Three Disciplines

Posted by Iannucci | 2/25/2008 | 26 comments »
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Last night Mr George was answering a question about the future schedule of the series, and his response said they would look to balance the schedule with respect to the "three disciplines" of racing. I tried rewinding the DVR to see if those three were clearly defined, but they weren't.

If anyone saw the interview on "Wind Tunnel" last night, do you think he meant:
1. superspeedways
2. short ovals
3. road/street courses

... or did he mean:
1. ovals
2. road courses
3. and street courses?

Because if Mr George meant the latter, well, that would mean darn near BECOMING the series they just "acqiblendabsormergified".

Longtime readers (all named “John”) know that as an IRL fan I was never a proponent of a merger, but what happened last week was definitely not the merger for which everyone had been pleading. I'm not overly-hyped to see my favorite series add three more street races parades, but if it means adding a lot of skilled drivers for other races, creating a stronger open-wheel product, and ending the endless unification banter then yes, sign me up for that smokin' deal.

However, for the IndyCar series to head in the direction of systematically dropping ovals in favor of adding parades would be suicidal. That other series tried that, and obviously it didn't work out. Twice, actually. This is how we got here.

Recall this from 1995. "The purpose of the IRL is to provide growth, stability and opportunity for open-wheel, oval track racing." Remember this, Mr George? Wait, let me change that from being a question to: Remember this, Mr George!

Right now Helio and Danica are as recognizable as nearly any driver in this country and showcasing them in a unified series provides a huge opportunity to elevate the indyCar series like never before, but trying to make the racing product look more like F1 and less like the N-Word is snobbishly declaring you want to make more period pieces and less action flicks. I'm saying less "Atonement" and more "Spiderman", please. Remember this, Mr George.

26 comments

  1. Johnny // February 25, 2008 8:52 AM  

    As one of the "Johns" (which sounds like some kind of Live on 5 prostitution sting sweeps week hit piece) I'll weigh in on this by saying that right now there are just too many variables to even guess intelligently at the direction of race distribution. I think he meant oval, road and street, but maybe not necessarily an equal 33.3% distribution on each.

    I mean one group of zealots is going to label an over-reliance on ovals as NASCAR-lite where as the oval fans will dub too many twisty courses as F1-lite. A balance will be hard to achieve without some hard sales to the fan base.

    Honestly I don't think they know exactly what they're going to do with it yet because of a few key issues.

    1. Do the Beach Mafia and their puppet ISC begin to see a unified series as a threat and start making ovals they own (or have life and death influence over) more financially punishing and less attractive?

    2. Does Berne Ecclestone stay on the same insane path of removing every F1 event from the Western World and dumping it somewhere in Asia open up a huge international market for open wheel races that can be affordably attended?

    3. What does the new car entail? Will it be coupled with a rules package that allows for passing on courses with left and right hand turns?

    Until we, and the series principles, see the answer to these questions, it's all up in the air. It would be interesting to know if the "Street Fair" concept really did hold any water economically.

  2. John Edward // February 25, 2008 8:59 AM  

    As another one of the Johns, I think it's too early in the game for that. I think 2008 is going to be a big cluster***k because nobody is going to know what is where and how to fit part B into part A, but 2009 is a different matter... tabula rasa.

    Patience, this time, is a virtue.

  3. The American Mutt // February 25, 2008 9:00 AM  

    The only thing I can say for sure is we'll always have a home at Indy and SPARTA! The ongoing legal actions between Kentucky and Nascar almost certainly guarentee us a home there, but I wish ESPN would learn how to televise a race. If the leaders are lock step maybe look at some mid pack battles for position...

  4. pressdog // February 25, 2008 9:40 AM  

    More street/road courses is, in fact, a bad idea. And the IRL, CHIRL or whatever it is now needs to get itself sorted on the short ovals otherwise they're basically street races on an oval -- all passing is in the pits and on the restarts. Iowa, Nashvull. Fundamental truth that won't go away no matter how hard you ignore it: A strong 95% of Americans don't dig street/road races. The fact that I'm among the 5% who don't mind them don't make the reality any less real. Embrace reality, Chirl.

  5. The American Mutt // February 25, 2008 9:46 AM  

    A quick and dirty dream schedule by The Mutt:

    Ovals: (as little reliance on ISC as possible) Homestead, Chicago, Iowa, Texas, Indy (well duh), Kansas, Pocono (maybe), SPARTA!, MIS, Cali, Phoenix, Richmond, Mil, Motegi (so much for not to many ISC tracks)

    Roads: Long Beach, Cleveland, Watkins, Surfers, Toronto, (maybe) Edmonton, Mid Ohio (we kind of have to have this one), DITCH Sonoma, St Pete, Belle

    That's 12 and 9. A fair mix without overdoing it. I personally like watching both roads and ovals. If it's to be a viable product you can't over do it with the right turning though.

  6. Tabernerus // February 25, 2008 10:09 AM  

    I think the secret is to run road races rooted in American racing traditions. Many of America's early road racing venues were former (or active) airports and army bases. Cleveland is FULL of passing, because it's big, wide, and fast (insert Milka joke here). Edmonton has a similar feel, at times. Sebring would be a fun race, I think. Road America is a loooong, flowing course with some really fast secitons. I think laying out similar wide, fast courses on airports and bases is a way to go road racing, but with a distinctly American feel, which is what this is supposed to partly be about. I realize that there will be other types of tracks. Mid-Ohio is highly technical, and Toronto is a tight track. If both draw well, great! But if the bulk of the road racing is on fast, wide circuits, I think even oval-lovers will tolerate, and maybe even like it. Come on, Cleveland's a frickin' blast!

  7. Tabernerus // February 25, 2008 10:17 AM  

    Also, the next car will have a ton to do with the schedule. A car with less aero help will make oval racing less tight, but the need to hustle, slide, and control the car through corners will allow more overtaking on road courses. Striking a balance between the two packages will be key to future success. I think with more overtaking, road racing will be much more palatable to oval fans.

    Also, with regard to "disciplines," I think that a.) TG is not the man he was in 1994, and b.) while there are three types that must be features, a split of 12 ovals, 4 roads, and 4 streets is a "balanced" schedule that addresses the three disciplines, and still leaves ovals and the central format. Even better would be a 22-race season with a 12/5/5 split. Let's say:

    Indy, Homestead, Michigan, Fontana, Texas, Richmond, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Motegi, Charlotte, and Lausitz for the ovals.

    Road America, Daytona, Infineon, Watkins Glen, and Mid-Ohio for road courses.

    Edmonton, Cleveland, Long Beach, Surfers, and Toronto, for street races.

    I know this omits St. Pete, and a few other fun venues, but it'd be a fun, balanced start.

    Also, what about the Indy road course? If part of the IRL's mission was to make Indy the true capital of American motorsports, why not run a second race there on the road course? Any reason it CAN'T work?

  8. mmack // February 25, 2008 10:24 AM  

    Johnny,

    I subscribe to the view of another poster on RacingStalkers.com: If the new IRL starts gaining increased ratings, then the ISC pulls out their tracks.

  9. Edmund // February 25, 2008 10:30 AM  

    I second the motion to include the Indy road course on the IRL schedule. I have thought this was a no brainer since they built it for Bernie, and especially now that the F1 kaiser is out of the picture, replace the fall date with an IRL race.

  10. Tabernerus // February 25, 2008 10:30 AM  

    Keep in mind that ISC hasn't truly had to weather an anti-trust suit. They bought their way out of the Texas problem, and in the case of Kentucky, the case suffered when Kentucky switched from asking for a race date to asking that the France family sell either NASCAR or ISC. Also, an anti-trust suit is much easier to pursue when you're a competitor than when you're a potential partner.

    Besides, if NASCAR does retract a bit to appease core fans, they may need someone to fill dates at some tracks.

  11. Johnny // February 25, 2008 10:41 AM  

    Edmund:

    The "Fall" Speedway date on the road course is a MotoGP race, and you can probably plan on it being on the schedule for a while.

  12. Tabernerus // February 25, 2008 10:43 AM  

    Could they run in tandem with MotoGP, as a "dual-main" weekend? If you make it a festival of motorsports, with an IPS race thrown in for good measure, that'd be one HECK of a racing party.

  13. Johnny // February 25, 2008 10:57 AM  

    Tabernus:

    Nope, that won't work. The FIM restrictions as to practice time and qualifying are really strict, so it would be hard to sandwich something like that in there. Plus I'm not sure you'd want to have competing headliners like that. The huge MotoGP draw at Indy is that unlike at Laguna Seca, the series is bringing their wildly popular 125/250 cc support series with them. Plus for the foreseeable future, I believe Chicago is slated as the last race of the year, and I'm not sure I'd want to go too deep in the year waiting for that because of the possibility of inclement weather.

  14. the american mutt // February 25, 2008 11:45 AM  

    Part of Chicagos contract requires it to be the season finale, just as Homestead is first. I'm against running the road course at Indy. A: It'd detract from the 500 B: It'd probably split some of the fans up. I would go to both races (if economically possible), but I tend to think a lot the fan base wouldn't. I tend to think, regardless of the fate of open wheel, that Nascars popularity will be in the decline of the next ten years. They jumped the shark years ago, plateaued, and a great deal of their fan base are fickle and will lose interest. They've also alienated a large percentage of their original core fans. Just my opinion.

  15. Johnny // February 25, 2008 12:44 PM  

    NASCAR has certainly alienated many fans, their ratings were off like 20% last year. Which means that ovals in key markets could be a great outreach for those eyes and dollars.

  16. faniqgearhead // February 25, 2008 1:30 PM  

    I'm not one of the "Johns," but I like at least some balance to give the series a hook: the champion must be able to turn left AND right to win. Obviously, reality dictates more ovals than roadies, but the roadies can work at respectible, traditional venues (the Long Beaches, Torontos, and Clevelands).

    As for ISC, I don't trust them either, but I don't think they'll be a problem for a few years yet. The new IRL's growth is going to be slow, so in the short run, ISC shouldn't see it as a threat. Or maybe they will cause it's ISC. Now I have a headache.

  17. SS Minnow // February 25, 2008 1:33 PM  

    tabernus-
    I live in Charlotte and can tell you that with almost certainty that IRL will never race here again. After "the split", the 1999 incident here in Charlotte created such an uproar and an anti-open wheel sentiment not only with "racin'" fans but with Humpy himself. He vowed that "one of those cars will never race on this track again." As another point of reference: The Charlotte Observer's only mention of the unification (or whatever we're calling it these days) was an oddly written observation from John Andretti:

    ****Andretti lauds open-wheel deal

    Given the history of his racing family, John Andretti had more than a passing interest in Friday's news that the Indy Racing League and Champ Car finally reached a deal to reunify open-wheel racing in America.

    Andretti, the nephew of IndyCar legend Mario Andretti, said he thinks NASCAR provides the obvious model. "You want to see Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte, all of them go head-to-head every week," John Andretti said. "You don't want to see them once a year or at the end of the season. That's the difference." *****

    Laud: Praise, glorification

    Really???

    Anyway, long, off-tangent rant about AOW coverage in my turf. The only hope (and very, very slim) of an OW race around here anytime soon would be at "The Rock" which was recently purchased by Andy Hillenburg.

    Anyone have any extra cash laying around and would like to invest in building a track? Maybe I'll call Rusty.

  18. Tabernerus // February 25, 2008 1:39 PM  

    ss minnow:

    Yeah, good point. I forgot about that particular event (squashed it into a locked file, along with Scott Brayton and Greg Moore). Yeah, so no to Charlotte. Racing at the Rock might be fun, particularly if the surface is still sandpaper. :-)

    On a tangent, how many races do folks think an ideal season would include? Assume that five years from now, there are plenty of drivers who want in, and plenty of competent teams, and plenty of sponsors to pay the bills. The TV ratings are great, and ESPN is giving a great TV package. Lots of trakcs want them, and the new chassis an engine packages, featuring several competitive manufacturers for each, are developing nicely, and provide great racing both on ovals and road course. Assume ALL of that. How many races in the perfect schedule? I'd say 22 to 24 is a great window. Does anybody prefer more, like say 30? Does anybody think it shouldn't go over 20? Just curious.

  19. SS Minnow // February 25, 2008 2:03 PM  

    tabernus-
    If given that "utopia", I'd like 24 or so. After that, you can argue the season gets too stretched out. Money is going to be the big issue, like you alluded to. If they had 30 would I watch them? You bet, but would the "casual" fan everyone keeps speaking of? Not so sure unless the NFL suffers some serious hits.

    As for the ideal schedule, I did like Oreo's column speaking to the variety of tracks that could be possibilities. How long would it take to establish a marquee event? 3-4 years? Maybe less in some cases? Try a few out and see what happens. I like all the "disciplines" and would like to see some of the "old guard" make it back into the lineup. Hmmmm. Maybe I should have been following CART/CCWS all these years.

    Anyway, can't remember when I've had this much fun talking about AOW racing before a single, competitive (for all you anal ones) lap has been recorded.

    "Not A John"

  20. mmack // February 25, 2008 3:34 PM  

    "You want to see Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte, all of them go head-to-head every week," John Andretti said. "You don't want to see them once a year or at the end of the season. That's the difference."

    It's pretty easy to see The Annointed Son, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, and Jimmie Johnson every week John because NASCAR SETS THE POINTS SYSTEM TO HAVE THE TOP 35 CARS IN THE RACE!!!!

    psst! John? That's the same system that has kept you OUT of races.

    Of course, in the N-word series we never have drivers pulled out of cars because they didn't bring a sponsor along, do we Mr. Villeneuve?

  21. John Edward // February 25, 2008 3:40 PM  

    I wish I'd won the 250million mega lottery instead of that couple down in Georgia. I know exactly what I'd do... JV would be back in the IRS. I'd make him an offer he couldn't refuse.

    take THAT N-word!

  22. Tabernerus // February 25, 2008 3:51 PM  

    Before we beat the Top-35 dead horse, a quick thought. What's gonna happen when a full-series driver gets bumped from Indy because they haven't had enough time to get their Dallara sorted on big ovals, since they didn't race at Motegi? This will be a team, incidentally, getting series funding in exchange for running a full season. It could even be someone with some fan following in a market IndyCar hopes to tap soon. Will the 25/8 rule make a comeback?

    Specifically, I'm wondering what they do when Alex Tagliani, running for PKV, gets bumped by Buddy Lazier in a well-sorted Panther ride, or when Phil Giebler in a Playa Del ride bumps Oriol Servia? It's a potential hiccup for the IRL. I'm honestly not sure how I feel. I hate the Top-35 rule, because I firmly believe that the fastest drivers available should make the field, but there'll be pressure to have the series regulars in the field. Yikes!

  23. The American Mutt // February 25, 2008 4:07 PM  

    Tabernus,

    That's all part of the excitement of bump day, at least it used to be. There was a race back in either the 70s or 80s where due to multiple hicups, Penske had to pack it up and go home.

  24. crimsonace // February 25, 2008 7:01 PM  

    The race where Penske had to pack up and go home was in 1995 ... the last pre-split 500.

  25. Edmund // February 25, 2008 8:06 PM  

    First, HUGE Penske fan here.....that said...

    I have always thought that 1995 represented the pinnacle of modern open wheel racing in the US BECAUSE a team like Penske did not make the field. Was I disappointed that "my" team didn't make the race? Of course. Did I watch the race anyway? Yes. Did I come away from the season with an greatly heightened appreciation for the challenge of Indycar racing? You better believe it.

  26. mmack // February 27, 2008 7:12 AM  

    Tabernerus,

    The last time someone tried to "stack the deck" at Indianapolis, we had the 25/8 rule, and we ALL know how that ended!

    I prefer the way it has been, save for a few years in the late 1990's: Go fast or go home. The big news of 1995 WAS the defending 500 champion going home, which had NEVER happened in an Indianapolis 500 before. True, in the past drivers had retired after winning the 500 (Sam Hanks did in Victory Lane in 1957), but until 1995 if the defending champ WANTED to qualify, he had made the field. It showed that even with cubic $$$$$, nothing is certain at Indianapolis.

    If the old saying that "sports is a microcosm of life" is true, then nothing is a given and on "Any given Sunday", anything can and should happen.

    Ya' pays yer entry fee and ya' takes yer chances!