American fans of the Motorcycle Grand Prix series got some great news over the weekend. When the weekend started many were convinced this would be the final Grand Prix at Indianapolis. Like Formula One the race was initially successful but the relationship has cooled in recent years. Riders don’t love the track and while DORNA (MotoGP Sanctioning body) likes America they worry 3 USA races is 1 too many. With Laguna Seca being a very well attended (though in reality both Laguna and Indy draw roughly the same crowd, 50K), and with Austin being so new, Indianapolis was believed to be the odd track out. Indeed, Robin Miller’s shocking story about Indycar’s racing on the roval as well as the Sportcar race over the last few years seemed to indicate that the Grand Prix’s days were numbered. However Saturday brought some unexpected news. The MotoGP has been renewed for 2014. Even more importantly both sides have agreed that they want this to be a long term event. 2014 may be the final Grand Prix at Indianapolis but the odds of survival have improved immensely. I am not a fan of Indycar racing at the Indianapolis Roval, but according to Curt Cavin and David Emmett, the rumored roval Indycar race (and the changes that will go along with it) may be a reason for the change in feeling between Grand Prix and Track. I understand why that is (the cost for fixing one is adsorbed by both) but I still believe an oval race not during May could recoup the same amount of money. Possibly it would even make Indianapolis more money. And Indycar fans would get another oval race they desperately need.
SpeedTV and SpeedTV.com have died and been replaced by Fox Sports1. I wanted to have a full eulogy written but sadly I didn’t get it finished in time, I want to do it justice. Whatever problems SpeedTV had, and it had many, are irrelevant today. The American Motorsports Community lost a major partner today. We were better off WITH Speed than we will be without it. RIP SpeedTV. RIP SpeedTV.com. You will be missed.
What if Indycar’s raced at Indianapolis twice? Is it sacrilege? Genius? Utilization of available resources? A desperate gamble? Following finance guys off a cliff? The idea of having Indycar race twice at the famed Indianapolis Speedway has been suggest for years, but it was never considered a serious solution. However the overthrowing of Randy Bernard and the installation of Mark Miles to CEO has led this possibility to become very probable. The most likely situation that has come up in rumors is that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course would be used by Indycar as the MotoGP series seems poised to leave. Which, I might add, I am also quite upset about. According to Robin Miller (at his new home: Racer.com) this will be the only major race addition to the 2014 schedule. If it happens, the race will kick off the Month of May. I honestly don’t know how I feel about having two races in Indianapolis. Indianapolis is owned by the same people as Indycar, which means from a financial standpoint the race should work. NASCAR has successfully balanced two races at Daytona for many years. On the other hand Indycar never has. We have never seen two races at Indianapolis. The Indy 500 has been fairly strong in recent years. How will it be impacted by a second race? While some tracks have been fine with two NASCAR races there are others that have struggled badly for attendance when a second race was added. Fontana is a classic example. Whether or not racing twice at Indy is a good idea aside if it happens the second race should be on the oval.
There are many reasons why racing twice at the Indianapolis Speedway is a mistake, and only one reason why it isn’t. However that reason makes all the difference. The Indycar series has run out of oval races, and a second race at Indianapolis give Indycar a chance at finding an oval. At this point that may be enough. Just as importantly, based off the last two Indianapolis 500′s, a second race at Indianapolis would produce exciting racing. That alone is worth it’s weight in Myrrh.
The biggest concern about having two races at Indianapolis is that it will dilute the Indianapolis 500. Which is an important concern that must be addressed. I would imagine this is the main reason why the road course is the version of the Speedway being considered for the second race. I understand that concern. For that reason the race must be different from the Indy 500 in a meaningful way. I don’t have a perfect solution but there are some options. The most obvious would be the run the race at night. If lights are installed for NASCAR then this option would be perfect. Whether or not the race takes place at night it should have something else to distinguish it. One solution would be to make it a double header weekend with a race on Saturday and Sunday. Or perhaps like Texas tried, with two races in a day. Make the races twin 125′s, or two 200 mile races. One crazy idea would be to run a normal 300 mile race, but put a 30 minute intermission in. I read in Autoweek magazine awhile back the idea of having Indycar and Rally Cross team up. Perhaps run that during the intermission. Another idea, which Brian France won’t like, is to run the race alongside the NASCAR race somehow. Perhaps the same weekend, perhaps Friday, or Sunday if they race at night Saturday. That would certainly be different.The final idea I have could be done with any combination of the previous ideas. The Indianapolis race could be the season finale. While there are obvious downsides to that idea, finishing the series in Indianapolis would make some sense. After all it is a major metropolitan area and there are a lot of Indycar fans in the area. Whatever idea Indycar uses, there must be a way to make a second oval race at Indianapolis work.
Honestly, as I’ve wrote this blog post and thought about it longer, I’ve become a big fan of the idea of having two oval races at Indianapolis. Is it a break from tradition? Yes. It may even be sacrilegious. I am of the opinion it won’t hurt the Indianapolis 500 because the events surrounding the 500 are such an integral part of the experience. The second race won’t have that. It also won’t have nearly the same attendance or ratings as the main race. But a second race on the Indianapolis oval would be another oval race in Indycar. Since the 2011 season ovals have nearly disappeared from Indycar. At the moment there are only six oval races on the Indycar schedule, and there are some concerns about Milwaukee and Texas. The 2014 schedule does not look likely to change this. The relationship between Indycar, ISC, and SMI appears to be broken. On all sides (RE: track owners, team owners, drivers, journalists, Indycar management, bloggers, some fans) inertia and disdain appears to have set in (It’s like the US Congress!). A second Indycar race on the oval at Indianapolis doesn’t solve these issues. But it would give Indycar’s oval fans something to look forward to. If no other options are achievable than this would be a plausible solution. The only problem is that Mark Miles seems set on racing at the road course. I really don’t understand why. While there are a number of drawbacks to racing a second time on the oval at Indianapolis if the series is convince two races at Indy are a good idea, I don’t see why they won’t at least give us an oval. A second oval race at Indianapolis could be a really interesting addition the the Indycar season. Which is why, unfortunately, I doubt it will happen. Instead it looks like 2014 either will have the same schedule as 2013, or 2013 will see the Indianapolis Motor Speedway kick off the Month of May with an Indianapolis road race. Wonderful….
Nicky Hayden has suffered for over five years on the Ducati team with a bike only Casey Stoner could win with. Despite this loyalty Hayden is being dumped at the end of this year for another rider, perhaps Cal Cruchlow. Hayden left Honda due to their obvious favoritism towards Dani Pedrossa. The move to Ducati was suppose to rejuvenate his career. Instead Ducati basically murdered his career. Now Hayden is going to struggle to find a quality ride as he’s in his thirties and hasn’t won for awhile. What should not be forgotten of course is that he has been about as competitive as Rossi and Dovizioso on the same bike, and unlike Rossi and Stoner he has been fairly low key about the issues. Sadly it wasn’t enough. Hayden will now have to try and either get a World Superbike ride, a ride on a non-factory supported ride, or satellite Honda. As for whoever takes his ride at Ducati… good luck! You are going to need it!
I like the Forza racing games. My comments on them have stretched from the early days of this blog to my first post out of semi-retirement! I have always wanted to see Indycar in this game. The handling is very realistic and the track mix is nice. The Forza games have a nice mix of American Le Mans/ 24 Hours of Le Mans cars. Hoping for Indycars didn’t seem like asking for too much. Forza 3 included Silverstone, Road America, Road Atlanta, Sebring, Laguna Seca, and Le Mans. My comments on Road America, Road Atlanta, and Sebring being in Indycar are well known and the opportunity to turn these dreams into a virtual reality always excited me. Forza 4 upped the ante as it added Infineon and Indianapolis! Despite these additions Forza 4 never brought in Indycar, even as a downloadable expansion.
But good news finally arrived at the E3 game convention. Some (RE: Me) would argue that it was the only good news for Microsoft at E3. Indycar will arrive in Forza 5 for the brand new Xbox One this fall. Four teams will be represented which include Andretti Autosport, Rahal/Letterman Racing, Target Chip Ganassi, and Penske Racing. Also included will be the Mclaren and Ferrari from the 1978 season which will be seen in the movie Rush. Forza 5 will likely sell well and should be some very good publicity for Indycar.
Of course there still are a number of questions about what fans will actually get out of Indycar being included. I know that Indycar is being added to Forza, but I do not know how many cars it will included. Obviously (but sadly) it will not included the full season, full team list, or full track list. The exact same can be added about the F1 cars. I would love to see more historic cars (79 Lotus!!!!) but again this may not happen. The biggest question is whether or not the Indycars (and F1 cars) will get their own separate events. Otherwise they will be playable but only in mixed event with other cars which would never in real life happen. That will have a big impact on whether or not this is a novelty or a major aspect of Forza 5, at least for fans of Indycar.
In other Forza 5 news, all three Top Gear hosts (Clarkson, May, Hammond) will be in the game! Forza 5 also adds a new cloud based artificial intelligence which will supposedly be based of of actual players performance. Whether this is a good thing or not remains to be seen. The biggest issue with Forza 5 is that it is an Xbox One launch title. The launch of a new system is always risky for game releases because the hardware is new and untested (at least not on the same scale as a retail release) and so major problems can occur. Microsoft removed the always online component of the Xbox One but their system is still a hundred dollars more than the PlayStation 4 and many fans have lost confidence in them. Perhaps most importantly the buying of a brand new game console is risky (ask PSP/NintendoWii U buyers) as you may spend a lot of money on a system that has no games on it for over a year! But Forza 5 is coming this year, and depending on what happens, it could make the Xbox One a must have for die hard Indycar fans!
Due to the lack of time I’ve had to deal with racing I am very unsure about what is going on with SpeedTV. I am aware (as we’ve all been aware for awhile) that SpeedTV will morph into Fox Sports 1 in a few weeks. WSBK, Formula One, and AMA Pro Racing have both left the channel this year. My questions involve the various people involved in Speed TV and the website. I also don’t know where MotoGP and the merged Grand Am/ALMS series is going. So does anyone know whether or not Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain will continue? And will the website SpeedTV.com continue or will it change names and/or disappear? What is going to happen to Bob Varsha, Robin Miller, and Dennis Noyes? If anyone has answer, speculation, or rumors I’d really appreciate them! Thanks in advance!
I mentioned a yesterday I didn’t know where World Superbikes were being televised in the United States. I wasn’t even sure they were being televised. Well, I decided to follow in the footsteps My Name is IRL and employ the awesome power of Google. This search quickly established that World Superbike does have a television and online home in the United States…. kind of. The current home of WSBK in America is BeIn Sports! BeIn Sports is a niche sports channel dedicated to bringing international sporting events into the USA. They have two channels, one of which broadcasts in English, while the other broadcasts in Spanish. As a sidenote, BeIn Sports is owned by Arabic broadcasting network Al Jazeera which recently bought Current TV from Al Gore. Be In Sports is also a thing in France. I am still getting up to speed on this deal and what it actually means, but the initial reaction to it contains a nice mix of positives and negative reactions. I am also a bit confused by the website. Here is the FAQ which leaves two very large questions for me. Firstly do you actually have to have Be In Sports on your tier of cable/satellite provider to use the online stream, or is having potential access (IE: your company carries it, but you don’t pay for that tier) enough? The second question is whether or not the live streaming service is up. The FAQ makes it sound like its coming soon, but I don’t know when it was last updated.
In some ways Be In Sports is a good fit for the World Super Bike Series. After all it is a very niche European racing series, and with SpeedTV dead there were not a lot of other options. The website is fairly nice looking and it is an innovative idea. The possibility of live coverage is exciting as is the internet streaming. I imagine ratings will be rough. Other channels such as ESPN3, NBC Sports ,and random minor cable channels don’t create great ratings either though so in some ways that is not a huge deal. To make live WSBK races work however there also should be way to watch the races after the fact as ESPN3 has because many WSBK races are run at very inconvenient times for American fans. In some ways having any sort of coverage at all in America is a victory for fans here.
On the negative side while WSBK is always going to be a niche thing in America, Be In Sports is incredibly niche. I get NBC Sports on my tier of cable but not Be In. I am not sure how many people have heard of Be In, and I feel like it is going to leave a lot of people out in the cold who currently are fans of motorcycle road racing. Unless the online streaming works without having to pay for the highest tier cable. As niche as the World Superbikes are in America I have long maintained that it would make sense for other road racing fans in America to pay attention to it, and this seems to kill that idea. The final potential issue is the Al Jazeera link. I want to say that I personally don’t have an issue with Al Jazeera being involved in cable/Satellite programming since there are all sorts of people and organizations involved in it. That said a lot of Americans do not have a positive view of Al Jazeera and any channel owned by them will be affected by this. Look at the comments relating to Al Gore selling Current TV if you do not believe me.
Overall I really don’t love the move of World Superbikes to Be In Sports, but it is not like there were a lot of good options when SpeedTV morphed into Fox Sports either. As a fan I am hoping for the best, which means live online streaming. I don’t love online streaming as I’ve made clear in the past but the shorter World Superbike races should be better in that format than trying to stream twelve hours of Sebring. As should be obvious the World Superbike Series has a small following in the USA which is harmful towards getting them a decent TV deal. That said two facts should be remembered. Firstly we do have a USGP (Laguna Seca, formerly Miller Motorsports Park), and secondly the USA is a major sales region for Superbikes. The United States of America isn’t a major market for the World Superbike Series but it still does matter. I just really hope that I’ll be able to still follow the World Superbike Series over the next few years. If I can, and if the USGP continues then I suppose we can call this TV deal a success. As I look into it more (and perhaps with a few helpful comments) I’ll be able to figure out whether or not I can stream it. That would be a good first start!
For anyone who was wondering Triple League Racing is not dead. True, I haven’t updated in ages. The very observant (stalkers?) would also have noticed that the blog basically was taken down for the last few weeks. I have two excuses. The first and most important is I have just been incredibly busy over the last six months (and really over the last year) between school, an internship, volunteering, and work I haven’t had a ton of time to watch a lot of racing; much less write about it. The second issue can be quickly explained as I had a slight incident where my email was hacked. This was a rather large problem for a large number of reasons as the email which was hacked is one that I use for many things. That included this blog. On top of that when my email was hacked my blog also appeared to be hacked as it posted the same thing which was sent out by my email. Even more concerning when I made a follow-up apology to the people on my email list it also appeared on here. This led me to believe (falsely) that my blog was hacked. In reality the issue with my blog was caused by the fact that many years ago (3 years to be specific) I used a feature WordPress has that allows you to create blog posts by email. What happens is the blogger sends their posts to an account which automatically puts it up online. So much time had passed that I completely forgot about this service and didn’t realize that the spam email and my apology both were sent to all of my contacts including the blog posting bot.
So where does that leave this blog? I am still incredibly busy and really don’t have a ton of time. That said I miss blogging and plan on trying to revive the site. Posting won’t be very regular but I am planning on a few posts a week. After a couple weeks to get things back on track I am hoping to re-launch the Podcast with James.
One more note on the blog and then I’ll get to some thoughts on the year so far in racing. Before my semi-retirement I was often accused of being too negative and too repetitive. I stand by pretty much everything I’ve written. Despite this I do agree that I may have been in a bit of a rut in terms of repeating the same few themes too many times. I do plan on trying to avoid this issue. I will not promise to be positive or go along with mainstream racing opinion. However I will promise to talk about a diverse amount of topics as this blog was always intended to be that type of blog, not a narrow one or two theme (or series) blog.
Thoughts on the year so Far:
- Indycar has had some great racing this year, especially at the Indy 500 and a few of the earlier street races. I also enjoyed the long stretch of races in the summer though I must admit with my very busy schedule having a lot of races made keeping up a bit harder! I didn’t mention it a lot but I really loved St. Petersburg and Indianapolis this year.
- Pocono and Texas didn’t live up to expectations. Both Indycar races were featured a lack of passing and an over-emphasis on strategy, fuel, and tire wear. That said I obviously hope Indycar continues to go to these tracks, and from what I’ve heard Pocono was very happy with their race.
- Indycar TV ratings have been dreadful. I haven’t been following as closely this year and yet even I am well aware of how bad things are. Still I have some hope, surprisingly
- Onto NASCAR. I’ve had a hard time keeping up due to the large number of races and the fact that we’re about to start repeating race tracks. That said I feel a bit disappointed by the new Generation Six car. It looks really nice but the racing I’ve seen hasn’t been that great. Plus Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth have won way too many races with it.
- 2013 has been a rough year for Jeff Gordon fans.
- The death of Jason Leffler in a sprint car race was shocking and depressing. As was the fatality at Le Mans.
- I still don’t care about Formula One.
- But Kimi Raikkonen is doing alright with a Lotus so that is cool.
- Rush, the new movie based on the 1978 Formula One season looks really interesting.
- Some good news on the Indycar front! Forza 5 will included some Indycars. It will also included a few old F1 cars, specifically from 1978. Apparently that is related to the aforementioned Rush. However this positive is marred by the fact that Forza 5 is a launch title for the Xbox One. I have some very mixed feelings on this new system. Plus it is going to be expensive.
- I haven’t seen any sportscar racing this year and I don’t feel like I am missing much.
- Sadly I also haven’t seen a ton of motorcycle road racing since the imminent death of SpeedTV has caused World Superbike and AMA Pro Racing to lose their TV deals. If they’ve got new ones I haven’t heard (which is entirely possible. If that is the case please comment and tell me where it now is!).
- MotoGP has been mixed. Marc Marques is a breath of fresh air, as is Cal Cruchlow. However the sad decline of Ben Spies is hard to watch/read/hear. As is the continued mistreatment of Nicky Hayden. We could easily see a situation where we go from having 3 good American’s in 2010 to having NO American’s of any type in MotoGP. There are also some very scary rumors of the end of the Indy Grand Prix. But Rossi’s win at Assen was nice and hopefully will invigorate him and the entire season.
- I’ve gotten into Game Of Thrones and I couldn’t help but think during the infamous Red Wedding scene about the fall of Randy Bernard last fall. I wonder if anyone said “Tony George sends his regards?” Spoiler alert, at least Bernard is doing better than Robb or Catelyn Stark!
- One last note about the blog. I’ve change the way to contact me. From now on fans who wish to contact me should do so through twitter or the comment section on this blog. Anyone who I already have emailed in the past is free to continue to use it (and I may still email you, especially about being a guest on the podcast) but in general I’m going to use other means for contact. If this really upsets my (possibly non-existent) fanbase or if my blog grows significantly I will probably create a blog only email.
I am planning on doing shorter stuff due to time constraints but even this post has grown past the 1000 word count….
It has been an incredibly long time, but I can finally say that TLR podcast #7 is out! This show is an Indycar preview show with myself and James. To be honest it was made awhile ago but most of the information is up to date, or close enough. The focus is on Indycar and the 2013 season, plus off season storylines. Unlike in the past this episode is under an hour (just). Hopefully everyone enjoys this and I’ll get the next one out more quickly.
Tony George resigned his recently regained position on the IMS board, in a move many believe signals the beginning of his attempt to buy back the Indycar Series. I really see no positives about a Tony George takeover. I really don’t understand why he want’s to do it since he apparently also wouldn’t want to run it day to day, and anyways he’s already had his chance and blew it. What’s the point of him coming back, and why come back just to give it to someone else to actually run? Resigning from the board was important if he actually want’s to buy Indycar. At the same time, resigning from the board takes away one of the few possible positive things about TG actually being in charge; his spot on the parent companies board. I guess he can always be re-instated a second time but still. I really cannot see much good (any good?) out of this plan. Randy Bernard is expected to be gone if Tony buys the series so he’ll have to find a new, new person to take control of the series. There is one potential positive thing about Tony George in power; more ovals. But that assumes ovals are still a big motivating factor for George, and I have no idea if it is. I would guess it probably isn’t. Besides, TG’s problem in the past was lack of fan focus, as well as transparency. It’s hard to see a second reign of Tony George as fixing those issues. George lacked the vision to grow Indycar the first time, and it’s hard to see him succeeding the second time.