Monday, April 18, 2016

Musings From the Weekend: Is This Year's Indianapolis 500 Really That Important?

There were a host of disqualifications this weekend, a penalty and a punishment that wasn't severe enough and Nico Rosberg practically clinched the World Drivers' Championship with his victory in China. A Porsche spun a Corvette. It snowed at Silverstone. It rained at Assen. NASCAR ran heat races. A winner was disqualified. Supercross ran during the daylight but in a dome. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Is This Year's Indianapolis 500 Really That Important?
I think people have convinced themselves that if they keep saying this year's Indianapolis 500 will be the most watched, most important and whatever superlative you can add to it then it will be. What makes people think that is the case?

While this year's race is the 100th Indianapolis 500 and that is a big deal to all those who follow IndyCar, the excitement within doesn't necessarily transfer to the multitude outside the circle. Sam Schmidt thinks it will be the largest viewership in person and on television. So does James Hinchcliffe. Writer Lewis Franck was on the radio broadcast during Saturday practice from Long Beach and said everyone around the world will be watching this race.

I appreciate the spirit of all three but I doubt any of their prophecies will come to fruition.

Everyone is talking about the 100th Indianapolis 500 as if it is IndyCar's "messiah moment." As if this is the race that will finally turn the tides. After years of trying and having a little gain here and a little gain there, the 100th Indianapolis 500 will be the floodgates opening with millions of people taking the bait and going along with the IndyCar ride for decades to come. Since many think the 100th Indianapolis 500 will finally be IndyCar's day, everyone wants it to be perfect and that is partly what the fight over the domed skids have been about. If it's not perfect, the masses will not bite.

I doubt this will be the most watched Indianapolis 500. What evidence suggests that more people are going to tune in? Just because it is the 100th? There are plenty of people who haven't seen any of the previous 99 Indianapolis 500s. What makes anyone think all of a sudden they are going to tune in for the 100th? It's kind of like Star Wars. My older brother has not seen one of the now seven Star Wars films and when I asked if he wanted to see the seventh installment of that series with me he said no and he had no desire to see it or any of the previous six films. There are plenty of people probably in that boat in terms of the Indianapolis 500.

What if isn't as great as many are expecting? What if the television rating is in line with recent Indianapolis 500? What if the television rating goes does compared to previous years? What if the television rating goes up but the remaining 10 races in the 2016 IndyCar schedule continue to flounder with a few drawing more people but others seeing decreases in viewership?

There is a sense that many think this is IndyCar's last stand. If the 100th Indianapolis 500 doesn't get people to tune in nothing will. There could be a real sense of defeat come over the series sometime after May 29th. It could come immediately when the television rating is release and it is an average Indianapolis 500 rating. It could come in the middle of July when television ratings are stagnant from 2015 and there are reports that Pocono isn't happy with ticket sales and the Boston race has hit a snag. It could come in September when another season ends and another champion is crowned and IndyCar once again disappears into another six-month offseason.

I am not telling people to expect the worst but people should be practical. The 100th Indianapolis 500 won't make it more affordable for team owners. It won't add a third manufacture, which would relieve the pressure on Chevrolet and Honda to support a full season worth of cars and the Indianapolis 500 field. It won't make corporations dumped hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars into the series. IndyCar's issues won't be solved by one race. The problems will only be solved with cooperation between series officials, team owners, drivers, race promoters and track owners to make the series more attractive to sponsors, manufactures, teams and fans and that is going to take more than 500 miles.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Simon Pagenaud and Nico Rosberg but did you know...

The #2 Porsche of Romain Dumas, Marc Lieb and Neel Jani won the FIA WEC Six Hours of Silverstone after the #7 Audi of André Lotterer, Marcel Fässler and Benoît Tréluyer was disqualified for being under the 20mm minimum on the front skid block. The #43 RGR Sport by Morand Ligier-Nissan of Felipe Albuquerque, Bruno Senna and Ricardo González won in LMP2. The #71 AF Corse Ferrari of Davide Rigon and Sam Bird won in GTE-Pro. The #83 AF Corse Ferrari of Emmanuel Collard, François Perrodo and Rui Águas won in GTE-Am.

The #38 G-Drive Racing Gibson-Nissan of Giedo van der Garde, Harry Tincknell and Simon Dolan won the ELMS season opening race from Silverstone. The #2 United Autosport Ligier-Nissan of Alex Brundle, Christian England and Mike Guasch won in LMP3. Andrew Howard, Darren Turner and Alex MacDowall won GTE in the #99 Aston Martin. The #66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari of Andrea Bertolini, Rory Butcher and Robert Smith had finished first in GTE but were excluded because of an illegal splitter.

Jordan and Ricky Taylor won their second consecutive IMSA race from Long Beach in the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP. Mikhail Goikhberg and Stephen Simpson won in the PC class in the #85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca. The #911 Porsche of Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet won in GTLM.

Álvaro Parente won the Pirelli World Challenge race from Long Beach after Johnny O'Connell was disqualified for overboost.

Jonathan Rea won both World Superbike races from Assen. Kyle Smith won the World Supersport race.

Scott McLaughlin swept the V8 Supercars races from Phillip Island and became the first multiple race winner in 2016.

Carl Edwards won the NASCAR Cup race from Bristol. Erik Jones won the Grand National series race.

Tiago Monteiro and José María López split the WTCC races from Slovakiaring.

Ryan Dungey won his eighth AMA Supercross race of 2016 at St. Louis.

Coming Up This Weekend
IndyCar heads south to Barber Motorsports Park.
All three Road to Indy series and Pirelli World Challenge will join IndyCar at Barber.
MotoGP starts its European season at Jerez.
Formula E will run in Paris for the first time.
The Blancpain Endurance Series opens its season at Monza.
NASCAR will be in Richmond for a Sunday race.
Super Formula opens its season at Suzuka.
World Rally will be in Argentina.
Supercross will be in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
WTCC heads to Hungary.