Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Oh Canada!, Indy Lights Renaissance and More Scheduling

IndyCar is taking their final week off in the 2014 season but that doesn't mean there is nothing to talk about. Plenty of topics looking forward to 2015 across the globe related to IndyCar and the Mazda Road to Indy.

Oh Canada!
The beloved neighbors to the north have a potential conflict. What would happen if the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix and IndyCar Honda Indy Toronto were to fall on the same weekend? It would be for only one year as the city of Toronto hosts the 2015 Pan American Games in July, bumping IndyCar's only visit to Canada up a month but it is a conflict that should never happen. It would be like the college football national championship game and Super Bowl falling on the same day. Why make fans to choose to watch one over the other?

Canada has a bigger issue when it comes to motorsports scheduling than a one-year conflict. Due to climate, Canada's window of opportunity to host major series is limited to about the middle of May to the beginning of September. Since 2011, the IndyCar race at Toronto and sports car race at Mosport have fallen within a few weeks of one another and the addition of the NASCAR Truck Series has made the already crowded conflict even worse. 

At one time, Canada had a major race once a month during the summer. Canadian Grand Prix in June, the Indy Toronto in July and sports cars at Mosport in August. That schedule must return. Series have to start respecting one another and realize rising tides lift all boats. The competition to squeeze everyone out and get every dollar possible has to stop. It is a sickening. 

Next year aside due to the Pan American Games, Toronto should return to it's early July date and the sports car and Trucks should run a combined weekend in August. The Canadian fans deserve the chance to view as much motorsports as they possibly can and spreading the events throughout summer is the right thing to do.

Indy Lights Renaissance
In it's first day of testing, the next Indy Lights chassis, the IL-15 was faster than it's predecessor. Unofficially of course. With 2012 Indy Lights champion and 2013 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Tristan Vautier behind the wheel, the IL-15 ran an unofficial 73.4 second lap, about three-tenths faster than the pole winning lap set last weekend by Jack Harvey. 

Out of the box, the IL-15 appears capable of returning Indy Lights to a series full of rising young stars. AJ Foyt Racing and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing are already considering Indy Lights programs in 2015 but adding 2-4 cars would only be a start of the journey to the promise land. Should the dozen cars running full-time in 2014 return, adding two and maybe four car at most would still leave a lot of room for growth. 

Just six years ago, Indy Lights featured nearly two dozen full-time cars with about ten Americans participating on a regular basis (along with another dozen and a half Atlantic cars and another half dozen Americans competing). That is the water mark. That is the level the series needs to reach to come full circle after years of barely scraping double-digit grids together. If the IL-15 chassis can return Indy Lights to a series full of budding young North American drivers with full support from the IndyCar owners, the series could be heading to a full renaissance that only bodes well for North American open-wheel racing as a whole. 

More IndyCar Scheduling Talk
According to's Marshall Pruett, the start of the 2015 IndyCar season is looking more and more likely to happening on foreign soil. IndyCar CEO Mark Miles said he is optimistic about races happening in Dubai and Brasilia in 2015 with the first North American race occurring at St. Petersburg. 

The series is looking to keep the schedule consistent in 2015 from 2014. The one point of contingency is the possible movement of the Toronto date. Should Toronto move, it could mean the end of the Texas race. Eddie Gossage begs to differ as the Texas Motor Speedway track president tweeted the following:
The possible Toronto-Texas conflict aside, it appears most of the dates on the 2014 schedule will return in 2015 with the future of Pocono still remaining in the air. Should Texas fall off the 2015 IndyCar schedule, it could possibly open the door for IndyCar heading to NOLA Motorsports Park just outside of New Orleans.

You know I hate schedule-related talk but I think the path the IndyCar schedule is heading needs to be improved on. First, let's start with the Toronto-Texas conflict. Should a temporary shift of Toronto really cause the death of IndyCar at Texas? There is no reason why more can't be done to make sure both can co-exist in June for one year.

If anything, instead of Texas fading away, the Belle Isle doubleheader should move back to later in the summer. There is no reason why Belle Isle wouldn't receive the same corporate support and television support if it were to move back. If anything, Belle Isle would benefit from a later summer date because it would allow for the GTLM Corvettes to compete. Currently, the GTLM cars don't go to Belle Isle because of a conflict with Le Mans Test Day. Instead of conflicting with Le Mans Test Day, which is a conflict for many other drivers and not just the factory Corvettes, move to a later date and help everyone out.

Second, IndyCar needs to take advantage of the early months if they are going to be ending by Labor Day and IndyCar is going to need to realize races at Houston in June and Fontana in August are inhumane. Houston needs to find a date in the spring or become night races. And if New Orleans does make the IndyCar schedule, don't put it June when it's 90 degrees and humidity is around 82%.

As for Fontana, I've suggested it before, why not open the season at Fontana the weekend after the Super Bowl? It would be much better weather and think about this for the Triple Crown: Fontana the weekend after the Super Bowl would be before the NASCAR season starts. With the success of Kurt Busch at Indianapolis this year, Fontana in February would allow for drivers interested in "The Double" to get their first taste at IndyCar before the month of May. Then the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend and why not move Pocono back a week or two to fall on the traditional NASCAR off-weekend in July and allow for some crossovers? Especially since Pocono is looking for a way to keep it's IndyCar event alive.

After Fontana in February, you could head to the international events before returning for St. Petersburg and so on. Where would the IndyCar season end should Fontana move? That's for a post at a later date.

To be fair, the current IndyCar schedule has been very good in producing high quality racing. I just want to see some common sense prevail. You can't avoid the summer heat but making teams, drivers and fans have to suffer through the harshest summer weather is beyond comprehensible. As much as I agree with Mark Miles' plan to create date equity, you can only expect so much out of an event when it feels like it is happening on the face of the sun.