Thursday, April 18, 2013

Frenetic Friday -- Road Course Blues

Instead of going with a Long Beach preview (I'll go with a pre-game Saturday night or Sunday morning) I decided to resurrect Frenetic Friday for the first time in a while to comment about the idea Mark Miles is floating about ending the IndyCar season on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Miles' idea is to run it as a season finale in late August or early September, and start the season earlier in a series of international events. The hope is to avoid any issues with football while still getting a full season lasting several months. He also argues that bringing the race back to the center of IndyCar fandom (a large portion of it, that is) is a good thing, and since most teams are based in Indy it would be a cost-saving venture. At least that is the gist of it.

As Curt Cavin said in this Indy Star article today there are a ton of logistical roadblocks in the way of getting this to happen. Which is probably a good thing.

I'm opposed to this, but not for reasons that you may think. I mean, if you could put on the race and draw 100,000 people over the course of the weekend, it would be a good thing. Plus, while other people are against this just based on the sanctity that is IMS, I'm not. As I have stated before, I like the idea of IMS being used several times a year. After all, Daytona is used several times a year by various motorsports groups, and it doesn't take away from its flagship event.

Actually, my opposition comes from two main areas: 1) the road course sucks and 2) on principle alone I'm against ending the season with a twistie race.

Let's look at point number one. In the roughly 15 years the road course has put on a race, it has yet to provide anyone with the thrilling moments that we expect. In my mind, the mistake IMS made was keeping the four-holes that are part of the Brickyard Crossing golf course that sits in the infield intact.

I understand why, given the massive investment made in the course's redesign and the fact that squeezing those holes back outside the track probably couldn't be done. Although I played the course before the redesign and it was possible (the golf course on the inside at the time was a separate nine-hole track), it's just when Pete Dye gets his hands on a golf course you need a lot of real estate.

Still, the way the course is designed just isn't conducive to good racing. Maybe seeing the cars go two or three-wide screaming down the main straight away before diving into turn one would be cool, but outside of that I don't see a lot of passing happening.

What I wish the would have done was made the road course twist a little bit and exit back onto the track, say, in the middle of the back stretch, giving the course almost a full mile of total straightaway. Then it would be an interesting layout that would bring into play what we like about Indy. With a run from the middle of the backstretch all the way around to where it goes into that first right-hander near what is Turn 4, cars would get pretty cranked up and would require a lot of courage to dive under another car under braking.

Long story short, I hate the road course.

Point two is that the series has had some great luck when it comes down to championship battles the last several years, and those battles have been magnified because they have come on oval tracks. I don't see how it can get any better than Ryan Hunter-Reay rushing up from the 22nd starting position to win the title at Fontana, or the tension at Homestead in 2010 when Dario Franchitti took the title away from Will Power.

Sure, the twisties are an awesome product, but I don't think we could duplicate what we have had the last few years, and we shouldn't try to mess with that formula. Not only that, I will go all old school on you and say that IndyCars roots come from oval tracks, and that's how the season should finish.

Fortunately, it doesn't seem like it will happen, and if it does, we'll deal with it. I think what is interesting is how it's obvious that Mark Miles likes to think out loud -- a lot -- and I think he throws out ideas just to see the initial public perception. I'm sure it won't take him long to get a feel for what the public thinks about this one.

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