There is a myth going around that needs to be exposed. For months; IndyCar fans, forums and websites have been lamenting the fact that this is a terribly long offseason that is unsurpassed in the history of motor sports. I have been just as guilty as everyone else claiming that this offseason is way too long and that a cure for Ebola may be found before the Verizon IndyCar Series turns another wheel in competition.
IndyCar CEO Mark Miles has made it a point to end the season by Labor Day weekend, in order to avoid any head-to-head conflicts with the NFL. For years I was in favor of doing just that, because if increased ratings was the goal; I felt as though the series was fighting a losing battle going against the behemoth that is the NFL. My thought was that the season opener would be moved up near the week after the Daytona 500. That way, the season would last as long – it would just be shifted earlier on the calendar.
But when the last checkered flag of the season fell in August, I had a change of heart. It felt weird to still be pool weather and lawn-mowing season and have the IndyCar season already in the books. I joined in with those that were screaming, because we were heading into the longest offseason in sports.
As it turns out, this just isn’t so. Not only is this not the longest offseason in sports – that would be college football – it isn’t even the longest offseason in the relatively short history of what is now the Verizon IndyCar Series. I’m not even hanging that claim on some technicality of that ridiculous split year championship of 1996-97. No, it doesn’t go near that far.
The longest offseason in IndyCar history was between the 2007 and 2008 seasons. The last race of 2007 was at Chicagoland on September 9th. The series did not return to action the following year until March 29th at Homestead. When you account for the extra day in February for Leap Year in 2008, that’s a total of 202 days between races. If you look at our current offseason from August 30th through next March 8 in Brasilia; we’re only looking at 190 days.
Granted that’s still longer than the 162 days between the 2013 and 2014 IndyCar seasons. If you really want to get ridiculous, compare it to the NASCAR offseason that just began this week. In my opinion, their offseason is too short at only 98 days. That’s hardly enough time to put away the Christmas decorations.
When the 2007 season ended with Dario Franchitti’s first IndyCar championship, I don’t recall any hand-wringing that we were heading into the abyss of a 202 day off-season. Is it because this past season ended prior to Labor Day that everyone is so up-in-arms about such a long offseason?
Look, I’m not trying to sugarcoat this current offseason. It’s four weeks longer than last year’s. It’s also more than half a year, which makes it tough to deal with psychologically – especially when you consider the cold weather most of the country has dealt with this past week. Raking snow off of my windshield in the mornings is not something I usually do this far south in mid-November. That’s something normally reserved for January or February. It’s easier to deal with then when you know that the balmy days of racing season are just around the corner. I could not tell myself that this past week.
This week, we were all left shivering with the knowledge that the Verizon IndyCar Series season is something that is still almost four months into the future. That’s not the way to warm us up. Some got their racing fix by watching NASCAR and/or Formula One. But with NASCAR over and Formula One about to be, the winter will be just a little bit darker and colder – and winter won’t be here for officially another month.
Maybe, just maybe – it will help some to feel better to know that it wasn’t so long ago that we dealt with an offseason longer than this one. Of course, one thing that kept our interest up that offseason was the unification of the two open-wheel series that February. From that point, the offseason seemed to carry more drama than the season itself.
It’s not often that I defend the administration at IndyCar these days. I’m not in love with the new schedule and a lot of their decisions are head-scratchers. But the claims that this is the longest offseason ever are simply just not true. Facts are facts.