This racing fan and like-minded peers are not nearly ready for the IndyCar season to end. We remain willing to watch and attend but we are unable to do so. We remain saddened by the freak accident that claimed the life of one of the truly great people in the sport. The good news according to many of our spouses is that we do not get to spend as much money and are available for chores around the house for the foreseeable future.
Many fervent racing fans are merely casual fans of the stick and ball variety of sports whose seasons are spinning up. The fact that football season is on the doorstep is exciting to many, but to many others it is yawn inducing and merely a harbinger of cold weather ahead.
IndyCar brass tries hard to concoct memorable IndyCar seasons and everyone who has ever attempted to put one together cites the nearly impossible degree of difficulty that is involved in architecting the next one. My group is of an age that takes advantage of attendance opportunities whenever possible. Tickets are not difficult to acquire and travel/lodging deals abound. Yet whether intentional or not folks like us are being reduced to Indy-only attendees. Events we attend(ed) every year are being removed with alarming frequency.
The list of races we USED to attend every year continues growing rapidly. Their replacement venues do not have the same luster. What do we miss? Michigan. Kentucky. Chicagoland. Richmond. Pike Peak. Gateway. Fontana. What do venues have in common? Ovals of all sizes and quirks. Betting money says we will say goodbye as well to either Milwaukee or Pocono, or both. It is not as though we do not attend others. Barber, for example, is a wonderful facility and we have always had enjoyable weekends there. We even flew to New Orleans for the one and done misadventure in the wet at NOLA this year. Jeans creaming over the revival of Road America has enthusiasts of the twisties worked up into a foamed mouth frenzy, and they also want Burke Lakefront back in Cleveland. Non-ovals, however, simply do not provide the visceral, consistent thrills that quality ovals do.
Long Beach has earned its legend and the party is nice but the racing is nearly always forgettable. St. Pete in the early Spring is an appealing getaway, but touristy Florida activity and checking out hard bodies in bikinis is as important as seeing what is generously positioned as professional racing on a turn or two of a temporary course.
A bone that has been thrown is Phoenix. The problem is no deal actually exists at this moment. Even if one is struck that track still has two Cup dates and open wheel attendance plummeted during a period when the sport was arguably more popular. I love the city of Boston but cannot imagine traveling there to attend a street event on Labor Day weekend. Travel to Loudon could be arranged in a heartbeat though.
My party attended Michigan, Kentucky, Chicagoland, Richmond, PPIR, Gateway, Fontana, Pocono and Milwaukee nearly EVERY year. We still would if they were available. We even made the trip to Vegas. If you figure a weekend away cost between $400 (if we drove) and $800 (if we flew) minimum, and there were 4 to 6 of us, the economic impact of just us ended up between $28,800 and $43,200 every year, with a percentage enriching IndyCar and the tracks.
As long as IndyCar is unwilling to apply either the full May-in-Indy experience or the full street course vibe/hype to great ovals, attendance at them will continue to suffer. The predictable ‘ovals are just not popular’ excuse will remain nothing more than an intended but woefully misguided self-fulfilling prophecy. Intense oval racing tends to separate men from boys, and IndyCar does not have nearly enough men. The entity that invented oval racing presentation abdicated to the southern folks long ago and do not seem interested in reclaiming it. The wasted potential of great oval racing, triple crown glory, high speed and thrills is lost on both the suits and the road racers who have long co-opted the series with F1-like fantasies dancing in their heads. It is beyond maddening.
No doubt we will enjoy the 100th running and beyond in May but being relegated to one and done as a fan is entirely unfulfilling.