If Indycar is serious about not competing with the NFL then it needs to start racing earlier than the last week of March. The sport also needs an All-Star race, and it seems to me like moving one race, maybe two, could solve both problems.
Indycar should be racing this weekend. The NFL season just finished, the Daytona 500 isn’t for another two weeks and Formula One doesn’t start until mid-March, and only a few basketball and hockey games are on the schedule. If the logic is Indycar can’t compete with football there will never be a better time of year to grab casual eyeballs than these next few weekends. By shifting a few races they can have better weather, a better potential audience and an earlier start to the season.
This year’s MavTV 500 is schedule to run August 30, the Sunday before Labor Day when according to accuweather the high was 91 degrees. Considering the temperature reached 98 degrees two weeks later race promoters would be lucky to get a high in the low 90’s. In contrast, the forecast for this Sunday calls for a high of 67, which sounds like great racing weather to me.
What would make sense to me would be to run an All-Star race the Saturday before the Superbowl and then run the MavTV 500 the first full weekend in February. NASCAR doesn’t race at Auto Club Speedway until March 23 and Long Beach is April 13 so I don’t think it would be infringing on established events.
Even if Indycar can’t find another event between this weekend and St. Petersburg I’d argue it’s better to have a six-week break than six-month off season. Looking at the schedules it seems to me that the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston run the second or third weekend in February. Houston moved to the last weekend in June, when the temperatures hit 100 degrees last year. If Indycar does land dates at two or more weather venues, either in South America or in the South and the schedule suddenly starts looking a lot more viable, and professional, to me.
THE ALL-STAR RACE
Yes, NASCAR starts its season in a similar fashion in Daytona, but the format works. It allows two races at successful track in a good market without adding another double header.
The grid could be set by inviting the race winning drivers, pole winners and then any past champions not otherwise qualified. I would also add the Indy Lights Champion. Giving a spot, funded as part of the Indy Lights prize pool, would add an additional bonus to winning the Indy Lights series and give that driver more value.
I really don’t care what the format is, so long as it generates close racing and is good for TV coverage. There’s a number of formats out there from a series of sprint races with a few field inversions to 80-lap race with various options for qualifying.
So what would all-star grid look like? Using the 2013 season as a guide this we could see seventeen possible entries and likely fifteen drivers.
Winners: James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Takuma Sato, Will Power, Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud, Charlie Kimball, Mike Conway (doesn’t race ovals), Tony Kannan
Pole winners: Ed Carpenter, Marco Andretti, Dario Franchitti (Retired)
Past Champions: Sebastien Bourdais, Juan Pablo Montoya
Winning Car Owners: Dale Coyne
Indy Lights Champion: Sage Karam