Where does IndyCar go from here?
In five nightmarish seconds last weekend, IndyCar found itself at a crossroads.
The hellish crash that killed Dan Wheldon and injured three others at Las Vegas Motor Speedway sent a sobering, and long overdue, message to the IZOD IndyCar Series, track promoters and the industry as a whole: These low-slung, lightweight open-wheel race cars do not belong on high-banked, intermediate ovals purpose-built for stock cars.
That eliminates about seven major markets, leaving a slew of suitable oval race tracks which have hosted IndyCar/CART events in the past, but have proven financially disastrous. Promoters at oval race tracks will, and probably should, think twice before hosting IndyCar again because right now, it’s not making sense at the gate, and the potential of a race being canceled after 12 laps because someone died a horrible death is P.R. hell.
So what does IndyCar do now?
Slow the cars down with a special oval wing package? That idea is completely contradictory to what open-wheel racing is about.
Omit all ovals sans Indianapolis from the schedule? That would not only limit the markets IndyCar could visit, but ruin what’s been the most diverse form of racing on the planet for decades.
Become Formula One lite, existing on a diet of road and street races, which are some of the most well attended events? Sorry, but Americans like their circle tracks.
The pundits and fans have crashed message board servers all week with ideas and “what they should have done is ...” comments, but I don’t profess to be that smart. I don’t know what the answer is beyond auto racing – even in this age of spec and safety – is still a deadly sport.
Since the IRL split off on its own, the Indy cars have been to practically every oval in the country at one time or another. Drivers, and even fans, have died because of the high speeds and relative fragility of open cockpit race cars. Overall, considering every element, the series has been pretty lucky.
Kenny Brack nearly lost his life at Texas Motor Speedway in a crash that did claim his career. Ryan Briscoe’s budding talents were nearly taken away in a similar crash at Chicagoland. Paul Dana paid for his inexperience with his life in a Homestead practice wreck.
The odds caught up with IndyCar last weekend when too many cars going too fast were racing in too small an area. The organizers of the race wanted to bring the season to a finale with some spectacle, but no one wanted to see cars launching off each other like ground to air missiles.
I don’t know where IndyCar goes from here. I’m not sure the series does either. Corning NY Leader
[Editor's Note: IndyCar may abandon oval races for financial and image reasons (cannot hide the bad crowd at an oval race) but it does not have to abandon oval track racing for safety reasons if it does some of the things suggested by AR1.com this past week: 1) Since the new IndyCar exposes the drivers head more, consider adding a fighter jet canopy over the cockpit, 2) Stop 'pack racing' and get the cars running single file and create passing with a Handford Device type wing, 3) Redo the hideous looking Dallara sidepods with new bodywork that not only makes the car look better, but also protects the driver more 4) Add bodywork around the front wheels that prevents tire-to-tire contact.]