Friday, August 23, 2013

2014 IndyCar Schedule Update #2

As the series heads to Sonoma, not a lot of Earth shattering information came out on the 2014 IndyCar schedule but minor inklings have come out. 

First and foremost, the possibility of an international IndyCar schedule. If that were to happen, all signs point to it happening in 2015 and would run during the winter. Derrick Walker would go on to say any international events are in the planning stages and there are no firm commitments at this point. 

In my opinion, I don't think there should be two separate championships. There should be one IndyCar season with one IndyCar champion. We don't need an IndyCar season and then an IndyCar International or Global or Intercontinental or whatever-they-call-it title. It's bad enough the oval and road/street course championships are nonexistent (though they do exist) and aren't worth anything. Another champion isn't needed.

The other issue with IndyCar's international plan is their North American scheduling. If they want the season to end by Labor Day, that not only kills autumn races at places such as Houston and Fontana but races in Europe. This year the final European Formula One round is the Italian Grand Prix on September 8th. In 2001, when CART made their trek to EuroSpeedway Laustiz and Rockingham, they raced September 15th and 22nd. The German race was the day before the Italian Grand Prix with Rockingham going unopposed. Ending the season so early and starting in January or February limits international races to the Mideast, Southeast Asia, South America, Mexico and Africa. 

However, what if IndyCar made a complete change to how they view the schedule? What if the season still ended by Labor Day in 2014 but the next season began the following month and the schedule wasn't just for 2015 but 2014-2015? What if right after a champion is crown, there is a month for teams to regroup before racing internationally to start the season? It would be the best way to keep racing through out autumn and not have the champion crowned at a foreign location, something Walker stressed as being unsatisfactory for the series. Many sports use a split calendar: In North America, hockey begins in October and stretches into June of the following year. Basketball begins November and ends in June as well. Most Football (soccer to some) leagues begin in August and end the following May. It's not unheard of but in racing terms, a split calendar is not the norm. The now defunct A1GP used it. They began in Europe, ran in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Pacific in the winter, returned and ended in Europe in spring.

A split calendar would allow for international races and a champion to be crowned in the United States by Labor Day. A split calendar could also make three to five week breaks more acceptable. Hypothetically, let's say the season were to begin in early October, maybe the final weekend in September. Race for two or three weeks then a week or two off Another two weeks of racing to end the month and enter November. Another week or two off, race and then off for most of December so the teams get to be home for the holidays. Start back up again in mid-January, race at beginning of February and at this point the schedule can transition for international to domestic. 

The problem with a split calendar is you need enough interested events for it to work. If there are only two international places interested in hosting a race, they could be run in January and February and it doesn't work but if you were to get two or three races in Europe, two in the Asia-Pacific region, two in the Middle East and throw in São Paulo and any additional races in Brazil, other South American countries or Africa then it could work but you need at least six more races before it could even be considered. 

Another concern, though minor, is the balance between ovals and road/street courses. Internationally, there are just fewer ovals than in the United States but their are good ovals. Motegi recently hosted IndyCar. There are Rockingham and Lausitz but the problem with those two is the lack of SAFER barriers. Other than those three locations, there aren't any other ovals up to the standards to host an IndyCar race unless IndyCar can find someone in the Middle East willing to spend the money to build an oval or two. 

Ovals aside, there are many places IndyCar has been interested in going to and places interested in having IndyCar. Many want to return to Surfers Paradise. Qingdao, China was interested in having IndyCar as was Zhuhai for ChampCar and South Korea. Mugello, Italy expressed interested in hosting an IndyCar race and even had one on their schedule online for a while even though it wasn't going to happen. IndyCar is already in São Paulo and since São Paulo was added in 2010, there have been numerous rumors of a second Brazilian date. The one problem is while all these places have expressed interest the money hasn't been there and before IndyCar goes anywhere the check has to clear. 

Another plus to the split calendar is IndyCar would on the map nonstop. You would begin in October, race in November and maybe have one the first weekend December (come to think of it, that would be a good date for São Paulo. Gets it away from Carnival, puts it right at the end of spring in the Southern Hemisphere). Then you are off for the holidays but get back going before NASCAR and Formula One does by racing in January, throw another international race in February and you can transition into the domestic calendar going from late February through Labor Day weekend. 

But these are just ideas for the future and doesn't mean it will actually happen. IndyCar going around the world is fine by me but they have to do it right and make sure the series and it's team benefit from it.