20 January 2010

The Oval/Road/Street Debate - A Different Take

Lately, there has been some debate over whether the Izod IndyCar Series needs to return to the all-oval schedule that the Indy Racing League featured upon its inception.  Both Planet-IRL.com and OilPressure.com have tackled the issue, bringing up some interesting and valid points on both sides.

I come down somewhere in the middle.  For me, growing up in Indianapolis, the Indianapolis 500 was, and still is, boss.  Oval racing is the only form of open-wheel racing I have seen in person, and I find it to make for better viewing on TV, as well. 

But still, I appreciate road and street circuits.  While I have not attended such a race, I plan on it in the near future (though I had to turn down an opportunity to go to St. Petersburg this year, unfortunately).  Maybe Mid-Ohio, we shall see.

As an open-wheel racing fan, I want a balanced schedule - featuring the best long ovals, short ovals and road/street circuits.  The fact of the matter is that in order to identify the best drivers in the IICS is to have a strong mix of these circuits.  It's one of the reasons why I want to see New Hampshire and Phoenix back on the schedule, along with Road America and Cleveland.  

But if the Izod IndyCar Series is going to move forward with a mix of tracks, I say embrace it and let's give the fans a way to further identify the series' top drivers.

My plan is based on "le Tour de France."  Look at the jerseys from the Tour: everyone knows the yellow jersey represents the overall leader , but there are jerseys for the sprint leader, mountain stage leader and the under-25 leader.

It would be relatively easy for the Izod IndyCar Series to embrace this kind of idea, whether it would be in special-colored wingplates, wheel rims or a a different-colored livery altogether.

If fans knew that Will Power was the "road/street" king, would it not be cool if Power's car reflected that fact?  Similarly, the series would benefit if Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal dueled throughout the year for the title of "Best Driver Under 25?"  Or if towards the end of the race, fans' eyes turned to Scott Dixon, because his green wingplates let everyone know that over the last 10 laps of the previous races he had gained the most positions?

Most importantly, the Izod IndyCar Series could make winning these titles financially lucrative for teams.  Adding this incentive would add some drama to the end of the season.  Last year, the series benefitted from a close points race, but to the outsider, no one knew that Raphael Matos was trying to lock the Rookie of the Year title.

If nothing else, adding unique identifiers to certain cars would bring about this question, either in the crowd or from TV viewers: "Why does his car have that color on it?"  Well, explain it - Will Power is the best road/street course driver in the serie, so he has the red stipe down the middle of his car; Tony Kanaan has the orange stripe because he has the most oval points.  I'm pretty sure road/street and oval fans would enjoy being able to brag about a certain driver holding dominion in their favorite field.

So instead of holding a desire to return to the past, embrace what the series has and hope it continues to grow.  And let's market the respective forms of racing and put those drivers into strarring roles.


  1. Ooo... you are flirting with NASCAR territory here. That sort of bogus "race within a race" sounds like something they'd try to do to distract from the fact that the same team wins every race.

    That said, as a cycling fan, as well as an open wheel fan, I am intrigued. A very interesting idea that would at least raise the profile of some mid-pack cars. I think that Sponsors would like to see that, although all of this assumes that folks are watching the race to begin with.

    Thanks for thinking up an original idea. Good, bad, or otherwise, that sort of brainstorming of new ideas is what the series needs.

  2. I think that saying that this idea flirting with Nascar territory is a little harsh. Nascar manufactures points races, while this proposal changes nothing about the championship, just rewards more categories and gives some visual cues as to who are the players. I like the idea. I am in favor of having points tallied for three categories: total points, ovals and road/street courses. This way you can easily see who is the best in each category. The overall champ is still the champ and gets the most recognition, but it would be fun to see how the other "sub-champs" come out. Best of all, it changes nothing about the points system, it just makes some new categories of competition.

  3. Tony Kanaan has the orange stripe because he killed the most Siberian Tigers with his bare hands.