The IndyCar Series schedule for 2014 was recently released, and – to the dismay of many, including me – there was a new event.
Now normally that’s not a bad thing, because the growth of open-wheel racing in America by way of a new race is never something we should thumb our noses at.
I was hoping for the materialization of the long-rumored Providence, Rhode Island street race or return to a famous road course like Wisconsin’s Road America, Laguna Seca in California, or even the airport circuit in Cleveland, Ohio.
Secretly, I’ve been holding out hope for a resumption of the popular Surfers Paradise here in Australia.
Instead of any of those alternatives – or Portland International Raceway, the oval at Phoenix or the street circuit in Edmonton, Alberta – we were presented with the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis: a race to be held on possibly the world’s most boring road course, the infield circuit at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home currently to a MotoGP event and a Rolex Sports Car Series race, and once home to the United Stated F1 Grand Prix.
Earlier in the year, the powers-that-be at IndyCar hired the Boston Consulting Group to make some observations and recommends on the current state of America’s premiere open-wheel series, which lags far behind NASCAR in terms of popularity.
It seems that Boston Consulting have no idea about racing, because some of their ideas, like ending the season on Labor Day and this one, which flies in the face of what about 98 percent of all IndyCar fans want.
BCG suggested to IndyCar CEO that the Indianapolis facility needs to be used more. But instead of perhaps going back to the old days of qualifying spaced out over two weekends, we’re going to start the fabled Month of May with a race on the road course before teams shift their focus to the 2.5-mile superspeedway that hosts what is still the biggest single-day sporting event in the world.
To my mind, it is still one of the three greatest races in the world – the other two being the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Monaco Grand Prix, if you were wondering.
Quite aside from the fact that the circuit itself is uninspiring, having a second race at Indy during may is a disastrous idea.
The Indianapolis 500 is about the only great drawcard left for IndyCar these days – the last bastion of a once-thriving series that, unfortunately, has faded from public view. Unfortunately because it’s the best racing in America at the moment.
The sad thing is, no one’s watching.
There’s so much tradition surrounding a May at the Speedway, and tacking on this road course race is going to throw dirt in the face of everything that is so great about coming to the corner of 16th and Georgetown each year for the Memorial Day classic.
The Month of May is about racing on the oval. Not the road course. It’s about driving hard into that first turn, bracketed by towering grandstands, at over 220mph.
Not racing the wrong way on the oval, making a right-hand turn onto the road course behind the pagoda. I had a problem with the IMS people bringing in a race for the Indy Lights Series, because IMS has always been about only the top-tier racing series getting to race on the big oval.
Think about it: before the Lights series got their start, it was Indycars, Formula One and NASCAR. Now, the legendary track seems a bit less legendary.
You had to get to the very top of your game to get a chance to race at Indy. Now, you can get to second-tier series – Indy Lights, NASCAR Nationwide Series and Continental Sports Car Challenge – and get a ticket to race on the greatest oval track there is in America.
What’s next? If Boston Consulting Group suggests to IndyCar that they’d be best off running the 500 as a companion race, shifting NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 to the Indy 500â€²s traditional slot, will they agree to that, too?
Message to IndyCar: just because you paid a lot of money to have BCG do these studies, doesn’t mean you don’t have brains of your own. Why can’t you see that this is a bad idea?
It’s not just about money and butts in seats. Of course, those things are important, but IndyCar has a rich history at it’s home track, and the people currently in charge of the series are duty-bound to ensure that tradition is carried on, so that future generations of fans can enjoy what so many past generations have.
Putting a road course race on the first weekend of the Indy 500 is not part of tradition.
I dread what’s going to happen. Hell, I know what’s going to happen: we’ll have cars that aren’t stacked with nearly enough horsepower and look slow on even the fastest courses they currently visit racing on a track that made Formula One cars look pedestrian.
And, I doubt you’ll see more than 20,000 people attending. Slow cars racing on a boring track in front of next to no one.
It’s a PR disaster waiting to happen. And IndyCar's had more than enough of those over the years!
What sort of trickle-on effect is a poorly-attended Grand Prix of Indianapolis going to have on activities ahead of the 500?
Money, time and effort should be focused on returning the Month of May’s oval racing activities back to their former glory, back to the high-flying days before Tony George’s ego project the Indy Racing League started up and wrecked open-wheel racing in America.
Let’s get back to the good old days when seventy thousand people attended practice and more than that attended qualifying.
That should be the goal. Not some gimmicky oval race that probably won’t be much more than a parade and not mean much to anyone, not even the winner.
Better yet – now, here’s an idea: ask the fans what they want. After all, they’re the ones buying tickets, flights and making hotel reservations. Boston Consulting is telling IndyCar what the fans allegedly want.
I’m pretty sure Miles would get a different story if he actually strolled through the paddock at an IndyCar race sometime soon and asked people for himself. Listen to people who are the ones that, ultimately, decide whether your series floats or sinks.
Get rid of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. We, the fans, don’t need it or want it.
May is about oval racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It should never be anything more or anything less. The Roar