Should IndyCar Run A Second Race At IMS?
If you listened to Trackside the other night, you heard the discussion towards the end of the show where Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee both brought a list of ideas that could possibly help grow the IZOD IndyCar Series. Granted, this was essentially a brainstorming session where no idea is discounted. That’s what brainstorming is all about – all ideas are considered.
Kevin Lee came up with what he admitted was an idea he wasn’t really sold on. He was just throwing it out there, knowing that a lot of people would consider it a sacrilege. The idea was adding a second IndyCar race each year at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
A few years ago, I wrote a post on three things you would never see at IMS. For the record, the three things were; 1) NASCAR stars would not run the Indianapolis 500. 2) There would never be lights at IMS and 3) There would never be an IndyCar race on the road course at IMS. Point number one may be safe, but two and three may be in jeopardy.
When I wrote that post in May of 2010, Tony George was still in charge of IMS and IndyCar. George is now out of the picture and a revamped board is making all decisions regarding the series and the speedway. In a nutshell – all bets are now off. With financial assistance from the State of Indiana, it now looks as if lights will be added to the historic facility at some point in the not so distant future. If longstanding policies such as not accepting public funds or not holding a night race out of respect of the speedway’s neighbors can be abandoned – what makes anyone think that running a second IndyCar race at IMS couldn’t happen?
While die-hard traditionalists like myself cringe at such a thought – let’s take the traditionalist point of view out of the discussion for a moment. The question is; would it be a good business decision? Another question would be; would it be another oval race with a shorter distance, or would they utilize the road course that Formula One used?
If I were told that I had to run a second race there, I think I would choose the road course as the second race – otherwise, you are diluting your primary attraction; the Indianapolis 500. Make the races as different as possible, while still utilizing the same facility.
While decent tickets to the 500 are easier to come by than they used to be – the best seats are closely held by families year after year. One of these years, I’ll own seats in EE Stand – but there aren’t too many of those available currently. Although I’d never pass up the 500 for a second oval race in the fall, there are many that would. Some may pass on the May race, in order to get much better tickets for an almost identical race that runs only 400 miles later in the season.
I will always opt for the tradition of the Indianapolis 500. If there was the “Lucas Oil 400 at Indianapolis” later in the season, I may or may not make the trek a few months later. Living four hours away, I can’t promise I would come back to see a lesser version at the same venue.
The argument for “the month of May” all these years has been that this is such a difficult track, that teams and drivers need all of those extra days of practice to be ready for race day. Would a September race on the oval at Indianapolis demand the same amount of practice time or would they simply unload on Saturday and race on Sunday with regular qualifying procedures used at all the other tracks? That kind of makes the full week of practice in May seem rather pointless.
I may be a little more likely to attend an IndyCar road race at Indianapolis than a second oval race – just for the novelty of it if nothing else. Of course, the novelty may wear off after the first or second year. Still, it’ll be unique to see those same cars we saw in May, running the opposite direction down the straightaway just a few months later.
The first year, it would probably be a moneymaker for the speedway. There would be enough a curiosity factor that a lot of people would want to attend. The question then would be; how racy would the road course be for the DW12? So far, it has not proven to be a great design for good racing. Cars meander through the road course portion in a single file parade before running through the south end and a large portion of the front-stretch before diving back onto the road course portion. Most passing would take place on the oval portion, which would be a good thing since that is where most of the fans would be located. But if there are few passing opportunities in the first year, I suspect that ticket sales would fall off dramatically in year two.
But the biggest question is how would a second IndyCar race at IMS affect the main event – the Indianapolis 500? Ideally fans would attend both. If not, it would be good that the second race brought new fans that did not attend the 500. What would be bad would be for fans opting to attend the second race instead of the Indianapolis 500. If the result of a second race at IMS is that there are a lot of empty stands for the television cameras to see at the 500 – then they have totally defeated the purpose.
I’m not sure this could be avoided. With the 500, Belle Isle, Milwaukee, Iowa and Mid-Ohio already on the schedule; there are plenty of races in the Midwest. Can the market support another one? Plus, there is the question of where to put such a race on the schedule. On the current schedule, the logical place would be in late September. That would allow the series to finish the season on the oval at Fontana. The Indianapolis weather is still nice in September, but I wonder if October might be a little iffy. You would have to have it as far from May as possible. Of course, in September they would be going up against the Colts.
Would this be in addition to the MotoGP race or instead of it? Could you really expect central Indiana to support four events at IMS? That’s a tall order in regions far more populated than Indiana.
I can appreciate Kevin Lee’s creativity. I’m also glad he threw out the caveat that this was just an idea and not anything he was an advocate for. From a business standpoint, I’m not sure that this is an idea that IMS or IndyCar should pursue unless it was a one-time deal. As an annual event, I think it could do more harm than good in the long run.
And as a traditionalist…yes, I find it blasphemous.
Please Note – Susan and I are travelling this weekend. Therefore, there will not be anything posted here next Monday March 4th. I will return here on Wednesday March 6th. I hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable weekend. And remember – three weeks from this weekend is the season-opener in St. Petersburg.