Tuesday, August 4, 2009

On the weather, Hornaday, Iowa, Belleville, and Indy cars

- What has NASCAR done to anger the weather gods this racing season? How many practices, qualifying sessions, and races have been canceled or postponed due to rain? From my position, it always seems when things are going good - fans are happy, sponsors are lined up at the front door and maybe even trying to sneak in through the windows to get involved, and the racing on the track is excellent - the weather seems to always be bright. Maybe this is Mother Nature's way of letting us all know that she's unhappy with the current state of motorsport too.

- Ron Hornaday has won, this time at Nashville, for the fifth consecutive time in Camping World Truck Series action. Taking nothing away from Hornaday's accomplishment (or crew chief Rick Ren, who now is the leading crew chief winner in the series), but the domination of the series by one driver is doing nothing to increase interest in the series with die-hard fans. While the series is low on entrants out to actually race, it would be nice to see a variety of winners rather than one dominant team and driver. But it's Hornaday's job to get it done, and that's exactly what he's doing. Is it too early to call the championship in Hornaday's favor? Matt Crafton is in second but it's the largest first-to-second spread in the history of the series at this point in the season. Hornaday will have th have the wheels fall off on the first lap in consecutive races if anyone has any hope of closing that gap.

- The Natrionwide Series took to the Iowa Speedway for the first time, and the event can only be categorized as a complete success. Hopefully traffic ingress and egress was better than our first Truck race at Mansfield in 2004. It is amazing to think that 55,000 people showed up for a Nationwide race virtually out in the middle of nowhere. But even more amazing is that Iowa Speedway has attrracted upwards of 20,000 for ARCA races and nealy 40,000 for the IndyCar Series. It's blatantly obvious trhat whatever they are doing in Iowa is working. Congrats to the management team out there for putting on a great show.

- The Belleville Nationals, one of the most prestigious Midget races in the country, went off this weekend. The three day show was plagued by low car counts and - you guessed it - bad weather. There used to be a time when Belleville attracted one of the biggest fields in Midget racing. In 2009, there was barely a full field. Hopefully the economics of short track racing will get back into the green in coming years and events like Belleville regain their status as "must see" races.

- It's not just the USAC fields that are struggling, but its virtually all of the short track world. Car counts are down everywhere and promoters are fighting to get every fan through the front gate possible. It doesn't hurt that today's sports fan equates "NASCAR" with "auto racing", particularly "NASCAR Sprint Cup Series". And it also doesn't hurt that none of the sports networks broadcast live short track racing anymore.

- The Indy Car Series was at Kentucky over the weekend, and if you didn't notice, join the club. The event flew under the radar as the series has been struggling with boring races and trying to build an audience on a new network, Versus. The first part of the race was a continuation of the start of the season, a single-file parade of cars so glued to the track they can hug the white line all the way around the track. The final segment of the race was a barnburner, with unsung Ed Carpenter nearly doing the impossible and knocking Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe off the top of the scoring pylon. Carpenter missed his first win by just 0.016 seconds, or just about a foot and a half. After a season of dull racing and domination by the series' two superteams, the race at Kentucky was just what the open wheel fan needed to re-energize for the run to the championship. But one race does not a revival make - hopefully races at Chicago and Homestead are similarly exciting.

- The IndyCar Series released its 2010 schedule over the weekend, and there were no real surprises but some significant disappointments. It's a shame the series wouldn't leave a hole in the schedule for the new Milwaukee promoters, who seem closer and closer to getting their deal finalized for 2010. It's also a shame that the New Hampshire track wasn't added. It seems the management at NHMS is bullish on the Indy cars when most of the rest of the motorsports world couldn't care less, so why leave them off? It's also a disappointment that the series is now made up of a majority of road and street circuits. There is nothing wrong with road racing, and for much of this season they've been the most exciting races for sure. But for those purists among us, Indy cars are all about high speed oval racing. It's a shame the powers that be in Indianapolis don't get that or have lost their "vision" of that fact. For a series that is struggling to remain relevant, there is no real "wow factor" on the schedule. Sure, the superspeedway races have the potential to be exciting, as Kentucky proved, but they also have the potential to be snoozers, as Texas and Kansas proved earlier in the season. IndyCar needs to revisit everything it's doing, from scheduling to the engine and chassis formula, and it needs to do it immediately. There is a lot wrong in the world of Indy car racing these days, but most importantly the powers that be need to understand that spec racing at the sport's highest levels is not captivating and it is not going to draw in spectators. The Indy 500, and the series of races that lead up to it and support it, should be the ultimate test of automotive ingenuity. F1 is all about technology, but Indy used to be about innovative technology, amazing speeds, and the ability to make it endure for 500 miles. Now it's about 33 drivers in the same car with the same engine and the same tires all going the same speed.

No comments:

Post a Comment