Editor's Note: A decidedly sparse, borderline embarrassing crowd for the IndyCar season finale at the Auto Club Speedway in southern California adds even more weight to last week's Fumes column, which we're running again this week. (The TV numbers on NBCSN were truly abysmal. An average of 280,000 viewers watched the broadcast, a thirteen percent decline from 2013. Racing in a vacuum indeed.) Peter will return next week with a new edition of Fumes. - WG
By Peter M. De Lorenzo
Detroit. I thought the IndyCar race at Sonoma was some of the best road racing this year, with cut-and-thrust battles and frantic action all the way around the track. It truly was outstanding racing by any measure. But the fact remains that except for the hard-core enthusiasts who love the sport, and the owners, teams, crews and people directly involved in the sport itself, hardly anyone cares.
In reality, we're right back where we were before the CART series was formed, and that is that Indy car racing consists of the Indianapolis 500 - which still has a modicum of prestige attached to it and notable interest - and the rest of the racing series, which unfolds in almost total obscurity. It truly pains me to write that, but to pretend otherwise is a fool's errand. Crying "Say it ain't so!" or that "The good times are just around the corner" might sound good or make some people feel good, but it wouldn't be accurate. The fact remains that IndyCar is conducted in a vacuum for the few who have a direct, vested interest in the sport and that is simply unacceptable.
Can you imagine if the TV and cable networks didn't have such an insatiable desire for content? Because without it I hate to think where we would be. I can assure you that there would be no live IndyCar races on TV at all, and we would be lucky to even watch the races on a tape-delay basis. Again, this doesn't make me feel good to write this, in fact it's disgusting and depressing, but reality bites and the situation that IndyCar finds itself in is simply appalling.
But setting this doom and gloom assessment aside for a moment - because this situation isn't likely to change anytime soon - I thought it might be fun to create a schedule for IndyCar that might make some sense if you squinted hard enough. This is a pure racing schedule, one not based on the hoary concept of "bringing the racing to the people" (aka temporary street circuits). It's based on pure racing, and what would be the most fun for the teams, drivers and lest we forget, the paying spectators.
Daytona: The Friday before the 24 Hour race. People said Indy-type cars should never race on the Daytona International Speedway oval again. But using the road course with the chicane, maybe it's time to try it.
Sebring: The Friday before the 12 Hours. Some say it's too rough, but IndyCar teams test there and it's certainly no rougher than any street circuit they currently run on.
April - The California Swing
Sonoma: The drivers like it, but will the fans come?
Long Beach: Not because it's a good idea, but for the tradition.
Laguna Seca: Same question. Will the fans come?
Barber Motorsports Park: A natural-terrain road circuit that's more interesting than the "new" road course circuit at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will ever be. The Indy road course event is dropped.
Indianapolis 500: Still the greatest single motor race in the world, and still the one raison d'etre for Indy car-type racing.
June - The England Swing
Brands Hatch, England: Indy-type cars ran there before, they need to go back. Two races, double points.
Silverstone, England: Two races, double points. (Detroit is dropped.)
July - The Oval Swing
Texas: Scary fast, spectacular and risky but...
Iowa: It's a good track for IndyCar, and for fans in that part of the country too.
Pocono: IndyCar goes well there.
August - The Road Racing Swing
Mosport: It's where IndyCar belongs when it comes to racing in Canada.
Mid-Ohio: Still needs to be there.
Road America: Yes, the season finale would take place on America's premier natural-terrain road racing circuit. (Sorry Michael, The Milwaukee Mile used to be cool, but it isn't anymore.)
And there you have it. Fontana, Detroit, Milwaukee and the Indy (road course) events are dropped. And visits to other foreign destinations are shelved in favor of a return to England. Seventeen races total. Twelve road course races (including one street race), four pure ovals and one modified oval/road course. A pipe dream? Yes, but it's certainly fun to think about, especially the double points paying races in England.
Be that as it may, I do hope for a stirring finish to the season at Fontana and a good, clean - and safe - race. And may the best driver win the Verizon IndyCar Series Championship.
Publisher's Note: As part of our continuing series celebrating the "Glory Days" of racing, we're proud to present another noteworthy image from the Ford Racing Archives. - PMD
(Photo by Dave Friedman courtesy of the Ford Racing Archives)
Riverside, California, November 26, 1967. Dan Gurney (No. 48 All American Racers Olsonite Eagle-Weslake Ford) charges to the win in the Rex Mays 300 at Riverside International Raceway. Gurney considered this race to be one of the greatest - and most satisfying - drives of his career. Gurney started from the pole and led 68 of the 116 laps, averaging 107.17 mph against a star-studded field that included Bobby Unser (No. 2 Bob Wilke Rislone Eagle-Ford) who finished second and Mario Andretti (No. 1 Al Dean Dean Van Lines Brawner Hawk-Ford) who came in third. Other notable drivers in the field included A.J. Foyt, George Follmer, Lloyd Ruby, Roger McCluskey, Johnny Rutherford, Al Unser, Jerry Grant, Joe Leonard, John Surtees and Jim Clark.
Publisher's Note: Like these Ford racing photos? Check out www.fordimages.com. Be forewarned, however, because you won't be able to go there and not order something. - PMD