Monday, June 1, 2015

Musings From the Weekend: Double Down

It rained in Detroit. A race was canceled. It was sunny in Mugello. A Brit swept the weekend in the former German Democratic Republic. Some cars did some laps in France. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Double Down
I like IndyCar doubleheaders. However, I don't know if they can exist if IndyCar wants expand their schedule. Let's start with the fact that Belle Isle is the lone doubleheader. Toronto became one race after it had to be pushed up to June this year because of the Pan-Am Games taking place in Toronto this July and Houston was dropped from the schedule entirely. Whether Toronto moves back to July and becomes a doubleheader in 2016 remains to be seen but for now, it appears Belle Isle will remain as the sole doubleheader.

However, can doubleheaders remain if IndyCar wants to expand to their schedule and run a race or two abroad and/or return to tracks such as Road America, Laguna Seca, Phoenix and Michigan? IndyCar is racing on 15 different circuits this season. Let's say somewhere down the line IndyCar returns to the four circuits mentioned above and adds at least one fly-away race that would be 20 circuits and if Belle Isle keeps their doubleheader and Toronto returns to being a doubleheader that would be 22 races. Twenty-two races would be a sufficient amount but doubleheaders do put strain on the teams. This year Belle Isle feel in the middle of a six-week stretch of non-stop track action from the Grand Prix of Indianapolis through Indianapolis 500 qualifying and the race with Texas and Toronto immediately following Belle Isle. Let's not forget last year where IndyCar ran six races in four weeks starting with the Houston doubleheader followed by Pocono and Iowa with the Toronto doubleheader ending the month of non-stop racing.

I think doubleheaders can still have their place should IndyCar's schedule expand but they will have to be done differently. First off, doubleheaders cannot be thrown into five, six, seven weeks of consecutive racing. They need a little space around them. Perhaps you could have a doubleheader be back-to-back with another round but then give the teams the week following a doubleheader off.

Second, perhaps the schedule of the doubleheaders needs to be revised. Using hindsight, the Saturday race might be better off being as early as possible on Saturday to give the teams more time to make any repairs necessary before the Sunday race. Just using this weekend as an example, maybe the IndyCar race should have taken place at noon and the IMSA race taken place at 3:00 p.m. This would have given the IndyCar teams at least an extra four hours to work on the cars before Sunday.

Third, look to change the format of the doubleheaders. When Toronto became a doubleheader it went from one, 85-lap race to two, 85-lap races. Is doubling the amount of racing really necessary? I look at DTM, which brought back doubleheaders this season and their Saturday races are 40-minutes in length plus one lap while their Sunday races are one hour in length plus one lap. I don't think IndyCar doubleheaders should reduce their Saturday race to just 40 minutes but a slightly shorter race on Saturday might not be a bad thing. Looking at Belle Isle, instead of having two, 70-lap races have the Saturday race be something that could be completed in an hour and 20 minutes while the Sunday race length remain 70 laps. I think giving the fans two different race lengths that set up for two different sets of strategies for each day would be more interesting.

Finally, what about adopting a World Superbike type doubleheader where it would all be completed in one day but between IndyCar races would be an Indy Lights race? I could see this format being beneficial for Indy Lights as you could package it all up in one time window and it would give Indy Lights a chance to have their races shown live, which would make it more attractive for sponsors which might get more IndyCar teams involved. This happened last year at Toronto after the Saturday race was postponed but perhaps it could become either the doubleheader format or one of the doubleheader formats. Still using Toronto as the example, instead of their just being one, 85-lap race on Sunday, IndyCar could have two 50-lap races, with race one beginning at noon and probably ending within 90 minutes. The Indy Lights race could begin 15 minutes after the end of race one and run for 45 minutes then 15 minutes after the Indy Lights race, IndyCar race two could begin. You'd have IndyCar race one at noon, Indy Lights begin by 1:45 p.m. and the second IndyCar race beginning at 2:45 p.m. and it would end around 4:15 p.m.

I think doubleheaders can have a place in IndyCar even if the schedule were to grow. I don't think every road/street course race could be a doubleheader but I think three-to-four doubleheaders would work and perhaps they would work better on a permanent road course or two. Maybe doubleheaders would work at Mid-Ohio and Sonoma, for example. 

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Carlos Muñoz and Sébastien Bourdais but did you know...

The #31 Action Expression Corvette DP of Dane Cameron and Eric Curran won the IMSA race from Belle Isle. Renger van der Zande and Mirco Schultis won the Prototype Challenge class in the #8 Starworks Oreca. Marco Farnbacher and Ian James picked up their second GTD class victory in the #23 Team Seattle/Alex Job Porsche.

Kevin Éstre scored his third victory of the 2015 Pirelli World Challenge at Belle Isle. Race two was canceled due to weather conditions on Sunday. 

Jaime Green swept the DTM weekend from the Lausitzring and extended his championship lead to 17 points over Mattias Ekström and Edoardo Mortara.

Jorge Lorenzo won the Italian Grand Prix from Mugello. Defending Moto2 champion Esteve Rabat won his first Moto2 race of the season. Miguel Oliveira won his first race of the Moto3 season. 

Jimmie Johnson won the NASCAR Cup race at Dover, his tenth career victory at Dover. Chris Buescher won the second division race. Tyler Reddick won the Truck race.

Coming Up This Weekend
IndyCar runs their first night race of 2015 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Formula One comes to North America for the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal. 
Formula E heads to Moscow for their penultimate weekend of their inaugural season.
Formula E isn't the only series in Russia as the WTCC runs at Moscow Raceway, 60 miles outside of Moscow.
NASCAR heads to Pocono. 
Blancpain Sprint Series heads to Zolder.
The Brits look to continue their World Superbike dominance at Portimão.