Saturday, August 8, 2015

Road America...Finally!

Like many of you, I was thrilled to see that Road America will be part of the IndyCar schedule next season. The 4-mile, 14-turn circuit in east-central Wisconsin was a stalwart on the schedule for 25 years, and it is hard to believe the series hasn't run there since 2007.

I know I had played it off in recent posts, both here and on social media, mostly because I was a bit skeptical of it happening. But now that is has, I can't be more excited and look forward to heading up there next June.

My attitude about it was this: it would be nice if it happened, but it's not a make or break thing for me. Now that it is happening, though, it's kind of like when you haven't seen a friend in a long time: you talk about how having not seen them in a while is no big deal, but when you do finally see them you realize how much you missed them.

In my opinion (and I am biased towards all things Midwest, BTW), Road America is the best road course in the country, and for anyone who is a fan of natural road courses, it should be in their top five. What I like about the course is that even with 14 turns there are some sections on it that are very, very fast. Dario Franchitti's track record of one minute, 39.866 seconds translates out to 145 miles per hour. For a road course, that is super fast.

And to go that fast, you have to have a lot of technical skill, which means the course does what a race track is supposed to do, identify the best driver. If you go to Racing Reference and view the list of open wheel winners, it's a pretty impressive list. As a fan of the sport since they began racing there, I remember some pretty epic races, and with the series the way it stands now, it should be a really awesome race next year too.

Make no mistake, though, beyond the racing part of it, this is a huge step forward for IndyCar. There is no denying that at its core, IndyCar is a business, and the series has had to scratch and claw mightily to find good partners to do business with. It took a long time, but Road America has finally decided that IndyCar is now a good partner, and hopefully that gives confidence to other tracks (like, say, Phoenix, Michigan or even Chicagoland) to maybe open the lines of communication a little bit more.

I think this is also a big step forward for IndyCar management. I know the thought of this pains many of you, but credit here goes to Mark Miles, Derrick Walker and the rest of the series' staff for getting this done. I've never really understood the hatred for Miles, anyway. Every single metric you can think of shows that this series is on the rise, yet people still think the guy should be fired.

Is the series in better shape now than it was two years ago? You bet, and no matter where else you decide to deflect the credit, it points to having the right people in place to get the job done. Over the last couple of years, Mark Miles maybe hasn't done what you've wanted him to do, but that's not his job. His job is to grow the business of IndyCar, and he has done that. So even if you have to cross your fingers behind your back to do it, give him a tip of the cap for this one.

I'll end this post like I have many times in the past, IndyCar fans. You wanted it, you've got it. All I've heard for years and years is "Road America needs to be on the schedule!". Well, it's here, and with 10 1/2 months until race day (June 26), you have no excuses to not support this race. It's put up or shut up time...again! IndyCar gave you what you wanted, and now it's time to do your job. Show up, and not just next year as a one and done thing, make this, and other races, a part of your summer schedule.

Given the rise in attendance and TV viewership, a lot of you have been doing that, but we have to keep it going. I know I have said it before, but if you are looking back to the 1990s for the "glory days" of this series, you are missing out on what the future holds. IndyCar is as poised as ever to start working its way back to those days, we as fans just have to keep working hard and doing our part to help make it happen.

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