Futuristic Delta Wing car would breathe life into IndyCar's Indy Lights series
When the IZOD IndyCar Series came to Barber Motorsports Park this year, the top qualifiers for the Indy Lights race were brought to the media center for interviews.
|The DeltaWing was originally conceived to be an IndyCar. It lost the bid, but to get their foot in the door, Indy Lights could be the answer|
No one stepped forward to interview them.
What would have been the point? The Firestone Indy Lights Series is practically invisible.
You'd need the Hubble telescope to find it on TV. It usually has only a dozen or so drivers in each race. And the cars they drive look like toys.
And who would be interested in a racing series that bills itself as "light"? Light beer sells well. Light racing not so much.
Indy Lights is a development series. It's how young drivers who eventually become IndyCar drivers hone their open-wheel skills in cars that are less powerful but close enough to the real thing to be instructive.
Indy Lights is much more about driver development than it is about putting on a show for fans. And you can tell that by the utter lack of fan interest in the series.
In that respect, it is much different from NASCAR's version of Triple-A baseball, the Nationwide Series. The minor leagues that NASCAR drivers inhabit are expected to carry their weight when it comes to putting on a show.
It's time for Indy Lights to do the same.
The subject is of interest now because IndyCar is considering a new chassis for Indy Lights for 2014. The folks who developed the Delta Wing car -- which includes Dan Gurney and NASCAR/IndyCar team owner Chip Ganassi -- have submitted their design for consideration.
The Delta Wing is the cigar-shaped car that looks like a futuristic Batmobile and was rejected for use in IndyCar's major leagues. If selected, it would replace the current out-of-date Dallara-built chassis.
When IndyCar officials asked for proposals for a new chassis, they indicated that they wanted a "forward-thinking, sophisticated and exciting formula." Adopting the ultra-cool Delta Wing for Indy Lights would fit that bill. It would be a fabulous first step in making this snoozer of a series into something worth watching.
Of course, the purists are already aghast at the idea. The mere suggestion that Indy Lights should be more like NASCAR's Nationwide Series would make heads explode.
Indy Lights team owners won't like it either. It's too radical for some folks.
Tony George Jr., who oversees the Indy Lights series, made that same point in an interview with Marshall Pruett of Speed.com.
"It's flattering that a group like that would be interested in using the Indy Lights series to make their mark and prove themselves," George said of the Delta Wing's development group. "It's a pretty awesome car, but it doesn't take much thought to see the difficulties in messaging (advertising) with a car like that in terms of driver development. We're supposed to mimic what the big cars are like, although you can learn the things like racecraft and many things in most cars, but there's a bit of disconnect between it and a traditional Indy car."
Yes, it would be a radical departure, but a radical departure is what is called for.
Does anyone really care who wins the Indy Lights championship? If the Indy Lights Series came to Barber for a stand-alone race without the IndyCar Series as the main event, would anyone other than family members of the drivers buy a ticket?
Having a series that concentrates on schooling drivers and team engineers on the technical aspects of open-wheel racing at its highest levels is all fine and good.
But in the final analysis, racing at the professional level isn't about wallowing in obscurity to make drivers and owners happy. It's about appealing to fans.
Fans bring the bucks and, as the saying goes, no bucks, no Buck Rogers. AL.com