Randy Bernard, the risk taking CEO of the IZOD Indy Car Series, recently expressed unbridled enthusiasm for allowing speed records set by Arie Luyendyk at Indy to be challenged. He appeared at the Performance Racing Industries show, and stated he wants qualifying records broken. He thinks faster speeds at the 500 will ‘rekindle’ romanticism and allure of open wheel racing.
Uh, Randy, there are millions of us who have watched all along. Pandering to disenfranchised cart enthusiasts will only get you so far. After all, those ‘fans’ supported a series that killed itself. Twice. If you are talking about grabbing market share from the millions who are turning their back on NASCAR, then we have a potential deal.
Randy says ‘I want the record gone.’ He says he gets ‘goose bumps even thinking about it.’ As a person who personally saw the 150, 160, 170, 180, 190, 200, 210, 220 and 230 barriers broken in person, there is a certain appeal to watching 240 fall. There are potential issues, however.
- Have you verified with lawyers and insurance companies the ironclad-ness of your insurance policies? A bad accident at 240 has the potential of KILLING drivers and fans alike in some pretty brutal ways.
- Have you worked through the public relations scenarios when a bad accident happens? Three people getting killed at Charlotte over a decade ago has kept Indy Cars from that great track ever since. What happens when idiots like Ed Hinton write smarmy articles and mainstream publications include graphic, goulish pictures? We live in a litigious, holier-than-thou society these days and just one bad accident could literally end the sport.
- Have you taken every precaution in ensuring barrier systems are up to the task? Other than rigid cables strung horizontally through IMS fences, the fence material itself appears to be the same type used to keep small farm animals inside their pens in rural Indiana. At well over 200 mph, such a fence could make a really coarse pile of sausage out of a driver hurtling out of control toward/through it in a mighty big hurry. A Tony Renna situation only with spectators would be a really bad thing.
In order to achieve that kind of speed both power and manufactured ways of getting the cars to stick to the ground must be incorporated. Purists will shriek about ‘dumbed down’ racing that removes the element of driver skill. ‘Anyone can do it,’ they will taunt. We have been enduring that type of hysteria for years from cart idiots clinging to 1989 as if it was their final year on the planet ever since Tony George birthed the IRL.
I am also aware of the necessity for speed as an attractor given the sub-100mph parading the IZOD IndyCar Series now does on an increasing number of goddamned temporary street abominations. Here is an idea for impressing on the unwashed public the sensation of fast. Get Chip Ganassi to put Juan Montoya in a Cup ‘stock’ car (preferably painted to look like a taxi for effect) at the Iowa Motor Speedway. Then have him put Dario and Dixon out there along with his new satellite team in Indy Cars. Then turn the entire pack loose at full speed for twenty laps, capturing each Indy Car pass of the ‘stock’ car, showing Juan looking befuddled, then making all of that the basis for the spot you will produce and run ad nauseum like IZOD does with their gayish spots they run into the ground every year.
So I say go for it Randy. Even many of the drivers want to do it. I would recommend that you try to pinch a few pennies loose from Belskus and the gals first, though. The grandstands need to be raised a little higher, the SAFER needs to be taller, and the catch fencing needs to be more state of the art to prevent shredding (and subsequent spraying) of equipment and human limbs.
Either way my group will be there. I wish Tom Carnegie could be too.