Opening Day Should Be Today

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Opening Day at the Speedway was rained out in 1994. It had been scheduled for Saturday, but rain pushed it to Sunday. The forecast for Sunday was perfect. My (then) wife and I decided take the kids for a last minute day trip from Tennessee to the Speedway on Sunday.

This was my first (and so far, only) Opening Day at the Speedway. It was a carnival-like atmosphere. The crowd was huge, unfortunately much bigger than Pole Day is now. The place was buzzing. All the teams and drivers were running. Rookie Orientation had been held a couple of weeks earlier in April, out of the public’s eye. This was the official kickoff for the Month of May, and the lead-up to Pole Day the following Saturday.

Curiously enough, this year the track opens on Tuesday May 5. If anyone bothers to take a day off or actually drive a great distance to go to the Speedway, they will pay $5.00 for the pleasure of watching the likes of Stanton Barrett and a handful of other rookies go through their Rookie Orientation. If lucky, they’ll also get to witness a couple of veterans who have been away for a while, scrub off some rust. On Wednesday, the tack opens for everyone.

Apparently, the same great marketing minds that gave us Josh Duhamel (who??) as this year’s Pace Car driver, have also set the practice schedule.

I completely understand the need to cut back practice time during the month. It presents a cost savings to the teams. Plus, with this being the seventh year for this version of the Dallara chassis to run at the Speedway, there is not a whole lot of sorting out that needs to be done.

What the IRL/IMS execs SHOULD have done, in my opinion, is have Opening Day be an event! Opening Day needs to include ALL the teams and drivers.

It needs to be scheduled for Sunday—the day after the Kentucky Derby. This would provide an opportunity for fans to come out on a weekend. This would create the feel of an event again. Rookie Orientation could be held earlier, even the day before in a closed session, not open to the public. That way, the Speedway could save money by not having to staff the place in case people show up. I’ve got news for you. NOBODY cares about watching a few rookies feel their way around the track at a slow speed. Opening Day has been very anti-climactic for the past few years. No one has shown up because it had been on a Sunday with rookies only—yawn!

For the remainder of the week, there would be a scheduled practice day on Monday, then close the track until Thursday. This would also allow some flexibility in case it rains, which it usually does in May. The way it is with the current schedule, if it rains anytime between Wednesady and Pole Day, when can you make it up?

According to our poll, about 90% of our readers think that Opening Day should be on a weekend. The Indianapolis 500 would not exist without it’s fans. Right now, the Speedway should be clamoring for new fans. The IRL needs to do what it can, to accomodate as many fans as possible.

George Phillips

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