200% more champions, no added calories

Posted by Iannucci | 4/28/2010 | , , | 7 comments »
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By now you've probably heard that yesterday the IZOD IndyCar Series has decided to:
1. Crown separate oval and road/street course champions
2. Name the awards after two historic drivers
3. Do this IMMEDIATELY, as in this year

My first thought was "Oh, hella yeah!" if for no other reason than this finally gives me a reason to stay awake through the entire race at Sonoma. But after sleeping on it (notice how "sleeping" and "Sonoma" are totally correlated) I've decided that, yup, it is still a "Oh, hella yeah!" idea. Bravo, Mr Bernard, on putting forth a good suggestion.

Honestly (and I hate saying that because it infers that everything else I've said has been dishonest, but not enough to actually NOT say it...OK, I'm gonna just focus back here) I don't know why anyone would be against this idea. It's not like it's a total gimmick, because it doesn't actually change the racing at all. The real money is still in the championship, so this doesn't dilute the interest in that award one bit. If anything it strengthens the overall championship because these separate titles now showcase the distinction of IndyCar racing, which is a mastery of different disciplines of racing. And that, dear friends, is what is known as "accentuating the marketing angle"...or, if you're not in favor of the idea, "making up stuff as you go along". I'm in the camp of the former.

And if I may be so bold I'd like to make two quick suggestions regarding this whole idea.

First, these awards absolutely positively must be named after AJ Foyt and Mario Andretti. No slight to any number of incredible drivers named...well, I'm not even going to name them because then it start getting into an argument of who's left off the list. But I've never met an IndyCar fan who wouldn't agree that any discussion regarding the greatest driver who raced IndyCars ever requires those two to be included. They just...are. And even if YOU think they aren't, there names are so ingrained in the psyche of American racing that to ignore either of them as the names for these two awards would be, well, stupid.

Second, let me refer to a remark by BP of Drive Hard, Turn Left, who actually suggested this idea a while back.

Now, while I don't expect Will Power's wings to be polka-dotted so that people recognize him as the top street/road racer in the circuit...

Well, if you won't then I will. If the goal of this whole "championships within a championship" is to accentuate driver skills, then I say let the drivers show that skill. Just as the Tour de France has separate jerseys for stage winners and mountain climbers, the series should allow either the points leader in each respective category or the previous champion to have something signifying the accomplishment. Like a dramatically colored bar on the top of the car or one of the the wings, or a giant picture of Foyt or Andretti, or even a specific sponsor on the sidepod - SOMETHING! Let the casual fans ask "What's that mean?" and get them engaged - that's the point, right? Is anyone less interested in the series because of this? Really?

Final note: IndyCar.com did the research and determined the following would have been champions under this new arrangement.

Year, Oval Champ(points), Road & Street Champ(points)
2009 Scott Dixon (406), Dario Franchitti (270)
2008 Scott Dixon (482), Helio Castroneves (233)
2007 Dario Franchitti (463), Scott Dixon (217)
2006 Dan Wheldon (415), Scott Dixon (125)
2005 Dan Wheldon (536), Tony Kanaan (133)

Does anyone have a problem with these champions? Even if you think this is all about Danica?

7 comments

  1. The American Mutt // April 29, 2010 5:31 AM  

    I only hope that the oval, road, and season champion doesn't happen to be the same driver, at least in the initial year.

  2. The SpeedGeek // April 29, 2010 6:10 AM  

    Thank. You. Jeff. I don't understand the people who are already diametrically opposed to this. Diluting the overall championship? Uh, that one still pays $1 million. I don't think that anybody is going to confuse the $100,000 prize for the "Foyt Cup" or "Andretti Trophy" with the $1 million for the season champion. Confuses things? MLB fans can routinely track standings for SIX different divisions and stats for players in roughly 1,842 categories. NFL fans can track standings in EIGHT different divisions and stats for about 697 caregories. You're telling me that having three points standings (one of which won't even change on any given weekend and another of which is literally the other two added together) is all that confusing? Or is it that race fans are supposedly dumber than MLB or NFL fans?

  3. Christopher Leone // April 29, 2010 7:44 AM  

    Danica ain't gonna win it. She hasn't before. I ran the numbers dating back to CART's formation in 1979 - since the advent of the IRL in 1996, the worst that an oval season champion has finished in points is second, as Scott Dixon did last year. The only drivers who win oval titles are the guys who run up front all season long and almost everywhere. That's not Danica.

    Dixon, on the other hand, "won" the 2003, 2008, and 2009 oval titles, as well as the 2006 and 2007 road course crowns. He's the most versatile and well-rounded driver in the series.

    For the record, and again this dates back to CART's founding in 1979, Rick Mears would be the overall leader with seven total titles (four oval and three road course). Al Unser Jr. and Sebastien Bourdais would be tied for second with six apiece (though Bourdais would have won two Champ Car oval titles, with oval schedules of two races or less each year - take it as you will).

    If anybody wants more stat-nerd analysis, go here: http://openwheelamerica.blogspot.com/2010/04/dissecting-new-two-title-format.html

  4. Allen Wedge // April 29, 2010 11:42 AM  

    Its actually incredibly easy. Painted sidewalls. Easy to see, it doesn't take away from any sponsor space, and in fact give more attention to the tires.. I'm sure Firestone would "hate" that.

    Remember a few years back when the contenders still mathematically alive got white sidewalls?

    Current Road/Street leader gets a bright green sidewall, and the oval leader gets bright blue sidewalls. Make them striped for the "reds" Can be any other color that stands out, bright yellow works too. I believe Sarah had pink at Homestead last year... any color than black works.

  5. tripleleagueracing // April 29, 2010 1:09 PM  

    I really like this idea. The "it's for Danica" is dumb, because it's no more for Danica than for Sarah, or Conway, or Wilson, or Power. Yeah, she's got a better chance at the oval title than the overall championship, but intil she is consistantly top 5 on ovals and winnign races, she won't be a real threat to the oval title. This helps Wilson the most, because he's almost always up front on the road courses. If he can start getting past Power, he'll have a good shot at the road title.

    And Jeff's right, it needs to be Andretti and Floyt, because they're both so mainstream.

  6. NaBUru38 // April 29, 2010 1:32 PM  

    AJ Foyt won the Le Mans, Sebring and Daytona endurance sports car races. Using his name for an oval-only award would be underrating his driving skills. I prefer the Unser Brothers or Rick Mears, and Mario Andretti.

  7. Iannucci // April 29, 2010 2:45 PM  

    NaBUru38,

    I understand your concern, but the same argument could be made for Mario, who started out in America racing dirt ovals. The truth is both of these men were accomplished at racing in any number of disciplines, but that doesn't mean a championship representing only part of their career will somehow distort their legacy.

    If anything, it presents a unique opportunity to equally represent both men. The only reason for selecting which legend for which award comes down to this: Foyt's career involves winning the greatest oval race in the world four times, while Andretti's includes a Formula One championship.

    I suppose if either man would feel slighted by the use of their name for a single type of track then that would be an issue, but if they don't have a problem with it then I certainly won't.