Should IMS Host A Grand-Am Race?
If you had asked me about a year ago if I would have been in favor of yet another form of racing invading the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I would have said a resounding NO. However, having seen the videos of the Grand-Am cars on the road course at Indy, I think I would like to see them try it.
The Indianapolis market has been asked to help support some pricey events at the historic Speedway. I’m not sure that there is a market to support sports cars on an annual basis at the track, but I liked the idea that Curt Cavin threw out the other night. The Grand-Am cars should run one stand-alone event at the Speedway as part of the ongoing three-year Centennial Celebration taking place at 16th and Georgetown.
I’m not quite sure when it would be best to stage such an event. There are currently three major events taking place at the track every year. The Indy 500 in May, the Brickyard 400 in late July and the MotoGP race in late August. Indiana weather probably would not permit anything to be run in early spring. Even if the configuration allowed for it, I don’t think IMS officials want any other type of racing going on in the month of May. It probably doesn’t surprise anyone that I agree wholeheartedly with that. That would leave probably late September or very early October.
Another issue to consider is what year to run this one-time event? My personal opinion is 2010. There was really no significant milestone that took place in 1910 that we should celebrate. 2009 marked one hundred years since the opening of the track. 2011 will celebrate the one-hundredth anniversary of the first running of the Indianapolis 500.
The most significant occurrence in 1910 was the first race to run on the new brick surface, which was laid down in the fall of 1909. There were no motorcycle races, but many auto races to take place – none of which were scheduled for more than one hundred miles. There was a weeklong aviation meet in June of 1910. There were actually two altitude world record set at Indianapolis that week. There was a twenty-four hour race scheduled but it was cancelled and never took place. In the fall of 1910, Carl Fisher and his three co-owners decided to scrap all of the minor races throughout the year and hold only one event – a grueling five-hundred mile event that would test man and machine – to take place on Memorial Day.
In my mind, the climax of the Centennial Celebration will be the ninety-fifth running of the Indianapolis 500 in May of 2011. I think it would be somewhat anti-climactic to run a special race in the fall of 2011. Running a Grand-Am event in fall 2010 makes the most sense. It gives us something significant to celebrate in the middle year of the Centennial. One thing I am certainly NOT in favor of is running the IndyCars on the road course – not with Grand-Am or at any other time. The IndyCars belong on this track one time per year – and that’s the month of May.
It probably surprises no one that I was not in favor of NASCAR invading the hallowed grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I considered even a Goodyear tire test in 1992 to be something of a sacrilege. I thought that my dying father was going to cry when he saw stock cars running at the Speedway in the inaugural Brickyard 400. It irks me to this day that I feel like I can no longer refer to IMS as “the Brickyard” because everyone will think I’m referring to a NASCAR event.
But what’s done is done. Once a horrible deed is done, it’s much easier to do it the second time around. Although it took some getting used to seeing them run the “wrong” direction, I didn’t have the same resistance when Formula One came to the track. I actually embraced the notion. I went once, in 2002, and felt like I was in a foreign country. It was a totally different setting than Indy, but I enjoyed it. I still haven’t been to the NASCAR event at IMS.
I was sorry to see F1 go, but I understood the fit of the MotoGP motorcycles at IMS. Motorcycles ran in the inaugural year of the Speedway in 1909 – along with a balloon race. I also liked the fact that the bikes ran the “correct” way around the Speedway. Thursday’s Grand-Am test ran BOTH ways around the Speedway – trying out both configurations.
For years, there was a mystique about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The huge piece of property hosted only one event per year – the Indianapolis 500. That mystique was lost for good when NASCAR showed up in 1994. Now that it’s gone, I realize that hosting events for the world’s top series like MotoGP, Formula One and Grand-Am – will only enhance the reputation and allure of the Speedway. If they choose to host a stand-alone, single event for Grand-Am; I hope they don’t do it immediately after the NASCAR race. Otherwise, they’ll have to make sure to sweep up all of the chicken-bones beforehand.
FYI…I plan to take a couple of days away for Labor Day weekend. I’ll return here on Tuesday morning, Sep 8. I hope everyone has a safe holiday weekend.