01 July 2010

A 2013 Chassis Would Actually Make Sense

I sit writing this from my domicile in Indianapolis, which is devoid of air conditioning. Thankfully, the weather has been in the upper 70's all week, allowing one to feel almost as if they are on vacation.  And when I come back from work and grab a cold Miller Lite from the fridge, I can almost taste the two weeks off work.

(And then the neighbors show up, ruining the grand illusion.)

However, in 24 hours, I'll be off on vacation, taking in the great outdoors for another summer.  The route takes me nearly past Watkins Glen, but unfortunately, carries me 8 hours past The Glen.  Though if I time the 2011 vacation up better, Loudon is right on the way.  Consider me in.

The Glen is one of the nation's most historic circuits, hosting Formula 1, NASCAR and IndyCar throughout its 60-year history.  If for no other reason than its ties to the past of open-wheel racing, I hope it remains on the IZOD IndyCar schedule.  Let's hope that ISC figures out a way to work out that contract with the series (if it and Chicagoland were the only two ISC tracks left on the schedule, I wouldn't be too upset.  Though adding Fontana, Michigan and Phoenix would be nice).

Instead of making it to The Glen, it's nothing but hiking, drinking Shipyard Summer Ale, laying in a hammock, trying to convince the dog to go in the ocean and avoiding
the great white sharks that appear to be returning to the northeastern seaboard, for the next two weeks.

I had timed the vacation perfectly - leave two days after the planned chassis announcement of June 30.  But alas, Randy Bernard continued to disappoint, postponing the release by two weeks, to July 14.  Just another reason - along with failing to single-handedly draw TV viewers and failing to solve the DH rule in baseball - that he deserves a "C."

Knowing I could be in the middle of the woods when the announcement is made, or in a kayak, or on a beach, let me say this now:  Multiple chassis are the way to go.  With that in mind, I hope the ICONIC committee puts a cap on the chassis spending.

I hope for two or three chassis choices (Dallara, Lola, Swift), with the parts to be built in Speedway, Indiana, which has spoken to all three about manufacturing in the racing capital of the world.  Read this excellent breakdown from Curt Cavin for details on all five chassis proposals - it looks like Dallara and Lola are the clubhouse leaders, which makes sense.

Multiple chassis are the way to go.  Introduce a mixed chassis/engine package in 2012 or 2013.  2013, you cry?  Yes, Tom Petty once said "The waiting is the hardest part."  But if the masses wanted a new chassis yesterday, who in their right mind will wait until 2013?

Since I threw 2013 out there as a possibility, let's address the fact that it has been on the table since early April, when Roger Penske mentioned it.  
I don't wait to wait until 2013 for a new car, but when you break it down, it does make sense.     

Why would 2013 work?  (And yes, it would be disappointing to watch these chassis compete for two more seasons.)  One reason it might be feasible: TV.

The IZOD IndyCar Series' four-year contract with ESPN/ABC will run out following the 2012 season.  2013 would allow for a fresh start for the series.  New engines.  New chassis.  New TV package.  More tracks, potentially.

If the chassis/engine packages are rolled out in 2012, it gives ESPN/ABC one year to heavily promote the new aspect to the series.  Should the network continue to show its current level of interest in the series, even with new cars and interest, it is only logical for the IZOD IndyCar Series to shop itself to a new network.

And it just so happens that NBC/Comcast is lying in the weeds.  Think the Peacock wouldn't jump at the chance to add the Indianapolis 500 to it's "Championship Season" promotions?  If the Comcast merger is approved, it becomes adds to the synergy between NBC Sports and Versus.

Two to three chassis options.  Similar engine numbers.  A new network.  Additional sponsors.  More races.  Even if the chassis announcement reveals a 2013 debut, I think Randy Bernard could earn an "A" by then.  

1 comment:

  1. Uh... that seems like a pretty weak rationale for waiting. The current chassis is big ass problem that needs to be solved. Roger Penske just threw that wait until 2013, the chassis doesn't matter thing out there because he was trying to buy time for the D-Wing. Consider the harm done by the current bucket o' bolts (using the Lola proposal as a comparison):

    1) The schedule is dictated, in part, by the chassis. You do 4 roadies, then 4 ovals, then repeat, in order to reduce workload on the teams. I wonder how R. Bernard feels about that one. The new chassis totally eliminates the problem. You can do a road course, then ship the car directly to a 1.5 oval with no down time at all. The only configuration change to the car is removal of some wing elements.

    2) Barrier to entry. As long as that old pile is given "one more year," and then "just one more," teams that want to join the league---say, by moving from ALMS to IndyCar---will hold out. No way are you going to invest in something that expensive and then kiss it goodbye after "one more year." Not to mention that the new car is substantially cheaper; purportedly 50% cheaper. See item #1 as well---the new car is delivered ready to rock, all you need is an engine lease. Delaying the new chassis is keeping quality teams from joining the ICS.

    3) Safety cell design has advanced considerably since the Dallara was designed. Every extra year one waits is another year that drivers are subjected to an antiquated design. The current car is injuring drivers; it is injuring their spines on a regular basis. The league thinks they have a solution to the problem, but you ain't gonna see it until the current car is replaced. The drivers deserve modern best-quality equipment.

    4) Operational costs. The new chassis is not only cheaper to purchase, but it is cheaper to race. Parts inventory is dramatically reduced, and labor costs to field the car are likewise reduced. Lower operational costs mean the teams can make more attractive value propositions to potential sponsors, and drivers don't have to bring as much money to the table to get a ride. That means fewer deserving drivers on the sidelines while Milka Duno and the foreign crash-a-holics brigade buy seats.

    I think I'll stop there. Pretty sure there's more, though.