Realistic Wishes For 2012
I’ve always liked Christmas. It’s always been my favorite time of year. As a kid, I was told that I would grow to loathe it as an adult. It never happened. I still love it. That being said, this seemed to be a very Un-Christmas like season. I kept waiting for the spirit to hit me this season and it never did. Perhaps it’s because I took so little time off work. Maybe it was because I scaled back on my gift-giving. It could have been having my twenty-two year old son back in the house with all of his bizarre friends milling about put me in a humbug mood. Whatever the case, it’s over with. I just hope this was a one-year blip and I’m not becoming a Christmas grump in my old age.
One thing hasn’t changed, however – once we get past New Year’s Day, it occurs to me that the beginning of the Month of May is less than four months away. With that thought in mind, it makes the cold winter months much easier to bear. It also makes me begin wondering what might be in store for us in 2012. There are certain things that I wish and want for, but reality generally creeps in and reminds me that many of my desires are just pipe dreams.
So instead of boring you with pointless dreams of teams like Foyt, SFHR and Ed Carpenter Racing leading the championship in September or the stark realities that the championship will probably boil down to a battle between Penske and Ganassi – let’s look at something somewhere in between.
In no particular order, these are my desires/expectations for the IZOD IndyCar Series for 2012:
Competitive balance for the right reasons: What do I mean by the “right” reasons? So far, the new Dallara DW12 has proven to be a handful. I don’t pretend to be an engineer, but I don’t think you need to be an advanced gearhead to know that a car that is too heavy in the rear is not a good thing heading into Turn One at Indianapolis. There is a good chance that no one will be able to get a handle on this chassis heading into the first oval of the year, which happens to be the Indianapolis 500. If teams wad up their cars at the historic 2.5 mile oval on a regular basis throughout the month; the race itself could end up being survival of the fittest, luckiest or slowest. Having the smaller forgotten teams on top for that reason would not be a good thing.
If some of the less-funded teams are able to hit on something before the larger teams, that’s great. I think we would all like to see that. But not just because they pedaled through the corners slow enough to not crash.
A surprise from Lotus: Most experts and even us non-experts expect Lotus to be way behind Chevrolet and Honda. The two experienced players have logged many miles of on-track testing. As of this writing, Lotus has fired up the engine in the back of a DW12, but has yet to turn a wheel on the track. Lotus engine builder John Judd is not inexperienced in IndyCar, but he has been out of the game for almost twenty-five years although his company is still involved in other forms of motorsports. But the series he was last involved with in the late eighties has changed quite a bit – not necessarily for the better, but it is different.
Although Lotus did sign Bryan Herta Autosport, last year’s Indianapolis 500 winning team; BHA, HVM and Dreyer & Reinbold don’t really make up a juggernaut that is really feared by other teams. If those teams are at the back of the grid each week, will it be because of the Lotus engine or because of the overall performance of the teams running it?
If Lotus comes out of the gate as quick or quicker than Honda or Chevy, most would consider it a shock instead of a surprise. I’d like to see it, but I don’t think it’ll happen. There is a reason all of the successful teams passed on Lotus.
Start working on the 2013 schedule NOW: I don’t think this is unrealistic at all. I fully believe that INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard is committed to a balanced schedule comprised of close to fifty percent oval tracks. For a variety of reasons, he has fallen way short of reaching that goal for 2012. IndyCar fans weren’t happy when ovals fell below fifty percent a few years ago, but were willing to put up with it until things worked out where the ovals returned. It hasn’t happened. Currently, there are only four ovals on the 2012 schedule – Indianapolis, Texas, Iowa and Fontana.
IndyCar fans know that there has to be a desire on behalf of the track to hold an IndyCar race, but the series can’t sit around and wait to be invited. A good salesperson creates a need when a potential customer doesn’t realize there is one there. Mr. Bernard knows this. I think he is making adding more ovals to the 2013 schedule a top priority. He also knows that he needs to attack this sooner than later.
A safe season for everyone: For younger fans of the sport, watching Dan Wheldon’s fatal accident was the first time to witness the loss of a star that they followed. Even old timer’s like myself were reminded of the cold, harsh realities of racing, while watching the events unfold at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. We had all been lulled into a false sense that racing was now a safe sport. We were all given a bitter reminder that it is not. Nor will it ever be.
Unfortunately, Dan Wheldon will not be the last person to die in an IndyCar. What we can only hope for is that we don’t experience what we went through on October 16 again for a very long time. Drivers are not the only ones vulnerable. Crew members, members of the Holmatro Safety Team and even fans are constantly at risk. Everyone should be mindful of this and learn from what happened last fall, in order to minimize the risk as much as possible. Above all else, I hope for 2012 to be one of the safest seasons we’ve seen in quite a while.
So, welcome to 2012! I certainly have my hopes for who wins and who doesn’t for this next season, but in the grand scheme of things – that doesn’t really matter. So long as we have a safe and competitive season in 2012 and the series continues its overall path, then we should be talking about a very successful season next fall.