FONTANA, CALIF. (AP) - This season was long ago earmarked as the pivotal year for IndyCar to begin the long climb back into relevance.
The series succeeded in some ways, overcoming the death of Dan Wheldon in last year’s finale and making the adjustments needed to produce an on-track product some believe is the best in racing. There were seven different winners, competition all the way down the grid, and IndyCar heads into the finale Saturday night at Auto Club Speedway ready to crown a first-time champion.
“Great comeback, outstanding comeback, especially the way we finished last year,” said Helio Castroneves, who celebrated his season-opening win at St. Petersburg by touching the street sign named for Wheldon in his trademark fence climb.
“We never forgot what happened, but we took the right measurements to address the issues we had, and big props for the entire series and all the drivers for working so hard together to make the best racing we’ve ever had in IndyCar.”
Improving the racing was one of CEO Randy Bernard’s major goals for this season, which marked the debut of the first new IndyCar in nine years. The car was created with an emphasis on improved safety, upgraded technology and more competitive racing.
The series also welcomed multiple engine manufacturers for the first time since 2005, and Chevrolet marked its return to IndyCar with 10 victories in 14 races. Chevy has already beaten Honda and Lotus for the manufacturer title, and will celebrate a driver championship Saturday night with either Penske Racing’s Will Power or Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay.
“I think it’s the best racing product out there in the world,” team owner Michael Andretti said. “Our races are just so competitive, and also the quality of our drivers and our teams is as good as it’s ever been in the history of IndyCar.”
Even so, IndyCar still has major ailments and issues that threaten its long-term stability.
One of the biggest problems the series is facing is horrific television ratings. Despite the strong product, a brutal television package has made IndyCar the best kept secret in racing. Locked into a long deal that puts the bulk of the races on NBC Sports, drivers have been outspoken all year in blaming the network for doing a poor job of promoting the series.
“NBC does a pretty crappy job of promotion, and the broadcast is OK, but the booth needs a major shake-up,” Scott Dixon said Thursday. “You understand why NASCAR has such a big following, they have such a big television presence and it’s promoted very well. They have sideshows and while the racing may not be a better product, they do a good job of promoting it and putting it out there.
“So much these days for sponsors is based on ratings, and unfortunately we don’t have them right now in IndyCar. I think this sport could have a following, whether you wait the six years for the contract to run out, or you do something about it _ well, we’re kind of getting to the point where we have to do something about it.”
Off the track, the backroom politics and fighting between team owners and Bernard consistently hurts IndyCar’s efforts to grow. Bernard tweeted two days after the Indianapolis 500 that an owner was actively trying to have him fired, and there’s persistent talk throughout the paddock of an owner-led coup to have Bernard ousted at the end of the season.
“Randy’s got a tough job. I wouldn’t want it,” Andretti said. “Is he doing great? I’m not sure he’s doing great. Is he doing bad? I don’t think he’s doing bad. I think he’s doing a good job with what he’s been having to work with.”
Bernard was faced with scheduling issues this season, as the Las Vegas finale was canceled after Wheldon’s death and promoters of an August race in China pulled the plug on the event. Although he promised several times to release the 2013 schedule in early September _ and he’s been adamant he wants between 17 and 19 races _ he has since retracted and said he’ll have nothing to announce until after his meeting next week with the IndyCar board of directors.View Entire Story
By John Solomon
How the government's punishing of the exposure of official wrongdoing can linger for years
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
First over-the-counter column approved for fast and effective relief from even your worst media-induced headache.
A collection of reader guest articles, thoughts and opinions by Communities writers and breaking news and information.
Great discoveries in the world of restaurants and chefs fulfill the quest for delicious food and cooking.
Paul Rondeau dissects the propaganda, media tricks, and other shenanigans targeting our families, faith, and freedom…and even life itself
Benghazi: The anatomy of a scandal
Vietnam Memorial adds four names
Cinco de Mayo on the Mall
NRA kicks off annual convention