With all the talk about putting up lights, club seats, staging a road course race and spending that $100 million state loan on upgrades to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it’s time to get smart about the month of May.
It pains me to say it and I hope it doesn’t ruin my friendship with Donald Davidson but the Indianapolis 500 needs to be downsized again.
Do everybody a favor and cut it to one week.
Now before you start throwing Floyd Clymer yearbooks, please just listen to reason.
The handwriting has been on the IMS walls for a long time and this year is a carbon copy of the past 17.
Despite decent to great weather, the Speedway has been empty the past six days with a couple hundred people watching daily practice from the grandstands. If 10,000 people buy a ticket Saturday it will be about what we’ve come to expect on Pole Day.
There hasn’t been a buzz in practice and qualifying since 1995 when Team Penske missed the show and this week feels like a glorified tire test.
That’s why reducing the schedule makes good sense.
First off, we barely have 33 cars each year and they’re limited on engine miles so the last thing needed is seven days of practice before Pole Day.
It’s not like anybody needs to worry about not being fast enough.
Qualifying certainly doesn’t carry the clout it used to because all you really have to do is run four laps and you’re in. Two days aren’t needed to qualify 33 cars. And Bump Day is actually Test Day for everyone since 99% of the field gets in on Saturday.
There will be a nice crowd on Carb Day and, despite the fact there are PLENTY of seats available on line at Brickyard.com, you know at least 200,000 will show on Race Day.
So it’s the perfect time to embrace “less is better."
Here’s the plan.
Practice is sliced to three days (Sunday-Monday-Tuesday) and qualifying is held Wednesday night under the lights on NBC or ESPN. (It’s seeded so the slowest cars in practice go out first at 7 p.m. and run until everyone has had their shot at making the field of 33.)
Thursday is open to the public (for free not $10) and drivers sit out in front of their garages to sign autographs in a couple of two-hour shifts (one in the morning and one in the afternoon). It’s also the rain date for time trials.
Carb Day remains on Friday but it starts at 2 p.m., followed by Indy Lights (if they are still around), and the Pit Stop competition. Then, the fastest six qualifiers from Wednesday have a prime time shootout on ABC or NBC for the pole position – which pays $1 million and is sponsored.
Saturday is the parade, memorabilia show and parties and Sunday is the race.
This would be a winner on so many fronts. More at speedtv.com