Are Street Circuits Really Needed?

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During last week’s edition of Trackside with Cavin & Kevin; a passionate caller, Mike in Indianapolis, called in to complain about the existing business model of the Izod IndyCar Series. The IICS continues to gravitate more and more towards the CART model of the early to mid-nineties; which consisted of many foreign drivers racing mostly on street circuits and road courses with a handful of ovals thrown in, including the Indianapolis 500. Although TV ratings were at an all-time high and were about equal to NASCAR’s ratings at the time – many fans, including myself, longed for a schedule that consisted of more ovals.

As Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee went back and forth debating the pros and cons of the current schedule, Kevin offered this rhetorical response: “It sounds like someone should start up an all-oval series based on American drivers”. Although he was kidding, he proved a valid point by being absurd.

Tony George tried this when he created the Indy Racing League. He created an all-oval series that was built around the crown jewel in racing – the Indianapolis 500. In doing so, the thought was that this new series would re-introduce aspiring USAC sprint and midget drivers to big-time open-wheel racing. The problem was, no one bought in to it.

There was a small pocket of fans that shared Tony George’s supposed vision. They had grown tired of seeing names like Foyt and Unser being replaced by names like Fittipaldi and Luyendyk. Like most of us, they had become bored with tuning in and watching parades at boring street circuits like the rough streets in downtown Denver, the tight confines of Belle Isle or the most ridiculous circuit yet – racing around and over an interstate interchange at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford N.J.

So in the name of the fans and the lost American driver, Tony George started the IRL. In reality, this was more about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway regaining the control of the sport it had lost, with the formation of CART in the fall of 1978.

Personally, I agree with almost every principle that the IRL was founded on – to some extent. I much prefer oval racing to turning right. However, watching CART races in the eighties and nineties exposed me to road course racing when I may not have ever watched it before. Over time, I have grown to appreciate road course racing and I think that it enhances the overall schedule to include a few road course races. It also requires drivers and teams to be more versatile to include road courses on the schedule.

Road course racing also brings in a whole new segment of fans to the sport. I would submit that the fans that attend races at Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI or at Mid-Ohio are some of the best and most knowledgeable fans in the sport. Bringing those fans into the sport adds an entirely new dynamic to your fan base.

Street course racing is another story. Watching a street race on television is a tiresome way to spend a Sunday afternoon. I represent the die-hard segment of the Izod IndyCar fan base. Yet, after watching a street race at Long Beach or Toronto – I sometimes say to myself that that’s two hours of my life that I’ll never get back. In all honesty, street races are painful events to watch on TV. I’ve never attended one in person, but I would think for a true race fan that wasn’t there strictly to party, it would be frustrating to be there.

I understand the economic theory behind street courses. The thinking is that the IICS will stage races on temporary street circuits in or near the heart of major metropolitan areas such as New York (the Meadowlands), Los Angeles (Long Beach) and Toronto. The scenes of these races suddenly become major party atmospheres for a weekend, as half-clothed babes mill about with drink in hand as a racecar driven by a driver with a funny name goes whizzing by. The league is banking on some of these spectators possibly becoming lifelong IndyCar fans.

As Mike from Indianapolis correctly pointed out, the chance of any of those people tuning in the following week to watch the next IndyCar race and suddenly getting hooked is almost non-existent. I seriously doubt that many of the sun-drenched blondes that attended last year’s race at Long Beach knew that (a) Helio Castroneves had just returned from a traumatic court appearance with the IRS; (b) Will Power rolled a strange car off of the trailer and put it on the pole or that (c) Dario Franchitti won the race in only his second race back from a one year absence. Nor do I think for a minute that any of the first-time attendees at the Long Beach race were suddenly so enthralled with what they saw, that they made a point to carve out some time the next week to watch the oval race at Kansas.

Yes, the league needs exposure in all corners – but they don’t need to be pinning their hopes on a bunch of weekend revelers that attend a race just to ogle at scantily clad females. Yes, that can be an added bonus for race goers but it shouldn’t be their primary reason for attending a race. Those fickle fans will leave you as quickly as they found you.

If Tony George was not able to pull off the all-oval series with the presence of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it’s obvious no one else will either. Is Tony George the most market savvy race promoter out there? Hardly. But if he couldn’t do it with the IMS in his back pocket, no one else will be able to either. So the answer lies somewhere between an all-oval series and a schedule loaded down with street races. Do I have the answer? No. If I did, I would have a career in motorsports and wouldn’t be blogging away for free.

Curt Cavin is fond of saying that the Izod IndyCar Series has to be invited to a venue before they can race there. Well, how does that happen? It happens by creating a product that people want to see in person. I am a southern-born American and I would like to see more Americans in the series. But unlike some, I’m not turned off by the presence of foreign drivers. To me, it adds to the allure of our sport that these are some of the best in the world that come to participate in this sport. I’m also not convinced that an all-American field would suddenly make our sport more attractive.

I think that people that have the potential to become long-term race fans do so because of the speed, technology and yes…the danger involved with our sport. Spec series cars conducting parades through the concrete canyons of Belle Isle do little to sell our sport on any of those attributes. Spectators and viewers need to be left with a sense of awe in order to have a reason to come back week after week.

So what is my answer? Like many, I have an opinion. In a perfect world, assuming the IRL could get invited to all venues — I would race a twenty race schedule across North America. Fourteen to fifteen of those races would be on ovals – including Fontana, Michigan, Phoenix, Milwaukee, Charlotte and New Hampshire (selfishly, I would want Nashville back in the mix) while the remaining races would be run over natural terrain road courses that included Road America, Portland and Road Atlanta. I could be persuaded to add Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland as an exception to my ban of temporary street courses – but that would be it.

To me, that’s a balance that would satisfy most. The oval fans get their oval fix most of the time, but they get a little variety with some scenic and challenging road courses thrown in. The road race fans still get their same number of natural terrain permanent road courses without the artificial creation of the temporary street course. This would also satisfy the drivers who have the itch to intentionally turn right from time to time. With the long-term deal from Izod, perhaps the league could take the approach to build a long-term fan base this way rather than going after the fickle fans that will never stick with them, anyway.

George Phillips

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33 Responses to “Are Street Circuits Really Needed?”

  1. tim nothhelfer Says:

    Cleveland works because it is sooo wide it invites passing and re-passing. Excess horsepower helps too.
    But being held up half a lap to get to the passing zone and losing three seconds in the mix is not racing; its wrestling.

  2. I chose option 3, but I would make two exceptions. I could definitely live with both Long Beach and Toronto on teh schedule, but they would be my only street course allowances.
    The problem with ovals I often find are so many seem to fit the identikit cookie-cutter ovals that stock cars race on, so it would be nice if there was sort of variety there.

    Road America, Portland and Cleveland – bring it on and with the series going to Brazil, then I’d fit Interlagos on too (shame it only has 14 pit boxes…). I would also add the majestic Laguna Seca to the list

    • I couldn’t pick one of the options…I like the current schedule, but miss ovals like Michigan, Phoenix, and Milwaukee. However, I’m not against the really good temporary circuits (Long Beach, Toronto, St. Pete, the late Surfer’s Paradise race).

  3. Well said. As an open wheel fan I love ovals, and the traditional natural terrain road courses like Watkins Glen and Elkhart Lake. I have no earthly idea why anyone would pay good money to attend a street course race. There are far cheaper ways to see blonde’s in tight bikinis.

    On last weeks show, Kevin (I think) also made a point about the USAC run days of the mid 70′s, which was probably the last time that the unified IndyCar series ran all ovals. He pointed out that back then the season was 12-14 races, all oval, (many still dirt until the 70′s) sometimes including 2 races at the same track on the same day. Road Courses appeared in the late 60′s, fell off the schedule, and then started coming back in the late 70′s. About the time that the Championship season grew above 15 races / year. Even as late as 1979, the first CART season, CART ran all ovals with the exception of one race at The Glen. (www.champcarstats.com is a treasure trove of info)

    Street Circuits don’t appear on the schedule until Cleveland in 1982. The next year, 1983, is when the street course ridiculousness really began with the appearance of the Cesar Palace Parking Lot race. 83′ is also the year that Ovals were reduced to 50% of the schedule. After that street course and parking lot races start appearing like weeds all over the schedule. Meadowlands, Miami, Toronto the Long Beach race. By 1990 there are more street courses (6) than ovals (5) or road courses (5).

    The reason I’m boring you all with these stats is that I think that a lot of folks forget just how far the pendulum had swung away from ovals when Tony George decided to break away. If the split taught us anything it is that the market will not support all ovals, anymore than it can support all street / road courses. There needs to be a mix, if for nothing else, to distinguish open wheel from NAPCAR.

    With 1.5 mile ovals in just about every major market, and about 8 true road courses sprinkled throughout North America, IndyCar should be able to tap into every major market it needs in an 18 race season without descending into the street circuses. Make it 50/50, 60/40, 70/30, whatever they can swing, but please God get rid of the interminable parades around parking lots, and city streets. I see enough of that in my daily commute, I don’t want to waste a Sunday afternoon watching slow traffic too.

  4. Although I would put road circuits at the bottom of my likes list for types of tracks, let’s not forget that just because they only turn left it makes it exciting. Just look back at 2009 and remember the oval snore fests, parades we had at Kansas and Texas. Even the short tracks weren’t immune to boredom where Milwuakee, Iowa and Richmond stunk it up. And you can say that it all changed with the rule change because Kentucky and Chicago were spectacular but then the egg that was laid at Miami Homestead. Yeah some people say Miami Homestead was exciting but who are they kidding, three cars on the lead lap and the winner from fuel mileage?

    For my money, the best races of 2009 were in order
    Watkins Glen
    Kentucky
    Chicago
    St. Pete

  5. Drayton Sawyer Says:

    The IRL has always had attendance problems at ovals, even when it was an all oval series. That being said why? CART had sellout races in Milwaukee, Phoenix, Nazerath, Fontana, Michigan and Homestead (I don’t know if Indy can technically sell out). USAC also had huge crowds in the 50′s, 60′s and 70′s. I can only deduce that it’s the car and the way it races. They have had the Indy 500 since 1996 and Indy is the biggest advertisement I can think of so exposure wasn’t the problem. They ran most of the Texas and Chicago races on ESPN and ABC which is also great exposure. There has to be a reason the IRL never caught on, the car and how it races is the only thing different from CART in the 90′s, the schedule in almost exactly the same. If they make the cars race the way they did in the late 80′s and through the 90′s maybe tracks like Michigan, Phoenix, Fontana and Milwaukee will want to bring Indy cars back to their tracks.

  6. The cars being so equal, the only “emotional attachment” that is available for fans are the drivers.
    The kids love this “fast, fun, more and easy” thing that Izod is cashing in on, but seriously the athletic and sporty side to this racing venue is getting stranger every day! You have Georgy- Porgy jr. talking about the “ladder system” to get new drivers in the IRL and yet no deal for GR? What is that….GR is one of the last true American drivers in this sport who wants to drive.
    Daniker will be making a cameo on CSI and it looks like Sarah Fisher (who is an outstanding athlete BTW) is left standing on the sidelines struggeling, doing the chores of the league.
    Everyone knows all about Helio BTW, not just with his tax issues, but also because he is a celebrity, an incredible athlete and almost a legend. Someone at Izod better keep the McDonald’s car running with GR (luv to see him teamed up with Helio now that RHR is lost in the sauce.)
    Izod should keep our American drivers appealing and give some of the American drivers like Sarah Fisher and Graham Rahal some support… It’s beginning to look like Las Vegas style wresteling, in many ways.
    Street races should be abolished in America…keep racing on the track!

  7. The American Mutt Says:

    I’d like to point out a few aspects to this argument that seem to be left unstated:

    A: Temporary courses are a part of racing history. One need look no further than The 24 Hours of Le Mans to see this. Racing on the track? Just because it’s enclosed, a dirt track is no more a permanent course than Toronto, and I think we can all agree racing is rooted in dirt track driving just as much as brick, concrete, or asphalt.

    B: What fun is the olympics if only one country is participating. You don’t like not having an all american field, watch Nascar.

    C: Racing should be about pushing technology, and learning things that can be applied to street cars. What better way to do this than actually driving on a street.

    D: Prior to Kentucky and Chicago (and those are the only two ovals that were interesting last year I might add), the best races we saw were on streets, not a permanent road. Justin Wilsons win, amazing. Watching Dixon carve the field just to secure a fourth place finish and stay in the points race. These to me were the highlights of last year (beyond Ed almost sneaking a win out of Kentucky).

    The problem isn’t the course. It’s whether or not the course is wide enough to pass, and in many cases streets provide a better oportunity to do this than many roads. That’s my two cents.

    • The American Mutt Says:

      For the record, Belle Isle sucks.

    • Excellent point about last year’s ovals. I’m an oval fan first, but as you mentioned, other than Kentucky and Chicago, the ovals were unbearable to watch last season. Sadly, that even includes the 500.

      I was thankful to see St. Pete, Toronto, and (road not street) the Glen last year.

      I agree that most street races are nothing more than parades (Long Beach), but let’s be honest here, all but two of last year’s ovals were parades as well. The only difference was that these parades only made left turns, sort of like that other league that has left-handed turning parades every week for 9 months a year.

      • Excellent points, but I think that the oval parades had more to do with the equipment spec than anything about the oval tracks. All of those ovals have provided decent races in CART and IRL times. Put a decent car package together and they will provide good racing again. Put the greatest car design known to mankind on most street courses, and you still get a parade.

  8. H. B. Donnelly Says:

    Mutt, the thing with courses like Le Mans and the other old GP circuits is that they were road courses — a race course laid out on city-to-city roads as opposed to intra-city streets — and those roads wound up and down hills, had interesting corners, and provided a challenge that a grid of flat streets just can’t provide. Our current road courses are facsimiles of courses like Le Mans or Targa Florio or any other track from the old old days that were built in order to keep the roads open and keep cars from running through the sides of houses. I agree that certain street courses get the formula right (Long Beach, with its 2+ passing areas and wide streets), but it’s very difficult to lay a good track on the sort of square grids we have here in the States.

    One thing that interests me is the prospect of Tony Cotman consulting on tracks. I don’t kiss the man’s shoes like Robin Miller, but I do respect his knowledge of the sport and I think a Cotman-designed racecourse could be interesting.

    Final note: we do need more ovals, but I think an unwritten rule needs to be that no two ovals should fit within the footprint of each other. Sure, that takes away a few possible tracks (KC, Vegas, and Kentucky are all exactly the same), but I like my ovals to be as diverse a challenge as the mixed schedule should be.

  9. The American Mutt Says:

    Tom,

    I disagree that you’ll end up with a parade given the right equipment. I point to ALMS at Belle Isle two years ago. Again, I think it’s a matter, not of blaming the road, but blaming the width of the road. All that being said, I still think it’s more exciting to watch someone make an amazing pass on a road, than an average pass on an oval, except perhaps when it’s the last mile of Indy. I’ll never forgive Sam for continuing the Andretti curse.

    How you solve the problem of too narrow for these cars to make it…I don’t know.

  10. Selfishly include Nashville! Same here, George. Frankly, we had a good thing going here in the Music City and I strongly believe that if they knocked off $10 or $15 off the ticket price they would have had to have added more seats to the NSS. Regarding the road and street courses, I am all for St. Pete and I think the addition of Barber in Birmingham is a well founded decision that will add greatly to the series.

  11. I’ll add my two cents. I didn’t vote for any of the choices, because, if I had my druthers, I would split it right down the middle. 20 races, 10 ovals, 10 street/road courses. That to me would be a formula that would work.

    I agree with what others have been saying about not all ovals are exciting and not all street/road courses boring. As has also been previously mentioned, it’s not necessarily the circuit-although it certainly plays a major factor-but also the cars and, on street/road courses, the weather.

    Bottom line, to me, what makes IndyCar exciting-and what made CART exciting-was the diversity of tracks and drivers. I don’t subscribe to the theory of leaning too far one way or the other, but to be as close to if not right in the middle if you can.

    So, to answer your question, George, the answer to me is yes, street courses are necessary, although in my eyes not a preponderance of them.

  12. The American Mutt Says:

    JohnMc,

    Having attended the final race in Nashville, and having watched it plent of times on TV that really only strengthens the argument that it’s not the fault of turning right. I’ve never been more bored at a race track in my life. The only thing worse than a parade around a twisty track is a parade around an oval. I, for one, will not miss it, despite it being one of the few tracks in reasonable driving distance from southern Indiana.

  13. imjustsayingisall Says:

    All I can say is, since 2005 I have lived in the south and have had the good fortune to have been able to attend both the Honda Grand Prix in St. Pete, and the race at Homestead-Miami each year. The St. Pete event has grown in initial attendance size from what most small town carnivals draw on a Monday evening, to now bursting at the seams with people. Are all attendees dyed in the wool IRL fans? Of course not, but neither are all of the fans at oval tracks I can assure you and that goes for the tin top races too. Fact is there was little or no racing per-se going on at any IRL venues last year or for several years past, other than between the red cars, it’s not the non-American drivers either.
    It’s the low powered, ill handling equipment folks (plus, in my opinion, there is something of a dearth of engineering and technical talent available, nor the cash to help attract that talent)…. Oh and another thing about street races, one can purchase a grandstand seat of course, but when was the last time you went to an oval race where you could go and stand in any corner or straight stretch of the track and watch the race for as long as you liked. Regarding the scantily dressed blondes. I don’t know what oval tracks you folks go to, but they’re are plently of blondes, brunettes and redheads too at Homestead-Miami. My neck still hurts and not from my fiance whacking me. To conclude, I personally would like to continue to see a mix of types of racing venues. Ovals, especially road courses, and when it makes sense, street courses too….

  14. imjustsayingisall Says:

    Oh and one other thing…. While St Pete may be in close proximity to Tampa…. St. Pete is anything but a ‘big city’, at least not by what my standards of a big city are (NYC, Chicago, Miami, LA come to mind)…. The race takes place at Albert Whitted Field (using around 3400 feet, of the 3600 foot 7-25 runway as the front stretch) it’s on the bay waterfront, and is a beautiful venue.

  15. I think right now a 50/50 split between road/street circuits and ovals is perfect for the Series. Don’t forget that the Izod Indycar Series is not the same series that it was two years ago. Champ Car and the IRL merged. Many Champ Car fans (I count myself firmly in that category) are fans of road/street circuits first. When the two series merged, a lot of Champ Car fans left the series for sports car racing (which is exclusively on road/street circuits). If the series goes much less than 50% road/street circuits, I’m pretty sure a lot more fans will feel alienated and leave.

    Everyone has their personal preferences. To say that all road/street circuits are nothing more than parades is a little silly though. This is a personal opinion, but here is why I dislike ovals. If one driver makes 52 passes during the race and constantly changes positions forward and backwards, what does it really mean? All of that “passing” is irrelevant and more a factor of one driver lifting rather than setting up a pass and braking at the perfect moment. Sure, road/street circuits produce less on track passes. When a driver makes a pass, it means a lot more. Often, drivers have to work for a number of laps, waiting for the leader to make a mistake or to find the perfect timing to make a pass. When a pass it made, it usually sticks and doesn’t change 23 times over the course of the race. I know that is all my personal opinion, but how can you say it’s a parade? Just because there are not 100 meaningless changes of position all over the track doesn’t mean they’re not racing.

    In my opinion, road/street circuits are the perfect and purest form of racing. The level of concentration and patience required cannot be equaled on an oval. I may get thrown off of this blog for writing this, but I only watch the 500 for the historical significance of the race, not for the on track racing that happens there. Please, limit your hate mail replies guys.

    George, this is a great blog. I just share a VERY different opinion on this subject.

    For anyone interested Planet IRL blog has a very good discussion going on right now based on this exact subject from Trackside. Check it out.

  16. I don’t know about you, George, but seeing these guys going insanely fast down a “concrete canyon” is pretty thrilling to me. The consequences of a mistake at speed are direr on a street course than either an oval or a road course. Doesn’t look so amazing on TV, though. Grant you that.

    I don’t know about you, George, but it seems to me a fan can get closer to the track and the cars at a street course during the race than just about anyplace else.

    I don’t know about you, George, but I think watching a street/road course race in person can be more enthralling than an oval race, because you can’t see all of the course from one spot, but you can really focus on the spot you can see. First, you really get a chance to watch different techniques for getting through the same corner. And if you focus, you can tell when a driver tries something new or screws up just a little bit, much less makes a big mistake. Second, you have to remember the order of the cars in the lead, and around the favorite you’re following from one lap to the next. Then comes a lap-long period of suspense until you see if your guy got around someone (or vice versa) when they next come into view. It requires serious focus, but it’s an investment with great returns. The advent of TV screens around the course to show other sections of the track makes things even better, though that frison of suspense is diminished.

    I don’t know about you, George, but the carnival atmosphere is pretty damn fun, in my view. And while you were watching the blonds, you must have missed the kids who get smitten with the bug just like you did when you were a kid and I was when I was a kid.

    I don’t know about you, George, but for me racing is racing. I don’t care if the driver is American, French, or Martian. Same way I didn’t care that Zoilo Versailles wasn’t American when he won the MVP for my Twins in ’65, or that Tony Oliva was Cuban or Rod Carew Panamanian. Americans have been cheering for non-American athletes for decades. What’s the big deal?

    I fully agree that both the nature of the course and the nature of the cars are vital to a good race. The organizers of the race have something to do with the course, but nothing to do with the cars. Make sure it’s wide enough, with 2-4 good passing zones, etc.

    All in all, given my views, there really wasn’t an option in your poll for me. Am I that far off base?

    Thanks for your work, by the way, I check you out almost every day!

  17. I ended up addressing this on my own blog. May as well get a 2-fer; plus it’s the middle of the off season and there’s not much else to talk about.

    I like the mix. Too much of one or the other bores me silly. I don’t like parades on street/road courses either, but I’ve seen parades on ovals as well. I don’t think that limiting to one type of course promotes anything except monotony. Besides, the mix is what makes Indycar unique. CART at the end was trending toward all road courses and it just looked like Junior F1. The IRL oval collection just mimics the worst aspects of NASCAR: pedal down and turn left. Boogity.

    And honestly, I don’t mind the foreign locations like Brazil and Japan and Australia (nobody seems to complain about Canada). The bulk of the races are here in the USA. But honestly, I think the exotic locations add a little spice and (again) break up the monotony. Why NOT watch a race at Surfer’s Paradise, if it’s a good course? Why would another boring Tri-Oval in Elgin Iowa be any better? If you’re not physically going to be there, then it’s The Track, not the location, which really matters.

  18. I don’t know about you George, but it seems that racing is becoming more and more NOT for American kids. Who wants their young kids looking at Danika in her new GLBT get-up?
    If it wasn’t for George and his input, Indy Racing would probably be all about Muffy. (She must be getting ready for NASCAR…with the big hair and all.
    George, maybe you could sell the street-racing wigs on your site…you would be surprised how many would sell.

  19. a good track allows plenty of opportunity for overtaking and passing. for speed and for finesse. to showcase technology and driving skill.

    maybe that should be the criteria for all tracks–no matter which direction you turn the steering wheel.

  20. There should NEVER be more than 5 street courses, and thats with 20 or more races. Really, only three add anything useful. Long Beach, Toronto and Cleveland are somewhat worthwile. The biggest problem Road Racing in Indycar has is the tracks. A bunch of street courses plus a bunch of too small road courses won’t cut it. Add Sebring,Road Atlanta, Road America and then people won’t hate them as much!

  21. As many have mentioned before, you didn’t offer an answer of “About the same” or “Slightly less but don’t get rid of them.”

    Getting rid of Long Beach is silly because it is a huge venue and is the second biggest event. There’s not much passing, no, but there is tradition and it was the street race that started the boom. It should be there.

    Toronto and Cleveland I think deserve their place also due to tradition and because those are the two most exciting street courses in general. Edmonton, take or leave, but I don’t hate it. Detroit is not good and the less said the better.

    St. Pete I don’t really get at all. I guess they want to have a Southeastern venue but I would easily take Road Atlanta or Sebring over St. Pete and Homestead, both of which suck in my opinion. For an oval, I think Walt Disney World had better racing than Homestead…it was at least distinctive.

    So I would say ideally Long Beach, Toronto, and Cleveland, and that’s it. Okay, add Brazil in because they’re shelling millions to the series. Cut St. Pete and Edmonton. Edmonton’s a good circuit, but for an airport circuit, I’d rather see Cleveland and two seems to be overkill, and Edmonton is losing money more than Long Beach, Toronto, and Cleveland do/did.

    I however agree with others that the ovals are freaking boring and are just as much as the street courses. In fact, since the merger, the street courses are more interesting for the most part than the ovals, because the ovals are pretty much decided by 100% car while driving talent plays more of a role on road/street courses. At tracks like Homestead or Kansas, a Penske or Ganassi car will always win, and there won’t be any competition from drivers like Justin Wilson who are just as good or drivers like Dan Wheldon who are just as good on ovals. At least on the road/street courses, the result has something to do with talent.

    That does not justify opting for street courses instead of road courses (the same thing CART did). Street courses supposedly bring money but they really don’t. It was appalling that NASCAR landed Road America for the freaking Nationwide series (I do actually like NASCAR still more or less, but Nationwide is worthless), while IndyCar couldn’t replace the Milwaukee date with Road America, instead choosing to give into that blowhard Eddie Gossage who has only his best interests at heart, not the series’s. IndyCar belongs there. I see no point on Nationwide there.

    I certainly like ovals and they should be half the schedule. The problem is that all the good ovals except Indy, Iowa, Kentucky, Texas, and Chicagoland are gone. The other cookie cutters have to go and to be replaced with REAL TRACKS like Phoenix, Milwaukee, Michigan (distinct from cookie cutters because it largely inspired them), Loudon, Rockingham, NC (don’t let it rust…it was great for NASCAR and I think could work for IndyCar, at least better than the ill-fated Dover experiment). The reason I recommend Rockingham is because an ISC reject type track is the sort of track IndyCar SHOULD be going for since there is no competition from NASCAR and it is getting a foothold into their country. Much better than Charlotte I say, which is too similar to the other 1.5 mile ovals. Nazareth and Pikes Peak should have races too, but those tracks are dead. My problem with the people who SCREAM about 50% ovals is that most of the modern ovals today are generic, just like the street courses.

    My dream schedule (more or less)

    Oval: Indianapolis, Chicagoland, Iowa, Kentucky, Loudon, Michigan, Milwaukee, Phoenix, Rockingham, NC, Texas
    Road: Laguna Seca (replacing Sears Point), Mid-Ohio, Portland, Road America, Road Atlanta, Sebring (replacing St. Pete and Homestead), Watkins Glen
    Street: Cleveland, Long Beach, Toronto

    That would be more or less an ideal schedule in my book. It does have that 50/50 balance, but there should definitely be more permanent than temporary road courses.

    Obviously financial issues ruin that and allow for things like Brazil and Motegi which nobody would likely say are the most worthy tracks (and too bad F1 desperately wants to keep IndyCar out of Interlagos and Suzuka…those are the REAL tracks there.) St. Pete although I don’t think it’s all that deserving has an in for eternity because of Michael Andretti’s influence. But GET OFF THE ISC OVALS (except Phoenix and Michigan, which belong for historical reasons). ISC will not possibly have IndyCar’s best interests at heart (and I don’t think SMI would either), and I’d race on any superspeedway without a NASCAR date, ESPECIALLY those not owned by ISC/SMI.

  22. Don’t forget Brazil, that is why Izod is in the series….Starting to look more like Las Vegas Wrestling Series. (If RHR is “pushed to pass” one to many times, just do TK’s Apex-BrazilianDance-off and then ask yourself about the values in the different equations in this series. Is this really American open wheel racing or is it just an advitar for something else?

    An openwheel course that would be something to watch would be Abu-Dabi or something other than a makeshift municipal airport with families who are totally inconvienced for the Spring Break Partay; forced to participate in the new culture of the American Dream gone to hell in a hand-basket.

    God Bless Ashley Judd for her fine work with this Haitian disaster-she makes you proud to be an American…Her husband the 2009 Indy Champ should be so glad that she is also a Champion!

  23. Street Racing sucks. It has no business in ANY part of American open wheel racing and 95 years of history of AOW’s biggest event, the Indy 500.

    Indy Car Racing shouldn’t be about being perfectly “mixed” and “diverse”. It should be about SPEED and ACTION and OVALS, with road racing only sprinkled in, as a change-up. Street racing and most road racing, while a nice spectator sport for those that show up and party, are generally TERRIBLE on television and don’t have squat to do with the Indy 500. So when a Indy 500 fan, tunes in for a race in August and sees some parade in the middle of nowhere on some deserted airport in Edmonton, with cars going 100 MPH slower then they do in May, it turns off many folks.

    The sooner this abomination of “racing” is cut out of this sport (which will happen once new leadership from NASCAR takes over) the better. We need clarity and a true “vision” for Indy Car Racing. And that vision needs to be more closely aligned with the sport’s crown jewel event.

    • You’re entitled to your opinion, Jim Bob. But I strongly disagree with you. There is a series like that, it’s called NASCAR. IndyCar, in my view, doesn’t need to be like NASCAR. It needs its own identity, and one way to achieve that is through a diversity of tracks, including some street circuits.

      BTW, your “true vision” for IndyCar has already been tried, starting in 1996. How did that turn out?

    • Did you ever asked yourself why there are about three Nascar/IRL-level ovals outside North America? (Phakisa, Rockingham, Calder Park) Perhaps it’s because left-right tracks can make good races.

      If Indy cars get the correct power/downforce balance, they will have to brake in flat ovals. And braking means that drivers will be tested for their driving skills, unlike most current medium-banked ovals. Milwaukee, New Hampshire and one of the two flat superpeedways (Fontana or Michigan) should return soon.

  24. There aren’t many real road courses in the USA. I attend a lot of permanent road courses in Europe and several in the USA and can honestly say there are few good road courses in the USA. The Indianapolis road-course being the worst I have suffered – it’s like the service roads were upgraded.

    Street racing is poor for all the reasons given in the article – slow and processional. Only Monaco gets away with it because of the history, the setting, and that the is course is never really dismantled.

    I would like to see US street courses dumped and a mix of good permanent road (70%) and good oval (30%) races. As for the lack of American talent – well, the feeder series are the root of that problem.

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