Should Double-Headers Stay Or Go?
The Verizon IndyCar Series just held their final double-header weekend of the season, with the Honda Indy Toronto. That’s now six in the past two seasons. After last season, I think most would agree that the jury was still out on the double-header concept but there seemed to be some optimism surrounding the idea of running two complete races in two days at a few events. After two full seasons of double-headers, I would say that the optimism from a year ago has waned.
Since the series is promoting them, I would have to imagine that very few participants would publically condemn the double-header concept. This is pure conjecture on my part, but I have a feeling what they say privately would be totally different.
By participants, I don’t mean just the drivers – I’m talking about the crew members, the officials, the members of the IMS Radio Network and the TV crews. I’m talking about everyone involved in the race. I’m only guessing, but I’m betting that practically everyone involved in putting on these races would prefer seeing the double-headers go away.
This is probably an unpopular notion in some circles, but I also think many of the fans might want to see them go away. So would I.
As a fan at home, I find it difficult to carve out time to watch two complete races on both weekend days. Although I am passionate about this sport and consider myself quite the die-hard; I do have other important things going on in my life besides racing. I’m at a nice age – my kids are grown and gone, but I have no grandchildren. I don’t spend my weekends at soccer fields and I have a wife who enjoys racing almost as much as I do. But I have yard work, household chores and other activities I would like to pursue on the weekends. But an IndyCar race in the middle of a Saturday afternoon and another on Sunday puts a lot of those activities on hold. My yard is in desperate need of mowing right now, but it didn’t get done because there were races scheduled for both days last weekend.
As a fan of the Verizon IndyCar Series, I don’t want to be force-fed two races in a weekend. I want there to be more venues. Let’s not lose sight of why there have been double-headers for the last two seasons. It’s because there aren’t enough venues that want to host an IndyCar race to fill up a schedule, so they’ve doubled up on a few weekends. They can spin it any way they want, but that was the only original reason.
Aside from the schedule maker, there is a select group that is heavily in favor of the double-header concept – the track promoters. They love the idea of a double-dip for obvious reasons. They get a lot bigger bang to offset the cost of putting a street race together. You’ll notice that’s where the double-headers take place – temporary street circuits; Belle Isle, Houston and Toronto.
I’ve always been a big fan of the IndyCar race at Toronto. But honestly, I don’t like watching even one race at Belle Isle – much less two in two days. The layout at Houston isn’t much better, but that event did produce two very entertaining races this season. But the racing gods smiled upon the series this year in Houston. It rained on Saturday and both days were cooler than most expected for late June in Houston. Most participants were dreading the twin-bill in Houston during that part of the calendar. Chances are, they won’t be so lucky in the future.
For a while now, 2014 has been referred to as a “transition season” for the Verizon IndyCar Series. The idea behind that has been that fans need to be patient throughout this year, while Mark Miles and Company get their plans fully in place. Supposedly, 2015 is the season that will make their stamp visible on the series. We already know that aero-kits will be coming next season. We also know that Cosworth has an engine ready to build, but I think most see that more as a 2016 possibility rather than next season. My hope is that we will see additional venues added to the schedule for next season.
For weeks, we’ve been hearing that Brazil will be announced “in a week or so” for March 8th of next year. With no announcement yet, I’m beginning to think it might not happen. Dubai has been mentioned as a possibility. I fully understand that these foreign races are big money-makers for the series, and that’s important. I get that. But I wish the domestic schedule would get more attention. The US races are what fans and most sponsors will benefit from. On my budget, I don’t have much of a chance of going to a race in Dubai, but I could certainly make it to Road America.
And while I’m on the subject of the schedule, I’m going to come close to saying I may have been wrong on something. For a few years, I was a proponent of the idea that the series should wrap up on Labor Day weekend, rather than go against the behemoth that is the NFL. I still think that it’s a mistake to carry the season into mid-to-late October, but with us still being in July and having only four races remaining – I’m beginning to re-think that stance.
I do think that the season should start earlier than March 30th, as it did this year. I say the series should concede whatever date the Daytona 500 runs, but that IndyCar should open their season the following week, whether that be late February or early March. This season, NASCAR already had five points-paying races under its belt before IndyCar even turned a wheel. Once things got going, the schedule was so compressed that it seemed the season was already halfway over before it even started.
Fans are the most important group to any racing series. But behind the fans, the second most important group are the crew members. They are sometimes overlooked, but the crew members that make up the teams are the backbone of the series. They are the ones that make things happen week after week. Some say that NASCAR teams do it week after week, IndyCar teams should as well. What a lot of people don’t realize is that in NASCAR, the crew that works on the car in the shop during the week are not the same guys that travel to the races and work on the weekends. But in IndyCar, the same group of guys that work on the car throughout the week then travels to the races. With few breaks in the schedule, the team members wear down. I think this season, with its compressed schedule, has been especially grueling on the crew members.
That’s why I think the double-headers need to go. To us fans, it’s an inconvenience to have to either give up both weekend days, or utilize the DVR and hope that someone doesn’t call or text you to celebrate or bemoan the results. But to the crew members – some of the unsung heroes of this sport – it’s much more than an inconvenience. It’s physically exhausting – and that’s even if the schedule stays in tact throughout the weekend and there is little damage to repair between races.
I’ve heard the arguments for the double-headers. Some say its better to watch a race on Saturday instead of practice. I will admit, I’ve never attended a double-header. But at Barber this year, there was more racing to watch than you could hope for – with all of the different series that were racing there. I think between the three days of racing, there was about an hour and a half total when there was no track activity. Maybe I’m way off target, but I have to think it is tiring to watch two IndyCar races in two days at these tracks.
Am I wrong on this? Am I the only one that feels this way? I’d like to hear the opinions of people like me that have had no involvement with double-headers other than watch from our couches. I would also like to hear from anyone that has been at attendance at any of the double-headers over the past two seasons. I’ll be curious to see if I’m the lone grump on this subject, or if many others feel as I do that this is an experiment that needs to come to a merciful end.