IndyCar Series Becoming IndyCar Snooze?
Although open wheel racing has often provided the passing lacking in F1 and the pure sense of speed and agility lacking in NASCAR, the IndyCar Series has recently been fighting a lack of both passing and excitement. The a lack of passing is crippling the quality of racing. In addition, the domination by both Penske and Ganassi have caused smaller budget teams to be shut out of Victory Lane.
For the IndyCar Series, 'short' ovals have never been its strength. However, in recent years, these events have become more and more like the F1 parade, and less like the agility fans are used to seeing.
For example, the series' premiere event at Indianapolis is a driver-friendly track known as the Milwaukee Mile. Although drivers may love the Mile, the 2009 parade caused fans to question if the Mile should be on the schedule for future years.
The race featured Tony Kanaan leading laps 1-25 (and likely the rest of the race, had he not crashed), Ryan Briscoe leading laps 26-132, Scott Dixon laps 133-134, Dario Franchitti laps 135-153, Ryan Briscoe laps 154-200, and finally Scott Dixon wins after leading laps 201-225.
Now, one might say that four lead changes in one event isn't all that bad, however, the lead change from Briscoe to Dixon took place in the pits, rather than on the track.
In addition to the race at Milwaukee, the series' event at Richmond International Raceway also served as a cure for insomnia. If one thought that Milwaukee's lead changes were bad, Richmond was worse.
This race featured only three different leaders, and the race more closely resembled a parade than, well, a race. Dario Franchitti was quoted as stating "I apologized to the fans because they came out to see good racing...I didn't feel [the race] was that," and when drivers are apologizing, changes must be made. It can also be duly noted that while it took the leaders approximately 20 laps to reach the back of the pack, it took them nearly 50 laps to complete a pass and place the last driver a lap down.
According to IndyCar series officials, various options are being investigated, with the hopes of bringing more side-by-side racing back to the series. One such option may be 'push to pass,' in which drivers can push a button on the steering wheel in order to provide a slight boost in power.
However, until the IndyCar Series learns that identical cars will perform at identical levels, processional racing is here to stay.
If IndyCar series officials wish to bring the excitement and subsequent fan revenue back to the series, they must allow teams to either tinker with the cars more in order to get more speed, or they must change the chassis away from the 7 year old Dallara they currently use.
Drivers, most notably Scott Dixon, are getting bored with the ease of the current racing environment. Although changes are in the works for a completely new car at the start of the 2012 season, changes must be made sooner, rather than later, if the series wishes to push to the forefront of American racing and keep its signature drivers.
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