Thursday, September 26, 2013

Racing on the Road Course? Wow!

And I'm back! (Again!)

So my hiatus ends after 93 days...I hope no one took it personally. It was a busy summer for me, and something had to give. Between a couple of vacations, work, the start of school (for the kids, not me) and training for a marathon (which I have been blogging about instead), I got a little bit overextended.

And frankly, this had stopped being fun. I'm not going to get into reasons why, which is also why I didn't see the need to actually announce my hiatus in order to find out how many people loved me. I simply needed a break.

Which may continue after this post, I don't know, but today's news about IndyCar racing on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to start next month is intriguing enough to get me in front of the keyboard.

Oh crap, you know what I just thought? In 2014 there will be 18 days in May...not 15. Ugh, I'm outdated.

Anyway, I think this was a move we all saw coming from the time Mark Miles mentioned the possibilities and Graham Rahal and Ryan Briscoe showed up to do some testing. It looks like it will be May 8-10, with the race set to go on Saturday afternoon.

I can see both sides of this coin, but I have to say I am interested in next week's official announcement -- meaning I want to see the improvements they plan on making before I set my opinion in stone. One thing for sure, the road course needs to change. In it's current configuration, it's a dog. There needs to be more straights and braking zones in order to set up more passing. That's a no-doubter. It has to be super fast too. After all, this is Indianapolis!

Not to mention, I think there needs to be more seating throughout the course. In the current configuration, the cars go down the front straight and disappear into the infield, which I guess would work if there were better video screens and other options to watch the race. Plus, I think that some people would like to sit in other areas of the course. If there is another passing zone added in the back 40, I bet that would be a popular spot.

I think if done right this could be a success, albeit so long as we keep our expectations low. There aren't going to be 100,000 people there for the race, although maybe in three days' time perhaps that many people will show up in total. And it is going to look weird with 30,000 people there on race day in a cavernous, 240,000 seat stadium. Sort of like the Nationwide race.

On a tangent...send them back to IRP. Stat.

I know a lot of people are already pooh-poohing the idea, and they have their reasons. But this whole idea of it devaluing the 500 is bunk. The 500 is the 500, and over a century of tradition is not going to do anything to the event. There will still be almost a quarter-million people in the stands on race day (which is my birthday, BTW), and it will be a great show as always.

I know it's apples to oranges, but my opinion on the road course changed when I was in Daytona for the Coke Zero 400 back in July. If you remember, I also went to the Daytona 500 in February.

I'll be honest, I thought both events were awesome...and here's why. Because they were different. Different distances, different ways of qualifying, one race was in the day and another at night. In fact, I liked the Coke Zero 400 a little better, to be honest. Daytona pops a little bit more at night, and outside of getting home at 2:30 a.m. I just enjoyed the experience a little bit more.

So in my opinion, for the road course to succeed, it has to be different. It has to be something that is totally, 180 degrees from the 500. That's what people will embrace the most. No doubt qualifying will be different with the Firestone Fast 6, but with the long straight in play we could have a pretty good standing start and a lot of room for double-file restarts. That could be fun.

And here's the deal: if they make the right changes to the course, the drivers will put on a great show, because they always do. Color me one of those people that is starting to enjoy the twisties a lot more over the last couple of years. They have been awesome, and don't you think running the road course will jack the drivers up a little bit more?

I know I've mentioned this before: I'm a college dropout who works in IT and does writing on the side. I know nothing about business models, TV ratings, sponsor activation or any of the other stuff people talk on Twitter about. Honestly, I don't care about that stuff because I do my part. I go to races and I buy stuff and I watch the races on TV. I do all that I can control.

Yes I know all of that has to happen for the series to survive, but whatever happens, happens. All I care about is The Show, I'll just keep watching the series until it's no longer around.

I love this series because the drivers are awesome both on and off the track and right here, right now they put on one of  the best shows in the world. Hell, at this point I'd watch them race around the Castleton Mall.

You guys know, I'm not a cheerleader, I sit squarely in the middle. I just don't get how to some every decision IndyCar makes is life or death. But I also know we aren't like NASCAR, we don't have billions of dollars to play with, a monstrous TV and advertising package, and sponsors waiting at the door to write big checks. In IndyCar people need to come up with creative ideas in order to keep the series moving forward. Some work, some don't.

Give things time. Two years ago I remember people calling the DW12 a dog because ballast problems were causing the car big problems. Last year I remember others saying the doubleheaders would never work. If you looked at everything in an objective manner (as I do a lot because half the time that is my job), IndyCar has hit on a lot more than it has missed in the last couple of years. They have to take chances and have to do things a little differently, because how was what they were doing in the early part of the Millenium working? It wasn't. The folks who ran the series at the time thought...this is Indy, we'll build it, and they will come. They were narrow-minded and couldn't come up with an original idea to save their lives.

This group of people are different. Have they made some mistakes? Oh yeah, and a couple of bad ones. Don't even get me started on race control (who I think on the whole do a great job but have made some whoppers of controversial decisions lately), and the constant delaying of the schedule, and the ambiguity that is accompanying it, which is maddening. Speaking of the schedule, the month-long break is killing me too!

(For the record, I am for a February to Labor Day setup. Lots of sports survive with a 6-month break)

Still, I don't think that this is going to be a bad decision. It might take some time to get used to, but in the end it just may work.And if it doesn't, it doesn't. Life will go on, and we'll race another day.