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IndyCar drivers welcome more variety for IndyCar

by Mark J. Cipolloni
Friday, July 2, 2010


Tony Kanaan
Andretti Racing IndyCar teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and Tony Kanaan expressed hope that the IRL's new rules for engines and chassis starting in 2012 will interest additional manufacturers to enter the series. 

In CART's golden years there were no less than 3 or 4 chassis manufacturers and 4 to 5 engine manufacturers.  And, because the series was a mix of road courses, street courses, short ovals and big ovals, the variety of it all made the series a big hit with the fans and sponsors alike. 

IndyCar is planning to adopt that exact same winning model, right down to the turbocharged engines.

I remember those good old days of CART when on the chassis front it was Reynard vs. Lola vs. Gurney Eagle, on the engine front it was Mercedes vs. Ford. vs. Honda vs. Chevy.  And at the track it was places like Phoenix and Milwaukee (short oval), Cleveland (airport), Road America and Watkins Glen (road course), Michigan and Fontana (high-banked ovals), and of course Indy (high speed flat oval).

Heck, CART even raced in the Caesars Palace parking lot in Las Vegas.  From the USA to Canada to Mexico to England to Germany to Holland to Argentina to Belgium to Japan and to Australia.  CART raced anything and anywhere.

The CART formula was the perfect storm.  So perfect that Bernie Ecclestone would badmouth them every week in the media in an attempt to paint CART as inferior to F1.  Even Bernie knew that CART was a real challenge to his beloved F1, and certainly offered much more of a challenge to drivers, engineers and teams.

Then along came the all-oval mentality of Tony George who started a competing series to CART, took their biggest race away from them, which started the rapid decline of a sport that today could have been bigger than F1.

Now 15 years later, after IndyCar Racing nearly died from the civil war, the IRL is making all the right moves - with each announcement they move one step closer to the magical formula that brought CART so much success, including the rumor that multiple chassis manufacturers may be allowed (announcement expected July 14th).

Tony Kanaan felt strongly about the importance of multiple manufacturers.  "I like the variety.  For the series to grow, with the variety in chassis and engines, you're bringing in the competition. 

"We saw that back in the good old days (of CART).  When Toyota came in they got four extra teams that could not afford to race.  We hope to add more teams to the series.  I'm all in favor of it.  Competition is healthy. 

"Right now it's great that we have a great car and a great engine.  But competition will raise everyone's game and add cars to the series."

Ryan Hunter-Reay
Ryan Hunter-Reay had a similar but slightly different view.  "There are two ways of looking at competition.  As a series we need to have competition among manufacturers.

"But as a driver I love the fact we have Honda and I'm positive that my engine is not going to blow in Turn 1 at Indy. 

"Or when I'm setting up for a pass for the win on a road course, I love knowing that the driver ahead of me isn't going to have an extra 5 mph on the straightaway, or that they're not going to have more torque coming off the corner."

Kanaan thinks that IndyCar needs to reduce the number of 1.5-mile ovals and add more short-ovals. 

"I'm not saying that IndyCar should be an all-oval series.  When you go to some of the big ovals the driver is just along for the ride, it's all up to the equipment and the engineer.  You can't make a difference.  With short ovals the driver can make a bit more of a difference.

"We need to add more places like Phoenix, New Hampshire and Milwaukee, but in the end road and street circuits are still my favorite, that's what I was brought up on."

While there is no guarantee that multiple manufacturers will choose to join the IndyCar series in 2012, at least now there is hope that they will.  With the turbo engine, multiple engine manufacturers, multiple chassis' and the same diversity of tracks that CART had, the only thing missing is the sponsors.

The goal is to create more excitement in the series and cut costs for the teams, which would certainly be accomplished by allowing, say, Swift's Batmobile to run alongside the futuristic Delta Wing every week.

"I think if I said that (impact of the changes) right now, I'd be giving way too much away," IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard said. "I think we're listening to the fans, the team owners and our goal is to re-ignite IndyCar and that's what we kept driving home, is if it's in the best interest in the sport."

"The bottom line is what the fans want," he said. "Are we going to have a stronger product? Yes, I do. Do I think we're going to have more fan appeal? Yes, I do and that's what I have to strive for. We'll have to look back in two years or three years and see the impact. The bottom line is that we have to do what's going to help our series for years. We can't be shortsighted on this."

While CART once had more sponsor dollars in the paddock than NASCAR, that was all lost when the civil war was created unnecessarily.  Izod is doing an excellent job promoting the series and if more manufacturers can be convinced to join IndyCar, more sponsors will eventually come.

Will IndyCar eventually be the perfect storm that was CART?  We can only hope.....

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