I've been doing my best lately to be as positive as possible given the events of October. It has been a difficult, but rewarding, process to mine the bright spots from a period in time that, if I'm being honest, can pretty much suck it.
But occasionally a situation requires blunt, harsh negativity, and this is one of those times.
See, I hear that some people within INDYCAR are considering putting on a second IZOD IndyCar Series race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. On the road course. In May.
Now, before you start bracing yourselves for traditionalist vitriol, I'm not even going to go there. There's TrackForum and Robin Miller for that.
I am, however, going to come down like a ton of bricks on this tremendously stupid idea and the people who are considering it - people who obviously didn't apply much brain power to their reasoning process.
On a very, very superficial level, it makes a bit of sense, right? I mean, the parent company of INDYCAR owns IMS too. INDYCAR is looking at a possible shortage of events for 2012, so why not use what's already in the portfolio? We have the track, we have the alternate layout, and we have a city full of rabid racing fans in the epicenter of INDYCAR's popularity. SLAM FRICKIN' DUNK, YO.
Yeah, great, except that even a cursory appeal to common sense reveals that this idea actually is about as smart as that time you ate that Hot Fire Burrito right before a cross-country flight.
First - and perhaps most importantly - the IMS road course sucks for anything with more than two wheels. Hell, the idea to build it in the first place was only good when people thought it would be the permanent home of the USGP, because having F1 stop by Indianapolis once a year forgave a lot of shortcomings. But the technical sections of the road course are total momentum-killers for race cars. Flat turns, tight radii, and a narrow groove, and the parade is on.
Soooooo, the race wouldn't be very exciting, you say? If only that was the single downside. Getting fans to come out and watch this turd in the punchbowl would be a bigger challenge than, say, convincing Bryan Sperber to let INDYCAR race at Phoenix International Raceway again.
Yes, it's Indianapolis, but it's also Indianapolis in a down economy. Fans have to save disposable income and vacation days to accommodate their desire to see a race, first of all. That's easier to do with a few months separating events, but as we've seen with the recent downturn in attendance at the NASCAR Brickyard 400, a lot of folks are cutting back on the number of races they bother see in person because they simply can't afford to do more. In prior years, perhaps, fans could go to several marquee races a year; in this harsh economic climate, they are becoming more selective.
Beyond that, though, exactly what leads anyone to believe that any racing event at IMS in the month of May besides the 500 itself will draw more than an anemic trickle of die-hard fans? They can't draw for Pole Day, Bump Day, Carb Day, or even Kid Rock Day. The Freedom 100? If people prefer staying in their converted U-Haul in the Coke lot instead of heading to the stands to see this race, well... that says it all, doesn't it?
The most ardent traditionalists will kvetch about how the Speedway hasn't been the same since they opened it back up to races other than the Indy 500. Certainly, IMS lost a bit of mystique by hosting more than its signature race, but at least the brands have until now been unique. You could at least pretend that the races at the Brickyard were jewels in a crown - The 500, the USGP, the Brickyard 400, MotoGP. Positive thinkers believed that those additional races bolstered the track's portfolio, even though attendance for those events generally declined after the inaugural events.
But the traditionalists have a valid point, in that part of what made Indianapolis so special for so many years is that, to paraphrase Eminem, you only had one shot a year at the Brickyard, and you could not miss your chance to triumph if you presented with one. But today, Tony Stewart - one of Indy's favorite sons and a lifelong worshipper of the track and its history - is content because he has won at Indianapolis... in a stock car. His thoughts about the Indy 500? Sure, it would have been nice to win it. But, meh, I'm good.
So with that in mind, what happens to Indy's stature when second-tier races are added to that portfolio... even worse, a second-tier race for the self-same cars that compete in the track's raison d'etre only weeks before the Big Event itself? Sure, NASCAR races at Daytona twice, but six months apart, and at least the Pepsi 400 races on the Independence Day holiday weekend which gives the race its own festival atmosphere. What corresponding justification is there for an "undercard" IndyCar race at IMS?
The truth is that there is no motivating factor for even thinking about a second IndyCar race at IMS - even on the road course instead of the oval - other than convenience. Is that worth the catastrophic dilution of the IMS brand... particularly after the long struggle to make the Greatest Spectacle in Racing generally relevant again?
This is a trial balloon that needs to be deflated quickly and finally. Dumb decisions only become so if they're actually made.