Greetings from a sunny and very hot Auto Club Speedway. Verizon IndyCar Series practice session 1 for the MAVTV 500 to start began about 10 minutes ago, and series championship leader Will Power currently sits atop the time charts. We'll hit on a few quick points.
To begin, the buzz here suggests (and this is really no surprise) that tomorrow's crowd could be small even by Fontana standards. In fairness, it's not for lack of trying on the part of the Auto Club Speedway staff and promotional team. Radio ads, television spots, events, advertisements on billboards, etc., have all been evident in the 24 hours I've been in town. But for whatever reason (the heat, Labor Day weekend, general lack of interest, whatever), there is not much optimism surrounding tomorrow evening's gate. And as the president of one very prominent motorsports publication would say, it could be one of those cannonball-in-the grandstands-type situations.
We briefly caught up with one of our New Zealand correspondents roaming the paddock. The very-well connected gentleman down said that coverage of IndyCar is next to non-existent in Australia and New Zealand, nothing that even highlight shows are rare. This is of particular concern, when you realize that last year's championship was won by a Kiwi (Scott Dixon) and an Aussie is on the verge of winning this year (Will Power).
Another item the gentleman pointed out was the concern of the season ending so early. "From an international perspective, it's very damaging to go totally off the map," he said.
Of course, I could go on and on about IndyCar being a domestic backwater. I could talk at length about the feeble organization's limited worldview, which stretches to about limits of I-465. I could also note that there are opportunities for IndyCar internationally, if they weren't so insistent on being a domestic backwater. But for now, let's just note that one more constituent has weighed in on the decision to end the season so early.
Moving on, we hear that there will be significant testing of the aero-kits coming up during the off-season (they'll certainly have the time). However, we also hear a lot of that testing will be carried out by the bigger teams, which could mean 2015 may see a greater disparity between the haves and have-nots. And if that is in fact the case, the recent merger between Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing suddenly makes even more sense.
Anyway, we'll look into this more through the weekend.
Last, it sounds as if the rumored Dubai race in February is going to happen, although we don't know what is holding up the official announcement. We also heard that the trip to Dubai may could result in quite a cash windfall for the teams (anywhere from $500,000-$800,000).
Now, what exact form that money will come in we don't know. But let the record show: the planned overseas trip are about improving the team's bottom lines; probably, well beyond anyone's expectations. As for whether racing in Dubai helps grow the IndyCar brand internationally? That remains anyone's guess.
Check in for more later as Lucille Dust and I are on the ground here at Auto Club Speedway.
Brian C. reporting from Auto Club Speedway