Monday, October 7, 2019

Musings From the Weekend: Pay Up or Shut Up

Marc Márquez clinched his fourth consecutive MotoGP championship, his sixth career MotoGP championship and his eighth world championship after Márquez won his ninth race of the 2019 season at Buriram with another final lap pass on Fabio Quartararo. Jenson Button made his Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters debut at a wet Hockenheimring. The FIA World Endurance Championship had its second race of the 2019-20 season and the success ballast didn't go as planned. A driver not named Sébastien is on the verge of capturing the World Rally Championship. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Pay Up or Shut Up
IndyCar's latest addition to the schedule could bring a bonus payday for one of the drivers on the grid.

With the inclusion of Richmond there has been a rumor that a short track challenge could be held with Iowa and Gateway. The exact details are not clear but if IndyCar is to have any type of bonus/incentive program it must do one thing: Pay the drivers!

For a few seasons, back when Indianapolis, Pocono and Fontana all had 500-mile races on the schedule IndyCar had the Triple Crown prize, $1 million to anyone who could win all three and $250,000 to any driver who could win two of the three. Nobody won two of the three or all three; therefore no one got paid.

I doubt this short track challenge would have a $1 million prize if someone were to sweep the races but IndyCar has to give out some actual money to make it worth a damn.

It is a challenge and winning three races is difficult but some challenges become so difficult that it is not worth getting excited about. After all, after Richmond next year only one driver will have the opportunity to sweep the races. After Iowa next year either one driver will be going for the sweep or two drivers will be looking to live up to Meat Loaf's "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad."

The NASCAR Truck Series introduced a similar concept this year with three Truck races, Texas, Iowa and Gateway, all paying an extra $50,000 to the winner. The money was for anyone who entered. If you won one race you could win $150,000 if you took two of three. A sweep paid $500,000. It led to Greg Biffle stepping into a Kyle Busch Motorsports truck at Texas, his first truck start in almost 15 years and he won it! Biffle stepped in and took $50,000 as a one-off. If it weren't for NASCAR's fickle entry list rules that prevented Biffle from being eligible for the money at Iowa it may have been a bigger story in June and Biffle would have brought more people to the television to see if he could sweep the races.

The challenge got people interested in three standalone Truck races in the early portion of the summer that would have otherwise been overlooked. There were stakes for every driver in the field and increased stakes for previous winners. No matter what someone was getting paid at the checkered flag. It was worth tuning in to see.

IndyCar can't cap this bonus to only one or two drivers. People want to see others get rewarded. They want to see every driver fighting for something, not one or two drivers. The stakes need to be increased for everyone and IndyCar has to put the money on the table before hand. There has to be a prize for each race and a larger bonus for each other winner.

To be honest, the Truck payout is probably in line with what IndyCar can pony up. As much as we love IndyCar it is pinching pennies. It doesn't have an extra two or three million dollars laying around to toss at the drivers but perhaps in the light of public perception IndyCar might be forced to toss some more cash out there. Remember, NASCAR's second division has the "Dash 4 Cash" program, which pays $100,000 to one of four drivers win if he or she wins that race.

I would love to see $100,000 for each race with an additional $250,000 if a driver wins two of three races and another $500,000 if someone sweeps all three races.

What is realistic for IndyCar?

The champion only gets $1 million and it could be argued would IndyCar be better off paying any money for a short track challenge out for more than just three races. Would it make more sense to take the $300,000 for the three race winners and adding it to the champion's prize or spreading it throughout the championship results and giving more money for eighth through 15th in the championship? Would it be better if the money were used for a prize to the road/street course champion and the oval champion so the prize was based on five oval races and a dozen road/street course races?

Once again, IndyCar is not in a position to throw money out at random but any bonus money would likely go to a Penske, Ganassi or Andretti entry. The three largest teams on the grid. Do those three teams need the money the most? No, but it is not as easy as spreading the wealth around.

It makes sense to spread the crumbs around and make sure the smaller teams are able to get by but at the same time spreading the crumbs around doesn't draw attention. It is noble but not noteworthy. Every now and then you have to have a few more glittery events. You need a race where you can sell a payday, even if it means the rich are getting richer.

Not to forget mentioning, this short track program benefits these three races. Richmond is returning for the first time in a decade. It gives people an extra reason to come out. Iowa needs a pick me up and it has been a great race for sometime now. Adding a six-figure winning bonus would be a plus. Gateway gets about 40,000 people and if it is not going to be the season finale then make it jackpot night where someone will leave with either $100,000, $250,000 or $500,000.

These three races would, in theory, be events that could draw one-off entries, something that has not been common at oval races other than the Indianapolis 500. A driver like Sage Karam or Carlos Muñoz would have something sell to sponsors. J.R. Hildebrand could put together a schedule beyond Indianapolis and it could get Dreyer & Reinbold Racing at more races. If there were three races for Oliver Askew to put his Road to Indy scholarship toward it should be these races. He could take his scholarship money and turn it into more money. That would be a smart move. IndyCar would benefit from having four to seven more cars entered for these races.

There are plenty of pluses as to why IndyCar should do this short track challenge but IndyCar has to pay. If it is going to bring up money then it better be willing to open its wallet. IndyCar should not be hoping it will not have to give out a dime. It has to have the cash ready to hand over. If IndyCar isn't willing to fork the money over then it is better off keeping its mouth shut.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Marc Márquez but did you know...

Luca Marini Moto2 race from Buriram, his first victory since Malaysia last year. Albert Arenas won the Moto3 race, his first victory since Australia last year.

Kyle Larson won the NASCAR Cup race from Dover, his first victory in 75 starts. Cole Custer won the Grand National Series race, his seventh victory of 2019.

The #8 Toyota of Kazuki Nakajima, Sébastien Buemi and Brendon Hartley won the 6 Hours of Fuji. The #29 Racing Team Nederland Oreca-Gibson of Nyck de Vries, Giedo van der Garde and Fritz van Eerd won in LMP2. The #95 Aston Martin of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørenson won the GTE-Pro class. The #90 TF Sport Aston Martin of Salih Yoluç, Charlie Eastwood and Jonny Adam won in GTE-Am.

René Rast and Nico Müller split the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters races from Hockenheim.

Ott Tänak won Wales Rally GB, his sixth victory of 2019.

Coming Up This Weekend
IMSA concludes another season with Petit Le Mans.
Supercars has its first endurance race with the Bathurst 1000.
Formula One returns to Suzuka.
NASCAR will be in Talladega.
World Superbike has its penultimate round of 2019 in Argentina.