IndyCar's oval dilemma
Despite the fact that oval racing is usually the most exciting in the IZOD IndyCar Series and is the foundation for the sport, Sunday was another example of why oval tracks are vanishing from the schedule.
|The CART IndyCar crowd at Fontana in 1999 when Roger Penske still owned the track. Tony George thought he had a better idea than CART, so he worked to destroy it, and as a result we have what we have today.|
Although they were on their feet and screaming the last three laps, there couldn’t have been 15,000 people at Kentucky Speedway. It’s not coming back next year unless a title sponsor can be obtained. Ditto for Loudon. And Milwaukee has no future either.
There will only be five ovals out of the expected 17-18 races in 2012 because promoters no longer can afford to take a chance.
“I just want to see it 50/50, ovals and road races,” said Carpenter, whose road racing skills have improved but still lag way behind most of his competition. “Our best racing is on ovals, always has been, and it’s going to be sad if we don’t come back here.”
The old IRL is long gone but it was standing in victory lane on Sunday. Ovals have become endangered species and it’s a reality that doesn’t escape even A.J. Foyt.
“I hate to say it but other than a couple places (Iowa, Texas, Indy), people don’t come to watch our races (on ovals) anymore and it’s always been good racing,” said Foyt, whose disdain for street circuits has never been masked.
“They had a helluva crowd at Baltimore and I guess people just seem to want to be around other people. I know Don Branson and Jud Larson would be shaking their heads.”
And that’s some Texas logic that’s hard to argue with. We all know what we saw Sunday was a lot more racy than Sonoma or Mid-Ohio.
But the bottom line is that three or four times as many people were in Baltimore, Mid-Ohio and Long Beach to eat, drink, socialize, be entertained all day and watch a few hundred feet of cars flashing by their vantage point.
It’s not a conspiracy, it’s not because Randy Bernard isn’t trying to keep ovals or because IZOD can’t throw as good a party at them. It’s because at some point during The Split, all those fans who used to pack Phoenix, Milwaukee and Michigan lost interest.
|The CART IndyCar crowd at Fontana in 1999 when Roger Penske still owned the track. Then Penske sold his tracks to, and got in bed with, the France family, and together they worked to destroy CART and promote the all-oval IRL. Let history not forget that Penske, now in bed with the enemy in 1999, then stabbed CART in the back and jumped to the IRL with his team. So although Tony George is mostly to blame for the current state of IndyCar racing, Roger Penske has blood on his hands as well.|
And it doesn’t look like they’re ever coming back. Speedtv.com
[Editor's Note: Another article we could not agree more with. The split, caused by none other than Tony George, allowed NASCAR to monopolize the ovals. The other culprit to blame is Roger Penske. When his company owned a number of oval tracks (Michigan, Fontana, Nazareth, Rockingham and Homestead) they always had good attendance for IndyCar races. He then sold them to ISC (i.e. the France Family - IndyCar/CART enemy #1) in May of 1999. The majority of their marketing went into promoting the sport they own (NASCAR) and CART IndyCar races were a competitor that got little attention and the decline was sudden and almost immediate. When he sold his tracks to ISC, Penske became an ISC board member as part of the deal. He was then in bed with CART's #1 enemy. As we wrote previously, IndyCar cannot force the oval track issue. Where it makes sense they should race on ovals, and only where it makes sense financially, should they race on them.]