Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

September 27, 2013

Road Racing at Indy in May!? How Will The Racing Gods React?

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 10:09 pm

Poke It DougThe leadership of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has officially poked fate in the eye with a really big stick. A rumored announcement that IndyCar will host a ‘race’ on the infield circuit to kick off the month of May was made official this week. The deep traditionalist in me who has been spending money at that track since 1959 remains deeply offended, but that in and of itself does not really matter because my demo is no longer considered crucial to attract. My feelings are not necessarily what makes practical sense, because for the sport to continue folks much younger than my generation must become long term fans that also attend, watch and spend money. Far too many of them are completely disinterested or oblivious. That is at the heart of all current large issues facing the sport.

Dumb AssesWhat really bothers many of us is the way in which various dartboard strategies get attempted before eventually failing miserably. No open wheel leader in more than a generation has had the vision or courage to really get back to basics. The main thing that attracted earlier generations was an omnipresent spirit of innovation. It was genuinely exciting to see the creations teams rolled into competition each year. Despite any rule that was concocted racers always seemed to defy the physics of rules to go a little (sometimes a lot) faster. Introduction of exotic rear-engine machines, ground effects, turbines and other designs inspired imagination. Even stories like a little team with a recycled school bus engine added to the mystique. One point many of the critics make repeatedly is concern about spec cars. It is easy to dismiss much of the online tantrum throwing about aesthetics and such but the point of their consternation remains valid. How does management expect anyone to get excited about a field of drivers racing essentially identical cars? I know there are two engine suppliers but in a big picture sense that is not enough. Fans do not see the engines from the stands or on television. Can anyone imagine how much more quickly NASCAR would sink if all drivers were forced into a ‘Fordolet’ only even if they got to choose one of two engines? This issue is perhaps the only one that gets agreement from both sides of the open wheel chasm that has existed for decades.

IMS StrategyyWhen I became attracted to the sport there were master builders who were as famous as the drivers. Rogue characters always made it even more interesting. Andy Granatelli comes to mind. Over time it has become painfully obvious that spec is no longer a viable path. It does not matter what jargon-filled, trumpeted strategy the latest leader unleashes. If the cars are the same the results will be too.

This makes the notion that a May road course race will improve the 500 all the more laughable. It will be the exact same spec cars only slower. This latest dart throw attempt has much bigger potential to dilute the 500, and that is unforgivable. America has not all of a sudden become a nation of rabid road racing enthusiasts. Miles and Company seem to have forgotten (or never really knew) what draws people to the motor speedway in MAY. Another popular taunt among the critics is that oval racing is no longer a viable Idiotsstrategy. The reality is any type of venue is in the position of decreasing popularity. Further, history and facts show that series whose basis is road racing fail in America every single time. This makes the latest attempt at making a repeated mistake and hoping for a different result even more astonishing.

IMS invented the presentation of fast oval racing and perfected it over decades, eventually handing the formula over to NASCAR unwittingly and for free and without even realizing they had been taken.

IndyCar, when predominately based on non-ovals, fails. That has occurred twice in this generation. In a larger sense the real problem is not necessarily even ovals or road courses, it is what races on them.

Spend money to encourage genuinely meaningful innovation, allow more than Dallara in, encourage increased engine and tire competition and break records. That is far more likely to attract fans to races and qualification days. We are aware that it will cost money but we have little to show for any recent expenditures anyway. Want to be really bold, Mr. Miles and Mr. Boles? Find a way to re-introduce innovation and speed that actually resonates, and learn both the good and the bad from history. And good luck with the gods of IMS. They may have gotten angry.

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17 Comments »

  1. Back in the days you and I consider to be the “golden age,” teams owned (rather than leased) their engines. (For those of you among the legion of the miserable, that’s 1965-1985, NOT 1995.) If one engine wasn’t working out for a team, it was not unusual to see them trying something else a couple of stops down the championship trail. To put this in current terms, if Chip Ganassi felt he wasn’t getting enough power out of the Honda engine at Indy, he might well show up at Milwaukee with a Chevy. His (or his sponsor’s) money, so no harm, no foul. Same was true with chassis. If the Captain’s latest PC-whatever didn’t go fast enough, he might have a March or a Lola to back him up. Sadly, with the rising cost of racing, coupled with the diminishing flow of sponsor dollars, those days are long gone.

    Comment by SkipinSC — September 28, 2013 @ 11:19 am | Reply

  2. they’ll react the same way that they do presently…..by ignoring the irl
    Editor’s Note: Why can’t you ever contribute anything that is even remotely intelligent like Skip, for example? We get it. You dislike IMS/IndyCar. You have made that point abundantly clear. Move forward.

    Comment by J.B. — September 28, 2013 @ 12:49 pm | Reply

  3. When will any fan realize IMS has only had THEIR self interests in mind with any decision they ever have made? Cheap cars, budget tracks, the list goes on forever. Tax revenue from ticket sales = $100 million. They can try to justify it anyway they want, but this is the basic formula. Giving fans exactly what they don’t want is what IMS is best at. The road race is another prime mistake.

    Comment by Goron Liddy — September 28, 2013 @ 1:17 pm | Reply

  4. The sanctity or purity or tradition of having only one annual race–the race, one of the biggest sporting events of the year–was destroyed years ago with the building of the F1 track and the arrival of Nascar. So why not keep the focus on Indianapolis in the month of May by using the twisty. It’s not the old tradition, but maybe it will start a new one. So I like the idea. The awesome days of old–which as a child of the 50′s I remember–are done. They were great, but–due to the incredible danger and increased competition and changing economics and a changing society–they are over. It’s time to move into the future and try new things. I hope that IMS finds a way to make itself relevant in the future.

    Comment by redcar — September 28, 2013 @ 2:58 pm | Reply

  5. The end is in sight. We will see people now even turn away from Indy because of this addition. Why would you dilute the very thing that keeps the series alive? I can assure you one thin dime will not leave my pocket for anything remotely related to this racing series. Sad to see the traditions and history get swept under the rug for “spec” racing and non oval thinking!

    Comment by oldwrench — September 28, 2013 @ 3:43 pm | Reply

  6. Even as an IMS purist I’d rather watch a road race with 27 or so cars than 8-10 cars on the oval for 6 hours. I can’t deny it will boost the opening day crowd. The engine/chassis/tire/run-what-ya-brung concept remains deep in my heart and I’d love to see that return. Innovation.

    Comment by Don — September 29, 2013 @ 2:40 pm | Reply

  7. You sure sound like a hater these days Disciple.
    Editor’s Note: OK….why not. The only differences I can see are literacy, adulthood, lack of substance abuse and objective balance.

    But my guess is that nobody shows up and after a couple years they finally “condense” this out of the schedule. Whay not just run about a half dozen ovals after Indy and wrap it up by Labor Day? These double headers and shitty street courses are no the right direction. I would think to keep whatever remaining fans the IRL has, you need some superspeedways and 1000 horse power. Let them crapwagons fly and break some more records – just like you said! Yeeeehaaawww!!!!!!
    Editor’s Note: Condensing the schedule does nothing other than making it more obscure. It is within the power of the HG family/organization to make venues work but beyond their current level of comprehension.

    Comment by Youowemeabeerasshole — September 30, 2013 @ 1:24 am | Reply

    • Nice to see we agree on a couple things: you are not at all pleased with the current state of OPEN WHEEL racing in the US, and the nincompoops at IMS are completely incapable of understaing what it takes to rebuild the sport. Reading the latest whingings at T*******forumz, you aint the only guy out the about to throw in the towel. Just give up D, they dont care about you at IMS/IRL. Think of all the extra money you would have for F1 races and fine drinks. And hot womens!
      Editor’s Note: I like F-1 but I have enjoyed IndyCar for lots of decades. I’ll keep going until they shut ‘er down.

      Comment by Youowemeabeerasshole — September 30, 2013 @ 6:37 pm | Reply

      • Until. Nice. Not if, but until. You know the end is near.
        Actually, I don’t. And this ‘end is near’ crap? Your ilk has been spouting the same nonsense for seventeen straight years and each year that goes by makes the six of you look even more foolish than you did the year before. I’ve been hearing variations the same theme for decades. I am comforted by actual reality, which is Indy cars will run at Indianapolis and elsewhere every year.

        Comment by Youowemeabeerasshole — October 1, 2013 @ 3:22 pm

  8. “IMS invented the presentation of fast oval racing and perfected it over decades, eventually handing the formula over to NASCAR unwittingly and for free and without even realizing they had been taken.” ~
    Very well said.

    Comment by Tony Dinelli — September 30, 2013 @ 1:36 pm | Reply

  9. I’m in for a road-course race at IMS, but at first I wasn’t. It’s growing on me.
    That said, the way things are changing – wimpy drivers who won’t drive on ovals, cost-minded owners who say oval wrecks cost more, and fans apparent dislike of ovals – I can foresee a disappearance of the 500 as oval race and replaced by this road-corse race.

    Comment by Jeff — October 1, 2013 @ 7:34 pm | Reply

    • Wouldnt surprise me one bit. And Derek Daly will be there swallowing every last drop of it. Have fun. Lol.

      Comment by Youowemeabeerasshole — October 1, 2013 @ 10:14 pm | Reply

    • And with that you will see Indy Car disappear!!!

      Comment by oldwrench — October 1, 2013 @ 11:18 pm | Reply

  10. Talked to my wife today. She said after she wins her election that I can use the time before next election posting diatribes on your blog. Just want to make sure that is cool with you.

    Comment by Idrunkallthebeerasshole — October 2, 2013 @ 3:31 am | Reply

  11. Having this road course race leading up to the big oval race kind of puts down road courses in general. Makes them look 2nd tier. If they were going to do this, it should have been a race of its own in the fall.

    I have to agree with those that say they are messing with the one thing that has kept the league afloat – Indianapolis. But they have been doing it for several years. This “race” will get some attention in the first year and then fade. It will be perceived as a gimmick leading up to the 500. They will either move it to its own as a legitimate race or it will go away.

    The people running Indycar right now are beyond foolish.

    Comment by Bob F. — October 2, 2013 @ 2:15 pm | Reply

  12. Disciple, you always chide others for being hypocrites. Don’t you think there is a ton of hypocrisy in this whole Indycar road race and messing with the way the month of May is now arranged? Seems to me this is in direct opposition to what the whole IRL was set up to protect. All that time, money spent, fans run off, and it comes down to this. I find this sad on so many levels, let alone the epitome of hypocrisy. 17 years wasted. Oh well. It is now what it wasn’t.
    Editor’s Note: Did you read the blog?

    Comment by Johnny Baits — October 2, 2013 @ 5:49 pm | Reply

    • Yes, I read it. You touch on points of what is going on as disappointing to you, but you don’t really touch on the hypocrisy. You know what, this all really doesn’t matter to me much anymore. Thanks for your response.
      Editor’s Note: Maybe I do not see hypocrisy as much as abject denial and sheer stupidity. There is a difference. I also don’t think too much about crapper straw men like ‘direct opposition to what the whole IRL was set up to protect’ and that sort of pointless nonsense. I am oriented in 2013.

      Comment by Johnny Baits — October 4, 2013 @ 2:28 pm | Reply


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