The 2016 IndyCar schedule was formally announced today. As fervent long-term IndyCar fans we are gratified to have any sort of schedule. Formulating one is potentially the most difficult part of running IndyCar. For every great addition such as Phoenix or Road America, however, there are unfortunate removals such as Milwaukee and Fontana. There remains as much alienation as gratification again this year.
Perhaps that is one reason these blogs have become so infrequent. Despite their magnificent tendency toward flowery hyperbole with regard to product IndyCar is managing to turn fans that travel to venues and buy tickets into Indy 500-only fans, just like the ‘good old days.’
IndyCar touts the 5 oval-5 road course-5 street circuit balanced ‘diversity’ of the series. Sorry. Running 2/3 of the schedule on non-ovals is neither balanced nor aligned with IndyCar history. As CART’s pronounced and lingering death rattle led to the inevitable in the early 2000s the IRL version of IndyCar began being co-opted by those scurrying from that particular train wreck. The slippery slope for that iteration began when the first non-oval was run at St. Petersburg. Ten years ago the oval-centric version of IndyCar was 18% non-oval. The schedule announced this week is 67% non-oval, and there are two fewer races overall. Balance? Hardly. The once youthful supporters of IndyCar during the CART period applaud the addition of Road America. That is a nice legacy-type addition, but Barber is far more compelling to me. Additionally it post-dates the politics. And I would rather eat BBQ than brauts.
One potentially spectacular addition is Phoenix. That track (another built specifically for IndyCars but eventually given up/whored out for NASCAR) has been gone for a while and with two Cup dates it might have been safe to assume they would never return, particularly given past proclivities of IndyCar to just demand a lot of money to roll the transporters and not much else. Throw in events like counterproductive and ill-advised genital waving by another defunct CEO and Phoenix was always a recipe for dysfunction. But back it is and that is simply great.
Conspicuous by their absences are Milwaukee and Fontana. Those omissions seem to defy logic. Both have been victimized long term by the failure of IndyCar to schedule with date consistency and by a complete lack of presentation effort that gets more neglected with each passing year. The lame excuse for the jettison of Fontana in 2016 is that it will not fit into a neat television window.
Never mind the IndyCar race there was arguably the most exciting non-IMS oval IndyCar event of the past few decades.
‘…but ovals simply do not draw crowds anymore.’ Does that oft-parroted sentence of mortifying cluelessness sound familiar? Perhaps if IndyCar actually worried more about fans who attend and less about television windows, not to mention coherent scheduling, ovals might seem a little more popular. Slot Milwaukee in as the first event after Indy every year. Start it no later than 1pm local time. See what happens. Fontana is west coast and that presents problems for television. Exactly why is a mystery. Television partners have no problem not only bending over for NASCAR and Formula 1, but also airing all of their practices and qualifying live and on delay. Then the races are played back. Why should IndyCar not receive the same treatment?
It is an absolute miracle IndyCar managed to strike a deal with Pocono, but that is also welcome and great news. At least that is not scheduled using a blindfold and a dartboard. Tickets are being re-ordered this week.
Some events on the IndyCar calendar defy tradition. Frankly Roger Penske’s mercy hump to the manufacturers and city of Detroit could be slotted anywhere on the schedule with no appreciable difference in popularity. Never mind MIS is fairly close and is a lightning fast 2 mile oval with fresh pavement that provides for actual racing.
Hopefully IndyCar also has a back-up plan in the event Boston goes awry. Given the fetid stench that typically accompanies IndyCar festivals o’ speed it is unsafe to count Boston in until wheels begin turning. Skepticism is magnified given the brutal politics of the region. Things like demands for fresh pavement could easily scuttle this latest over-glorified wet dream. Better idea: How about a doubleheader? The streets of Boston and the oval at Loudon, only promoted and presented coherently this time.
ONE event in August? That is neither sane nor rational. In addition to consistency the schedule also needs a minimum of twenty events. Based on available ovals alone that number could easily be met, especially in August. Gateway and Memphis are unique small ovals in areas with sizeable potential audiences and IndyCar geographic holes. Those two would make 17. Schedule Milwaukee and Fontana consistently and with sense and we are back up to 19. Pick the twentieth: MIS, Richmond, Chicagoland, Kentucky, Atlanta, Homestead, etc., could all be successful again.
Our travel plans so far include Indy and Pocono for sure. That may be it other than perhaps Texas. Congratulations to IndyCar for stumbling on to a slightly extended but reduced event schedule. The rollout is predictably cloaked in obfuscation and spread heavily with hyperbolic buzzwords. Would oft-neglected IndyCar fans expect anything else?