Schedule Rumors Hit The Fan

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It appears that every hint that Terry Angstadt dropped at Iowa on Sunday is starting to unfold. For different reasons, rumors are swirling that the oval to be dropped for 2010 will be either Kansas or Milwaukee. I personally hate to see either of them go, but if I had to choose which one to drop, it would be Kansas. I have never been to either facility, and I understand that the amenities at Kansas are second to none.

Most people know that I am a traditionalist. That is why I would not kick Milwaukee off of the schedule. Tradition dictates that Milwaukee should immediately follow the Indianapolis 500. It hasn’t been that way every single year. Champ Car held onto that traditional date until about three or four years ago. Even before the split, Milwaukee was run in July in 1992, many weeks after Indy due to promoter problems. That is reportedly the present problem. Even though they have had good attendance for the last two years in Milwaukee, there are supposedly some serious questions regarding the promoter.

That is the only reason that between the two, I would drop Kansas over Milwaukee. Why can they not just pick up another oval? On their radio show last night, Curt Cavin reiterated his point that the IRL doesn’t just show up where they want to race. There has to be a mutual desire from the track and the local market, in order for it to happen. That is certainly true, however…an argument to that point is right here in Music City.

Please understand, I’m not saying that Nashville is the one oval they need to bring back – I’m just trying to make a point. Many parties wanted the IRL to return here, including locally based Firestone, the fans and even the IRL to some extent. In Nashville’s case, the local promoter dropped the ball. There were other issues as well, but everyone here connected with the Nashville race would love to see them come back.

It is unfortunate that this discussion is even taking place. Why do any more ovals have to come off of the schedule? I don’t agree with those that say we must have mostly US drivers in order for the series to have success. However, I do think that the majority of race fans in this country prefer ovals. I have no hard data to back that up – that is just my opinion. If I am right – and I think I am – the IRL should focus more on oval racing in this country.

Keep in mind; I do appreciate a good natural terrain road course. RoadAmerica has always been one of my favorite venues (on television, that is –I’ve never been there). Even though the cars outgrew the circuit, I always liked Laguna Seca and it’s unique corkscrew. I also understand that street races – as boring as they are to watch on television, make good financial sense and expose a lot of new fans to the sport. The variety of road/street courses combined with short ovals and superspeedways makes for the most complete overall championship in all of motorsports. But in my opinion, the series still needs to be predominantly oval-based in order to build long-term fans.

So where would they go for an oval? My first choice would be Phoenix, but unlike the old days when CART played to a full house; NASCAR controlled International Speedway Corp, now owns Phoenix International Speedway. ISC owns many tracks that the IRL races on, including Kansas, Watkins Glen, Homestead and Chicago. ISC has been notorious for not being very flexible with the IRL in recent years. Supposedly, when the IRL inquired about a return to Phoenix, all they offered was a Thursday night race date. Thankfully, the IRL told them what they could do with it.

Pikes Peak was a good little track; but it is closed, as is Nazareth. Nashville provided horrible racing. Even in the days when the IRL had good side-by-side racing, Nashville was a single-groove narrow racetrack that the drivers hated – mostly due to its rough concrete surface. Atlanta and Charlotte both come to mind as possibilities, perhaps even New Hampshire or Disney World. These are all tracks that the IRL and/or CART have been to before, with varying degrees of success.

As I’ve stated before…on a selfish note, I hope that Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham is on the schedule for 2010. As Pressdog has pointed out, there would be very little passing, even if they do some reconfiguring. It is simply too tight and narrow. But selfishly, it’s close to Nashville and the facility is beautiful. It would be like Long Beach or St. Pete – a great event built around a boring race.

Which brings us to the other strong possibility for a new road course on the 2010 schedule…Brazil. This race makes very good financial sense for the league AND for the teams, but I still have reservations about it…especially now that it is believed to be the season opener in March of 2010. My strong belief is that a US based oval series needs to (a) open the season on US soil and (b) open the series with an oval.

Dire financial straights dictate strange changes in philosophy. I understand the need to be fluid with their business model, but who would’ve thought back in 1996 that the IRL would be opening their season on a street course in Brazil? Again, I understand the logic but that doesn’t mean I like it. Nor will I like it if the IRL stages a race in China in 2011 or 2012 strictly for a giant payout; but that is the latest rumor.

Being the traditionalist that I am, I prefer doing things the old-fashion way – by building a following over time and earning the fans. Unfortunately, as we have learned over the past few months, the IRL doesn’t have the luxury of time on its side. But it pains me to see US open-wheel racing base its schedule on being sold out to the highest global bidder.

George Phillips

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6 Responses to “Schedule Rumors Hit The Fan”

  1. Why would any business not sell their legendary widgets to Brazil or China or any other place that would buy millions of their widgets?

    As beautiful as it sounds, they should not go to Barber–or any other track–unless major renovations allow for good racing.

    A few street races are just good business but sad racing and their growth should be curtailed. I strongly agree that wherever they go, they should maintain the 50/50 split, and that the 50/50 balance should be maintained by adding ovals not subtracting them.

  2. loose cannon Says:

    I suppose watching Hunter-Reay drive to a 2nd place finish at St.Pete is awfully damn boring. The true excitement is waiting to see if Penske and Ganassi can win 82 straight oval races on NapCars cookie cutters. They have been trying for 14 years to sell this garbage to the public, and guess what, they ain’t buying it, and they never will. If either of my business’s failed to turn a profit in 14 years, I would go find something I was good at, and do it. It’s really simple, without Ford Cosworth and Chevy Illmor Americans will NEVER care. I will vomit when they grid up 33 VW’s at Indy.

  3. Unfortunately, Cannon, your example of engine builders falls a bit short; Illmor and Cosworth come from across the pond and the American brands were essentially sponsors. You bring up a solid point about the ovals, however, and the only thing that can solve that is the new chassis. It’s a poor shame Dallara is dragging their feet so much on this one…

    George, we need to somehow boycott the ISC races, because that organization has murdered many good IRL races. You have to buy a season pass for ALL races in order to get an IRL ticket at an ISC track (does NOT work in this economy). Plus, you mention Phoenix, a unique mile which has been essentially shut off to the IRL, and Pikes Peak and Nazareth, two good and unique tracks that have been all-but-closed by ISC.

  4. Tim Nothhelfer Says:

    I have been attending the Homestead races and tests for years. It is sad to see all the empty seats and closed off stands. There is a slight chance this may improve for a season ending event instead of the opener….but I dread the thought of the event dying and being replaced by street/ roadcourse parade.

  5. Pikes Peak has opened back up, they just need to add back the seats that they removed.

  6. Perhaps I’m spoiled by our fan in Iowa, but my April trip to Kansas was a turn-off. The amenities around the track were light (even less than here in Iowa), and the fans were disengaged, at best. The FIL race earlier in the day drew a very small crowd (threat of weather notwithstanding) and the mostly NAStyCar attendees seemed to attend just to use up their season tickets (the only way to buy tickets outright at KS).

    As an old marketing hack, “American Racing” needs to look at their markets, but niche and general, and figure out what needs they are trying to meet. The ICS + ALMS is a great bridge for diehard racing fans, but may not help those new to the sport. If the big fan base is in NAStyCAR, and there’s the potential to add fans from there, then ICS needs to look at way to build that bridge (ow, that hurts to even say that).

    Kansas is my second-closest venue, but after my experience I’d rather drive to Chicago, Indy, Milwaukee, even ‘Bama.

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