Monday, August 29, 2016

Musings From the Weekend: In Case of Emergency

IndyCar had one of its closest finishes in series history. Lewis Hamilton went from the back to the front again. There were first time winners in all three NASCAR national touring divisions. Nissan's dominance in Super GT came to an end in the series biggest race. An Australian hit an impressive milestone while two different Australians drank from a boot. It was American muscle vs. American muscle in Virginia. Chris Buescher is just inside the top thirty. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

In Case of Emergency
The two and a half month intermission between the start and the finish of the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway was unprecedented. It was one of those situations that probably won't happen again next year or in five years or in fifty-five years. I don't think the rulebook needs to be completely re-written but perhaps it would be better for IndyCar to be safe rather than sorry if a lengthy rain delay should ever happen again.

When you look at the IndyCar schedule, there are many gaps in the schedule. The races are spread out but not as much as some would like however there are gaps in case of emergency. Perhaps IndyCar should take two or three off weeks and designate them as necessary rain dates in case Texas should repeat itself but possibly at another track.

When you think about rainouts, it is difficult for tracks. Tracks become the bad guys and that isn't fair. The tracks can't control the weather and I am sure tracks hate rainouts just as much as the rest of us but some fans can't return if a race is pushed back a day and some fans might be turned off from buying tickets for the following year as they just ate $40-$100 and didn't get their value. Instead of running the risk, fans keep the money in the bank, the attendance drops and then IndyCar is looking at another event that is on life support.

Designated rain dates could solve this problem. Perhaps allow one rain date per race weekend so a Saturday night race could be run on Sunday or a Sunday race on a Monday but make it so no race could be postponed two days. Designated rain dates would allow fans to get to see the race they bought tickets for, as it would just move to an open weekend. It benefits the track as those fans get the price of admission and the track could possibly sell more tickets, souvenirs, concession and etc. It benefits the television partners, as the race will be able to take place on a weekend when more people can watch and not the middle of a Monday when people are at work. IndyCar should want this. Even if designated rain dates were established some fans still wouldn't be able to make it but I think most would be able to squeeze in one more trip to the race track on a weekend and it would be for the best of IndyCar and its tracks.

One issue is where would the designated rain dates be put? There are 16 events on the 2017 IndyCar calendar and putting one at the end of each third of the season is difficult. The fifth race is the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, which is the start of a five-week stretch of on-track action. The off weekend after Texas is a valuable one to the teams and that shouldn't be taken from them. The earliest imaginable date would be between Road America and Iowa, which is July 4th weekend and would be difficult to sell for tracks as people will likely choose normal holiday plans over a rescheduled race. The next possible date would be between Toronto and Mid-Ohio in the middle of July. After Mid-Ohio is a two-week break and either of those could be used for a make-up, if necessary.

Another issue is while the dates might work for IndyCar, they might not work for the tracks. Iowa is in a tough position because a NASCAR weekend is the last weekend in July. It really has no wiggle room but perhaps a concession would be made if really bad weather were to delay that race. Mid-Ohio is another track with a NASCAR date two weeks after the IndyCar date. Some races, street circuits in particular, can't just move to another weekend if the weather comes. Street races have to be completed on the designated weekend or they won't be completed at all.

One final issue is what if a race after the designated rain dates is postponed? Looking at the 2017 schedule, there is an off weekend between the penultimate round at Watkins Glen and the finale at Sonoma so in all cases it appears that wouldn't be a problem but sometimes things happen out of our control. The September 11th terrorist attacks pushed the Loudon NASCAR Cup race back to the day after Thanksgiving, the week after the originally schedule finale at Atlanta. As much as we would like to respect Sonoma as the season finale, circumstance may arise where a race has to be pushed back to the week after and Sonoma loses the luxury of crowning the champion. That isn't likely but that should always be in the back of our minds.

Another Texas scenario may not happen in IndyCar again for a long, long time but maybe IndyCar should be one-step ahead in case Mother Nature decides a race won't be happening when scheduled or the day after that. It could be beneficial to the teams, fans and tracks and IndyCar should do what appeases all three factions.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Graham Rahal but did you know...

Nico Rosberg won the Belgian Grand Prix.

Prema Motorsports teammates Pierre Gasly and Antonio Giovinazzi split the GP2 races from Spa-Francorchamps. Charles Leclerc and Jack Aitken won in GP3.

Kyle Larson won the NASCAR Cup race at Michigan., his first career victory. Brett Moffitt won the Truck Race, his first career victory.

Michael McDowell won the NASCAR Grand National Series race from Road America, his first career victory.

The #38 Lexus of Hiroaki Ishiura and Yuji Tachikawa won the Suzuka 1000km. The #61 Subaru BR-Z of Takuto Iguchi and Hideki Yamauchi won in GT300.

The #3 Corvette of Jan Magnussen and Antonio GarcĂ­a won the IMSA race at VIR. The #48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini of Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow won in GTD.

The #46 Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca-Nissan of Mathias Beche, Pierre Thiriet and Mike Conway won the ELMS race from Circuit Paul Ricard. It is the team's third consecutive victory. The #12 Graff Ligier-Nissan of Enzo Guibbert, Paul Petit and Eric Trouillet won in LMP3. The #66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari of Andrea Bertolini, Rory Butcher and Robert Smith won in GTE.

Shane Van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup split the Supercars weekend at Sydney Motorsports Park. Whincup's victory was the 100th in his Australian Supercars career.

The #84 HTP Motorsport Mercedes of Dominik Baumann and Maximilian Buhk won the Blancpain Sprint Series race at the Hungaroring. The #33 Audi of Enzo Ide and Christopher Mies won the qualifying race.

Coming Up This Weekend
IndyCar makes it return to Watkins Glen for the first time since 2010.
Monza hosts the Italian Grand Prix.
NASCAR runs the Southern 500.
FIA WEC makes its debut at Mexico City.
MotoGP heads to Silverstone.
WTCC will be at Motegi.