Caution In the Parking Lot

Posted by Iannucci | 8/14/2006 | 4 comments »
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For whatever reason, the Indy Racing League is choosing to announce dates for races next season individually. So far, we have Indianapolis, Milwaukee and Iowa confirmed with other dates very likely but not etched in stone.

With one of three additional tracks confirmed (Iowa), the anticipation remains on the other two (Detroit and Los Angeles). The Labor Day weekend is still open and probably going to Detroit, but we shall see. The remaining curiosity is a possible season opening street-style circuit constructed in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium. The Indy Star has a one sentence update.

IRL president Brian Barnhart said a proposed temporary road course race around Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles "remains 50-50" for next season.

The addition of that course might end up being the lesser of two evils for the IRL. Teams have grumbled that sponsors (potential and otherwise) are unhappy the league lacks representation in the Southwest, virtually abandoning fans in the major media markets of L.A., San Diego, Phoenix, and Las Vegas. (As a resident of the Valley of the Sun I can tell you the 12-hour trek to either Texas or Infineon is a major deterrent to seeing a race.)

So at first glance a race in Southern California would provide not just good regional exposure, but also server as a shot across the bow at Champ Car who also open the season with their biggest even in Long Beach. Sounds good, right? Yes, except for the part about having the race in a parking lot.

The IRL has built its marketing around precision racing from both men and women, an unbelievable 220-MPH frenzy of side-by-side competition. Starting the season off with a stop-and-turn road course in SoCal sets the wrong tone for the league since there are only three other road/street courses on the schedule (four if Detroit is added). What's more, Champ Car probably has a lot more of the kinks worked out with their Long Beach course, which would actually make the IRL look bad comparatively. If sponsors want publicity so bad, are they willing to take BAD publicity?

A return to the 2-mile oval in Fontana would seem more competent, but evidently it suffered from small crowd syndrome. That of course was BD (Before Danica), but if internal polling numbers indicated a likely rise in attendance we would have heard about Fontana a bit more.

As it stands, Dodger Stadium seems to be the all-or-nothing proposition for the Southwest in 2007. All we have is a 50-50 shot at a parking lot, and I'm just not sure which "50" I'm supposed to hope is the winner.

4 comments

  1. Joe // August 14, 2006 6:10 PM  

    I still think the logical place for the IRL to run the week after the Indy 500 was Fontana. You can only have one race after Indy, why not have it in the nation's second largest media market?

  2. Jeff Iannucci // August 14, 2006 7:11 PM  

    I can see that from a marketing persepctive, but I'm pretty sure inland California is kinda toasty in early June. Plus going from 33 to 18 cars is a lot more apparent on a two-mile tack than say the one-mile at Milwaukee. Then there's the cross-country haul in a week with little time for local publicity. (I'm not piling on here, honest.)

    I think Fontana would be a great place to start or finish the season, but that bridge seems to have been burned in the great schism. Too bad since it's a fun track.

  3. Joe // August 15, 2006 6:20 AM  

    It was 95 degrees at 6pm in Ontario CA this past year, though it was 73 the year before. The seasonal average is a high of around 85 degrees, which doesn't seem too bad.

    You can't start or end the IndyCar season at Fontana because NASCAR's already got late February and Labor Day dates, which is too close to the start/end of the IndyCar season. Throw in competing with Long Beach and a night race in June seems like the best option.

    Marketing? It's perfect. The Indy 500 winner does two days in New York, then flies cross-country to LA.

    Speaking of cross country, NASCAR goes from Daytona to Fontana in back-to-back weeks. Why can't the IRL? The cars would stay very similar for the teams, with both tracks being superspeedway cars. They could have their Fontana primary car be their Indy backup.

  4. WillinSacto // August 15, 2006 1:15 PM  

    BS. They can open the season in mid-to late March at Fontana. There are enough people in SoCal who would go. Trust me as a native Californian, their is no such thing as oversaturation in CA.

    Besides, IndyCar is different than NASCAB. Different strokes for different folks.