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Let’s talk INDYCAR racing, not politics

November 6, 2012

Hey, shouldn’t we be talking about racing instead of politics?

We’ll elect a president today, life will go on – eventually IMS/Hulman & Co will decide who’ll be CEO of INDYCAR and the world will continue to turn on its axis.

We should be talking about the mega talented Simona de Silvestro and her grand opportunity with a very changed KV Racing Technology (KVRT). There will be new management now that Mark Johnson has left, there will be a new teammate for Tony Kanaan – and one who might well challenge the veteran once she’s familiar with the team and they with her.

That’s exciting for sure but it also decreases the grid by one as HVM goes sports car racing; it worked for Eric Bachelart’s Conquest Racing and it might just work for Keith Wiggins’ outfit, who looked like they were ready to move at Petit Le Mans. KVRT is shrinking by one car as well. Will there be space for Mike Shank Racing and anyone else that might want to join?

Those answers belong to the engine manufacturers, who pretty much hold the reins right now. I don’t think INDYCAR wanted the engine makers to be the ones that decided the breadth of its grids, but when engines were in short supply this year, it truly inhibited the forward motion of the IZOD IndyCar Series season. Will that happen again next year or did Honda and Chevy get enough parts in the hamper to make sufficient mills for everyone?

Another racing-related (and engine-related) item we all need to think about is the 10-spot grid penalty that penalized teams as much as it did manufacturers. When engine makers can’t get it right, why should teams suffer as they did in 2012? Granted this was a trial-and-error season for the new cars, engines and their accompanying rules.

The unapproved engine change policy needs a good hard look and an adjustment. While it did make for some very fun races, watching fast cars maraud through the field, a five-place penalty – similar to Formula One – would be a far better idea. Trevor Knowles assured me the engine makers wanted the 10-spot penalties at the start of the year – bet they didn’t want it toward the end of the season? Let the racing gods dictate what happens, not these rules.

As it was, 2012 turned out to be a truly engaging and competitive year, and in standard INDYCAR fashion, the title wasn’t decided until midway through the final race when Will Power self-destructed – again.

That Power handed the title to American Ryan Hunter-Reay should have been plastered all over the news editions for weeks – first American since Sam Hornish Jr in 2006; good-looking and personable guy; married to NASCAR driver/owner Robby Gordon’s sister (a racer in her own right) – RHR’s pluses have legs but, apparently, the INDYCAR PR machine hasn’t been able to publicize all those facts, leaving it to??? Even Andretti Autosport could have been pulling chains from coast to coast to get RHR on local television shows in every INDYCAR market. His hometown of Fort Lauderdale celebrated Hunter-Reay’s achievements, but that’s about it.

The problem with INDYCAR’s public relations stance seems to stem from its culture, which I experienced living in Indianapolis for a few years right after the turn of the century. A lack of openness is pervasive in the series’ culture because it believes that Indianapolis is the center of the open wheel universe. For three weeks each year, it certainly is, but that’s it, folks. If you want to get people engaged, you have to look beyond the beltway. I-465 doesn’t mark the end of the world – it’s the beginning. As soon as INDYCAR culture is changed, it will become more engaging. Until then, it’s still a provincial little world they’re living in.

I’m hoping that teams come to play again in 2013 and that the action on-track is as enticing as it was this year. No matter who’s running the show, let them do it with consideration for the future as well as INDYCAR’s grand past – and let the good works begun by Mr Randy Bernard continue on. The fans want it to be that way and they are, after all, the constituency that keeps racing alive.

Sorry this delved into politics – even though I didn’t want it to – but it seems that politics and INDYCAR are irrevocably entwined. Sad, isn’t it?

By Anne Proffit

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