Wednesday, April 17, 2013

IndyCar Ideas: Part Two

Part two looks at the Mazda Road to Indy. The ladder system is suppose to be the home to the future of IndyCar. However, low car counts affect Indy Lights and the three series have little presences on television.

Part one can be found here.

The United SportsCar Racing series set to debut in 2014 will surely mean the Izod IndyCar Series will lose a partner at some road and street courses events and a few series in the ladder system will probably lose spots at sports car weekend which could feature the USCR, Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, IMSA Prototype Lites, IMSA GT3 Cup and the American DTM series. Losing sports cars at IndyCar weekends would create a gap at certain places such as Long Beach and Baltimore and leave U.S. F2000 and Pro Mazda with fewer race weekends.

The Idea: Expand the Road to Indy Presence At IndyCar Weekends
Should the USCR bump U.S. F2000 and Pro Mazda from the inn during their race weekends, finding a home should not be difficult. It may actually be welcomed. Bolstering an IndyCar race weekend to include all series in the ladder system would give the series a platform for it's drivers to be seen by IndyCar team owners.

Moving all series of the Mazda Road to Indy would also be beneficial for fans attending the race. A race day can be promoted as a quadruple header. Four races, one day. Not many other series can promote that.

Flaws In The Idea
1. You can't make an event take on the other two series. Long Beach, for example, does not have to take on the two series if sports cars were to not return in 2014. Same as Baltimore. The truth is U.S. F2000 and Pro Mazda are not as big of a draw as either one of the two sports car series. For a promoter, 9 out of 10 would probably take ALMS or Grand-Am over U.S. F2000 and Pro Mazda any day of the week. Some promoters maybe more willing than others but they have to do what will make more business sense for them and if a sports car series is going to draw (hypothetically speaking) 10,000 more people on a race weekend than the lower two rungs of the ladder system, can you blame them?

2. Is there any room at the IndyCar inn to begin with? U.S. F2000 and Pro Mazda aren't going to Pocono, Texas and Fontana. The only other oval option would be Iowa. They can't go to Brazil. Barber could be possible if sports cars don't return. The Izod IndyCar Series is the only series going to Belle Isle and Sonoma but Grand-Am is going to Belle Isle in June and it is an IndyCar doubleheader. This season, only St. Pete, Toronto, Mid-Ohio and Houston host all four series. With sports cars future at Barber, Long Beach, Belle Isle and Baltimore in question, the quickest call to fill a void if needed would be on the ladder systems.

3. Could the teams in the ladder system afford these weekends? U.S. F2000 has seven race weekends in 2013, four with IndyCar, two with sports cars and one with USAC. Pro Mazda has nine race weekends, five with IndyCar, two with sports cars, one with USAC and one stand alone event. Say come 2014, each series loses their sports car weekends and fills in at the IndyCar weekends losing sports cars, would that exacerbate the teams funds? Could U.S. F2000 and Pro Mazda be able to run two extra weekends? And, more importantly, would the drivers be able to find funding for those extra weekends?

In Reality... 
1. IndyCar has to make the ladder system desirable. They have to go to a promoter and convince them all series in the ladder system racing during the same weekend would be able to draw in more fans by giving them more on-track action.

2. It would not hurt places such as Barber and Belle Isle if the Mazda Road to Indy filled should these tracks lose Grand-Am. Barber has been a great track for both Indy Lights and IndyCar while Belle Isle would showcase the cars in a major market.

3. Funding could balance itself out should Pro Mazda and U.S. F2000 not return to supporting sports car races when unification takes place in 2014. Losing two or three sports car weekends and replacing them with two or three IndyCar weekends may not affect the costs of running a full season for these teams. That would be good not only for the teams but the drivers as they look for funding for a full season.

Bringing the Road to Indy to more IndyCar race weekends seems easier than trying to get 40 cars to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. It would only help out the teams and drivers in the lower two series get noticed by IndyCar team owners and part three of these IndyCar Ideas will look at expanding the TV coverage of the Mazda Road of Indy and expanding IndyCar coverage.