not, you know that, I know that, and I'm sure the decision makers at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway know that as well.
The only way to gain ratings is to create an attraction that others want to watch and then publicize it. Pretty simple. One way of achieving that is by taking a well known celebrity and inserting them into the race festivities. Honors such as singing the national anthem, dropping the green flag, and driving the pace car have historically been some of the better ways to highlight a celebrities attendance. In doing so the announcement and both pre and post race footage of the celebs is is often aired on various television programs, and wrote about in magazines, newspapers and internet articles. With the boom in social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook in recent years, and the growing audience for celebrity gossip shows and websites, the benefits a celebrity could bring has only grown.
In a recent article written by SPEED's Robin Miller the veteran writer reports that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been contacted by various driver hopefuls including Andy Granatelli and representatives for Justin Bieber. If true, and I have no doubt that it is, IMS has to at least look at Bieber. Yes, he has no connection to the Speedway or racing at all, that I'm aware of. Yes, I understand that many of you can't connect with him. But he deserves a look.
Should the powers that be sign the 17-year-old to a deal tomorrow? Absolutely not. Should they do their research? Without a doubt. Fly the kid out, or for that matter go to him. Have one of the many replica Chevy Camaro's waiting along with Al Unser Jr. or Johnny Rutherford and see what he's got. If he can't handle it, fine, you've gotten some great publicity and maybe he'll attend in a different role. But if he is up for the task, you've hit gold.
Personally I'd much rather see a legend like Foyt, Mears, Unser, or Andrett leading the 33 cars around the historic 2.5 mile track. But the reasonings behind filling such a position shouldn't be made to satisfy me. They already have me, and if you're reading this they probably all ready have you as well. The decision makers need to satisfy the outsider. They need to make a choice that creates a splash, and Bieber would create a huge one. He has 9.4 Million followers on Twitter, the 2nd most of anybody. Over half a billion views on his most recent YouTube music video. Billion as in B! Type a 'J' in Google and tell me what the search engine recommends. Justin Bieber is in the top 4. I guarantee you that if Justin was driving the pace car, more eyeballs would be on the television set than if he wasn't. How it would effect ratings or attendance I don't know, but the needle would move, and media coverage would grow. And that's exactly what we need.