Monday, July 6, 2015

Musings From the Weekend: You've Got Options

The United States won the World Cup. It was also a holiday weekend in the United States. Lewis Hamilton won on home soil again in the English rain. NASCAR once again had rain follow them to Daytona. There were beautiful skies in Moscow. A German manufacture won in Poland. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

You've Got Options
Last week was not a great week for Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles. After putting the vice grip on owners and drivers about being critical after the Fontana race during a teleconference midweek, Miles turned his attention to the schedule and reality, facing the fact that ending by Labor Day may not be realistic.

Racing during American football season isn't a bad thing and we all know it's not impossible. NASCAR does it. IMSA does it. Pirelli World Challenge does it. NHRA does it and IndyCar did it for years. IndyCar executives have blown out of proportion racing during American football season. It's a problem that doesn't exist. They made a mountain out of a molehill. Racing during American football season isn't IndyCar problem in drawing in viewers. They are struggling to get viewers for every race but the Indianapolis 500. It's not like IndyCar would run a dozen races during American football season. If anything, IndyCar would run two races, maybe three at most during the season. If IndyCar can make those two or three races in to big deals, and they should because they would be the final few races of the season with the championship on the line, then racing during football season isn't a big deal.

I have been suggesting IndyCar run Road America on a Saturday in the middle of September with Pirelli World Challenge and Fontana on a Saturday at the end of the September or early October, depending on Petit Le Mans and hopefully IndyCar and IMSA could work together to make sure their season finales aren't on the same date like they were in 2013. If IndyCar could work with NBCSN and strategically place their races, they could make running during football season worth it. With NASCAR now back on NBCSN, the network can work with their two partners and use synergy to make it a win-win-win. Have the Road America IndyCar race lead-in to a NASCAR race and vice versa for the finale at Fontana. We have yet to see what the ratings were for the first NASCAR Grand National Series race on NBCSN and we will have to wait a few weeks to get a good idea how they numbers are but if they are on par with what they were getting for the last few years on ESPN and the first half of 2015 on Fox and Fox Sports 1, then IndyCar should be in NBCSN's ear about synergy and want to pair with the series in 2016 especially during football season.

Miles hoped to start the IndyCar season in February with international rounds in the United Arab Emirates bridging the gap before the first round in the United States at the end of March. However, with both events dead in the water and no other international event that could be run in February or early March on the horizon, he is going to have to find a few places with in North American to start the season and just like the end of the season, it's not like IndyCar is trying to run seven races in February and early March, the series just needs two or three events added to the start.

Miles keeps saying there aren't a lot of options in the United States to run in February and March due to weather and he isn't incorrect. The Northeast and Midwest were covered with snow for most of that time period but there were areas of the United States that were much warmer.

Phoenix is always a possibility and starting the season there in early February, just after the Super Bowl, could be a great season opener. However, NASCAR runs at Phoenix in the middle of March. For perspective, the week after the Super Bowl this year was February 8th and NASCAR was at Phoenix on March 15th. It's not impossible to hold two races in that time frame. The Pocono 500 will be three weeks after NASCAR this year and was four weeks after NASCAR the two years prior. However,, just because Pocono does it doesn't mean Phoenix will do it. I think Phoenix could work and I think Phoenix would be a great place to start the season but it is all up to the white men in suits.

Another possible location on the west coast to start the season is Laguna Seca. It's in Monterey County where the average temperature is in the mid-60s for the year, which is Heaven compared to the mid-20s of the Midwest and Northeast in the middle of February. Plus, it would be a great place to pair with the Road to Indy's Winterfest held that time of the year. Earlier this year, Pirelli World Challenge ran at Circuit of the Americas in Austin the same weekend IndyCar was suppose to race in Brasilia on March 8th. IndyCar should have joined that weekend next year.

IndyCar ran at Homestead in early March (once on Leap Day) and while the crowd dwindled, it's still an option but that may all depend on the future of Formula E in Miami, who visited in mid-March this year. I have harped that IndyCar should run at Daytona on the Friday night prior to the 24 Hours of Daytona and I will continue to harp on that. 1. Half the IndyCar grid is already there. 2. A night race to start the season would be great. 3. It's Daytona. IndyCar should want to go there, as it's a great motorsports venue with loads of history. 4. Imagine an IndyCar on the banking. It's the closest thing we get to running the combined circuit at Monza. IndyCar at Daytona would be fantastic and it would be outside the box.

Speaking of outside the box, Darlington Raceway hosted NASCAR in the middle of March and now the track has just one event, the Southern 500 on its rightful Labor Day weekend. Why not have IndyCar go there right around the start of spring? Temperatures can range from the mid-50s to the mid-70s and there is a chance for rain but it's practical in terms of weather. As for racing, it would be tight but it would be interesting. Another outside of the box option is Mexico. Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez is being renovated for Formula One and the CART races there had some really nice crowds mostly because Adrián Fernandez, Luis Díaz, Mario Domínguez and Michel Jourdain, Jr were racing it wouldn't hurt IndyCar to have drivers from the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Although, like Miami, it sounds Formula E might have dibs on Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez although it sounds like the track is pursuing a bunch of series and hopefully IndyCar will throw their hat into the ring.

There you go Mark Miles. Those are seven venues within North America that could host IndyCar races from late January to the middle of March. Once again, you aren't going to fit all seven into that time span but you just have to get two or three. It is possible.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Lewis Hamilton but did you know...

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won a severely postponed NASCAR Cup race from Daytona and led a Hendrick Motorsports 1-2-3-4 with Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon in toe.

Sergey Sirotkin and Rio Harayanto split the GP2 races from Silverstone. Marvin Kirchhöfer and Kevin Ceccon split the GP3 races.

Sébastien Ogier won Rally Poland and extended his championship to 78 points over Volkswagen teammate Andreas Mikkelsen.

The #88 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo LP 560-4 R-EX of Nicky Catsburg and Albert von Thurn und Taxis won the Blancpain Sprint Seres Qualifying Race at Moscow Raceway. The #84 HTP Motorsport Bentley Continental GT3 of Maximilian Buhk and Vincent Abril won the Championship Race.

Austin Dillon won the NASCAR Grand National Series race at Daytona.

Coming Up This Weekend
IndyCar could be making their final trip to Milwaukee.
MotoGP is at the Sachsenring.
NASCAR runs a second consecutive night race at Kentucky.
DTM are off to the dunes of Zandvoort.
V8 Supercars will be on the streets of Townsville.
IMSA head north to Mosport.
European Le Mans Series will be in Austria.
The World Touring Car Championship will be at Algarve.