Sunday, June 23, 2013

Time To Take Heat Races To The Next Level

In a time when IndyCar is in a position to try anything to garner attention and hopefully create more fans, the heat races to set the field at Iowa Speedway are not a bad idea. However a lack of coverage and lack of meaning have put the heat races between a rock and a hard place.

Last night saw three heat races provided as much action as nine car racing can provide but there was something missing. While the heats set the starting grid for the Iowa Corn Indy 250 they have to have more meaning. Just setting the grid with a few extra championship points isn't enough. And while it is nice to see the heat races were streamed live on, if you have cars racing, getting them on television would be preferred. Whether it be ABC, NBCSN, ESPN, ESPN2, hell even ESPNEWS would be an improvement. The races were exciting but there was no sense of urgency. Once Will Power got to second place in the final heat he took it easy on his teammate Helio Castroneves handing the Brazilian the win and nine championship points. More should be done to prevent this from happening.

If IndyCar is willing to do doubleheaders on street courses, you mind as well take a shot on ovals. Turn the Saturday night Iowa heat races into a full championship event where winning pays fifty points and last pays six. If it's put on the schedule as a full championship race then it will end up on television. The format of three, fifty lap heats is not bad but here is an idea to condense them for a television window:
  • No one automatically qualifies for the final heat. Two, forty lap heats of twelve. 
  • Top four from each heat advance to the A-Main with the remaining sixteen drivers going to the Last Chance Qualifier.
  • Twenty lap, LCQ with the top two advancing to the A-Main.
  • The fourteen drivers who fail to advance to the A-Main receive championship points as finishers eleventh through twenty-four.
  • A one-hundred lap A-Main with championship points being paid for first through ten place.
There is more on the line with this format. Fans would get to see a total of two-hundred laps with full championship points on the line and another full race on Sunday. Not bad for IndyCar at a short track. You think Will Power is laying back in a championship race where the difference between first and second is ten points? Think again. Under the format above, no one is guaranteed anything, you have to race for everything. Whether the heats set the starting grid for Sunday under the format above can be debated but making it it's own show is crucial if heat races want to survive. Another problem is a possible rain out. If it rains Saturday night, when are the heats run? Sunday before the full race? After the full race? Do you shorten the heats if they get postponed? Do the heats get cancel? You can't cancel them. That would be a terrible decision by IndyCar and it would screw the fans out of racing. Something would have to be done so the heat races get in. That's one problem that IndyCar would have to prepare for. 

However, if IndyCar can turn short tracks into two-day shows with heats counting towards the championship on Saturday night and a full race Sunday, they just might be able to sell IndyCars returning to places such as Richmond and Phoenix and might strengthen the Milwaukee IndyFest weekend. As stated in the beginning, IndyCar is in a position to try anything. Why not try this?