It may only be February, but that does not mean it is not too early to be handing out championship trophies.
Neil Alberico won the 2013 U.S. Winterfest championship on Sunday at Palm Beach International Raceway. Alberico swept the three races at Sebring midweek and won the final two races on Sunday at Palm Beach. He defeated Canadian Scott Hargrove by 29 points, who won the first race at Palm Beach on Saturday. Brit James Fletcher finished third in the standings. Three Canadians, Garett Grist, Stefan Rzadzinski and Jesse Lazare, took fourth, fifth and sixth respectively with American Jason Wolfe finishing seventh. Matthew Di Leo of Canada finished eighth and American Peter Portante took ninth.
Meanwhile in India, Conor Daly took the 2012-13 MRF Challenge championship in style. He entered the final race 14 points behind Jordan King of the United Kingdom. After King won race one, all he had to do was finish four positions ahead of Daly won finished sixth in race one and started on pole for race two.
King spun in the first corner in race two and Daly went on the win the final race of the year and take the championship by five points over King.
An Idea for Iowa
A few nights ago I was on Trackside with Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee discussing expanding IndyCar's online coverage to include practice and qualifying and most notable the Iowa heat races. After a few days thinking about it, a clear conclusion came to mind:
Make the heat races full championship races and put it on the schedule which would now be 20 races. Why? Because then it would have to be on television. Instead of giving out a certain number of points for the heat races only, give each finisher the amount they would get in an actual race.
For example: keep the three, 50 lap heat race format, keep the transfers and keep it as the way to set the field for the feature on Sunday. However, instead of giving those who don't qualify for the final no points, give them what they would have receive with the normal race points system. If race 1 sets the even-numbered positions then pay second in heat 1 tenth place points (20) and so on and do the same with race 2. Then have the final heat fight for normal championship points from first place through eighth. What this does is put an emphasize on getting out of the heat. Instead of receiving one point more than those who don't qualify, a driver could transfer to the final, score 50 points for the win and have a thirty point swing.
Counting heat races as full point events is nothing new. From 1973-1975, the qualification races for the California 500 at Ontario Motor Speedway paid normal championship points. If it was done then, it could be done now.
The Never Ending Offseason
It's days in the mid-60's like the one today in Pittsburgh where I am wearing short sleeves around that make me long for the season to start earlier. This past weekend, my cousin and I went out for lunch and wondered, now that football season is over, what is there to watch in the afternoon? Starting the week after the Super Bowl is what IndyCar should shoot for. I don't care if it's Phoenix or Austin or New Orleans or Homestead or anywhere else where an oval in a warm climate is located.
Testing may be around the corner, but it is just not the same. There are still rides left open, too many stories to do not with the product but executive decisions and to be honest, boredom. Maybe this time next year the season opener will only be days away.