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?