If Indycar Races Indy Twice, It Should Be on the Oval!
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….