Is A Double-Header Always Twice As Good?
Shortly following the successful weekend that the IZOD IndyCar Series had at Iowa Speedway last weekend, CEO Randy Bernard revealed his idea to possibly host a double-header weekend there for the 2012 season. When I first heard the news, I was against it because I thought he meant to do a set of twin races similar to what the series did at Texas a few weeks ago. Then I found out that his plan was to run two separate races that each paid full points – one to be held on Saturday night, then another to be held the following afternoon.
My initial reaction was favorable – especially since I’m now seriously thinking about going to Iowa next year. That’s quite a bang for your buck if you’re in attendance. But then I started hearing that the races would be treated as separate events and would have separate tickets. I’m sure you can buy some sort of a package to include both races, but it still will probably cost more to attend both races than it did to attend the one great race last Saturday night.
For those that live near Newton, IA, they have the luxury of picking which race they want to attend. For those of us that may be traveling great distances, of course we’re going to shell out the extra bucks to attend both races. That’s why we’re going, isn’t it – to attend races?
The logic is that if the track only holds 40,000 people, it would be better to sell 80,000 tickets than 40,000. It sounds simple enough, but will everyone buy tickets to both races? As I just mentioned, those that are covering a lot of ground to get there will, but how many drove two to three hours to go? Many probably passed up the cost of a hotel room and made a day trip out of it. Would they drive that distance two days in a row? Some die-hards might, but others won’t.
What about the on-track product? Teams were lucky in Texas, when only two cars crashed. They may not be so lucky in Iowa. Turn Two was merciless at Iowa as it ate several cars last Saturday night. Some of the larger teams would have little problem getting a backup ready for the next day, while others would have great difficulty. If Sebastian Saavedra were to repeat his Saturday night crash during the first race next year, I’m not sure that Conquest would have a car ready for him by the next day.
Another consideration for the on-track product is the quality of racing. Fans pay their good money to watch drivers hang it out on the ragged edge. They don’t expect to watch a parade of cars driven by drivers whose main goal is to keep the car off the wall so it’ll be around the next day.
Now that we’ve had a few weeks pass since the twin races at Texas, when I look back on that weekend, I feel as if that race was stolen from me. They took one of my favorite races of the season and split it up into two sideshows that had no rhythm or flow – just two sprint races that had no feel about them. I realize that a double-header at Iowa would be two full races run on consecutive days, but I’m just not sure how it would play out.
Texas and Iowa are both great events that don’t need to be spiced up. I don’t fault Randy Bernard for getting creative. That’s what he was hired to do and it’s one of his many strong suits. There are/were several events on previous IndyCar schedules that could have benefited greatly from this idea. Kansas and Homestead come to mind. Watkins Glen was another. But is the idea to prop up attendance and interest in tracks that need it or to capitalize on events that are already successful and make them that much better?
If the goal is to get closer to a 50/50 split between ovals and road courses, I think that is a cheesy way of doing it. I’ve heard some say that the IZOD IndyCar Series is having eighteen races this season – because they are counting the two races at Texas. I say there are seventeen. I count a weekend as an event, not how many races took place. If they truly want to get closer to an even split, go after more ovals.
I’ve heard Curt Cavin say that it’s not that easy – you can only go where you are wanted. Well, make them want you. Get creative on sanctioning fees. Let them know that this is not the same series that tracks chose to drop off their schedule a few years ago. It sounds like Fontana and Chicagoland may be a little closer to happening than they were a few months ago. If Las Vegas is a success, get in deeper with Bruton Smith and look at possible returns to tracks like Charlotte and/or Atlanta.
I’ll be the first to say the races were boring, but the series always had great attendance in Nashville. Al Unser, Jr. says that if they would diamond-groove the entire track, it could be a two-groove racetrack. Personally, I’d like to see that concrete surface replaced with asphalt, but that could be costly to a track that is struggling already.
But getting back to the idea of a double-header – I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, but I find myself coming up with more questions against it than reasons for it. I realize I’m an old grump that doesn’t like new ideas. I’d be willing to see the series try it once, but I hope they don’t get so entrenched with the idea that they think they have to stick with it no matter how much it fails. That has been Randy Bernard’s biggest attributes – he listens to fans and is not afraid to admit a mistake. Give him credit for trying.
*Please Note: There will be no post here on Monday July 4th. I’ll return here on Wednesday July 6th. I hope everyone has a safe and happy Fourth of July.