A trip to the Barber

Posted by Iannucci | 3/24/2009 | 10 comments »
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The one thing P2 wanted more than anything this Christmas was an iCoaster. He figured he could build any coaster he wanted to, with all kinds of crazy flips and jumps and magnet-enhanced defiance of gravity, all together with lights and music. It was like a 21st Century Red Ryder BB Gun to the boy, as he thought about it and mentioned it in all days leading up the Christmas.

On the blessed day he unwrapped it, and filled with glee he put together his first iteration of the musical marble fiesta, sat a back, and...well, cue the Peggy Lee "Is That All There Is" because after about 10 minutes of watching marbles go around and around he hasn't touched it since.

This, sadly, is what comes to mind when I think about while reading all of these glowing reports about what a wonderful facility the have down at Barber Motorsports Park.

Tons of fans, a beautiful facility, and eager ownership group, and a populous locale not yet explored by the IRL - it would seem Barber would be the perfect fit for the IndyCar series schedule in Spring or Fall. And yet \the entire proposition may as well be determined by one singular issue. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr Scott Dixon.

"It's fast and it's a blast to drive but it's only one groove so it would be cool if there were a couple of places to pass."

Despite all of the gorgeous amenities, it seems the largest problem with this track is that it's been designed for motorcycles. You might note those machines are a little more narrow than a typical IndyCar setup. I was watching this video over at Furious Wedge and it seems the long sweeping footage they keep showing looks a lot like a reverse version of the carousel turn at Infini-yawn, and there ain't no passing to be had there.

Sure does look pretty, though.

If you're sitting around paying $10 for an IndyCar test session you're probably getting your money's worth. You get to meet the drivers, see and hear their racecars, basically get everything but actual racing. Unfortunately putting all of the cars on the track at once and raising the price by a factor of five to ten doesn't guarantee you would actually get to witness passing, not on a course like this.

Look, the series will not sink or swim based on whether Barber gets a race, and if they are, as John Oreovicz writes, willing to do "whatever it takes" to modify the track to invite a little passing here and there then they should be seriously considered. It just seems like a bad idea to get all hot and bothered for adding this track before those changes are made. How about first we wait and see if this track can be made race-worthy, because there aren't many fans that will pay money to sit around and watch cars race around without passing. There aren't many here in America that will watch it for far less on TV either.

On a related note, kudos to N/H/L for, if only for one weekend, bumping AGR out of the proverbial Big Three. As a consequence Rahal and Doornbos are probably doing their own lobbying to get this circuit added to the 2010 schedule.


  1. pressdog // March 25, 2009 2:30 AM  

    Yes, exactly. I'm sure everyone in AL is fabulous and Barber is scenic as heck, and the ownership is incredibly wonderful, but a track that makes pretty impossible to "overtake" sucks, even if it's paved in diamonds. Change your track so IndyCars can pass each other and then we'll talk.

  2. Anonymous // March 25, 2009 5:39 AM  

    The track is 45 feet wide all the way round. Every car series that has raced there says it will be difficult to pass, and then they actually race and find there are plenty of passing opportunities.

  3. The American Mutt // March 25, 2009 7:40 AM  

    "It's fast and it's a blast to drive but it's only one groove so it would be cool if there were a couple of places to pass."

    What does he care? It's not like he passes anybody on the track anyway.

  4. Johnny // March 25, 2009 7:56 AM  

    Look, even 1000cc Superstock bikes had outpaced this track before they killed the class. Barber also promised the FIM changes to the track and facilities to get WSBK and MotoGP and you see how far that went. This is just another bit of wishful thinking from the Barber PR machine to willing IRL ears yearning to hear *anything* resembling good news.

  5. The American Mutt // March 25, 2009 9:01 AM  

    This is, I think, a good time to open the floor for a conversation I'm trying to start. Are the road courses THAT boring, OR are we bored because like oval races, ESPN just can't televise sports on any level. Their coverage of football sucks, from what I've heard their coverage of Napcar is equally crap, SO, the question I've been pondering lately is this: were there amazing battles for position on road courses that we simply didn't see? As I've stated, I went to the 07 (and will be going every year now) race in Kentucky. I saw an amazing race filled with constant battles, then I saw the coverage of it and was bored. Who's to say road courses aren't the same thing. The top five cars aren't going to do much. Simply put they're all about equal in terms of what the car will do, and since passes are even more risky on roads, they're likely to just chill out and try and bump their position in the pits (I'm looking at you Dixon), but doesn't it seem odd that the rest of the field is usually wildly different by the end of the race than the beginning? I realize pits are going to play into that, but I can't believe there aren't tier two teams battling it out on every road course.

    The question then, to restate it, is; Are they boring races, or are they boring broadcasts? I've never been to a road race so I couldn't say for sure. Although if they bring Cleveland back I may consider it.

  6. Johnny // March 25, 2009 9:35 AM  

    As someone who has been to multiple roadraces of various disciplines at Barber, they're all pretty boring there. Mid-Ohio and Road Atlanta are quite a bit better for bikes and ALMS, but the Mid O Indy show isn't all that hot. Bottom line, these cars weren't designed to be lithe street fighters and simply don't have the capicity to put on that great a race as such on a road/street course.

  7. The American Mutt // March 25, 2009 10:05 AM  


    Well said. Is that problem that can be fixed with a new chasis, or has Indycar just outgrown such narrow road courses?

    ESPN still sucks.

  8. The SpeedGeek // March 25, 2009 10:57 AM  

    I'm with Johnny on that one. The current IndyCars aren't the best ever road racing vehicles ever built (a little underpowered, a little too wide), but there's no reason we can't still be somewhat entertained by their road races. I've watched plenty of good road course races, several in person (at Road America, Cleveland, Mid-Ohio, and probably a couple of others) and about 54,000 of them on TV. F1 coverage, I think, is a great example of a series that looks great on TV, unless there's literall no passing going on at all (I'm thinking of Barcelona races here). Many of the races are parade-ish, passing-as-rare-as-hensteeth affairs, but they way Speed does their coverage, you don't spend much time thinking about that. Varsha, Hobbs and Matchett do such a great job setting up the action and explaining what's going on (i.e. doing more than explaining when drivers are actually "just a passenger"), that you forget (or at least, I do) that you haven't seen an on-track pass for the lead in over a month. There's really no reason that IndyCar road races, even at places like Snorenoma, shouldn't be the same. I'm really hopeful that Versus can do the job of building general fans' knowledge of the sport past "this is the top level of open wheel racing in America, and one of the drivers is that girl from Sports Illustrated" and get into the nuts, bolts and strategy of what we're all looking at. ESPN used to do that, once upon a time, but gave up on it years ago.

    I could probably do a whole blog post about that, 'cept I've got a super-bad case of black mold over there. I log into Blogger and just start coughing uncontrollably.

  9. Anonymous // March 25, 2009 12:17 PM  

    I've been to the Long Beach G.P. and Belle Isle, and YES, they are very boring. IMO, I believe it is because you can only see 10% of the track. Would you go to a NFL or NBA game if you could only see 10% of the field/court? I'd prefer to watch the roadcourses on TV since you see more action. I'm an F1 fan as well, and as SpeedGeek said, their coverage makes the races exciting to watch.
    I do prefer ovals to the roadcourses, but with good coverage, announcers, etc. the same could be done for the IRL.

  10. Johnny // March 26, 2009 6:58 AM  


    The new chassis may improve things at *some* courses, maybe Mid O or Long Beach, but cars that have to do oval duty as well as street duty safely usually end up being better at one discipline to the detriment of the other, especially in a single make series.