Circular Reasoning: Fitting a Square Series into Round Tracks

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Image from Indy Race Reviewer

While infiltrating a Masonic-like meeting of top notch racing writers recently, a topic arose in conversation over cocktails that’s very near and dear to our hearts. Of course we rather rudely elbowed our way across the bar for a better hearing, careful not to spill a single drop of libation. Surprisingly with all the stuffed shirts in attendance it turned out to be a most interesting IndyCar sort of evening. Breaking all rules of journalistic ethics we now bring the gist of what transpired to you – unedited and as it happened – because we care.

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Photo from Indy Race Reviewer

Sad as it is, the diminished state of IndyCar oval racing is a subject worthy of serious discussion and serious drinking. It received plenty of both on this unforgettable night at a secret undisclosed location. From being the only tracks on the Indy Racing League’s schedule a decade ago to making up barely a third of IndyCar’s venues today, the phrase precipitous decline doesn’t do justice to what’s occurred to oval racing. For a significant number of IndyCar fans, oval racing with its thrills, chills and spills is the preferred type of open wheel racing. To put it mildly, these fans aren’t pleased that ovals are going the way of the Tasmanian devil, either.

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Photo from Indy Race Reviewer

Among the ace race writers at the bar was our friend Brian Carroccio of AutoRacing1.com, one of the most well spoken, thoughtful and sober scribes in the place. As a favor to him we kept our distance, not wanting any guilt by association to tarnish his good name. When someone mentioned that oval tracks are being threatened with extinction, BC immediately offered up his thoughts. As usual, his views on this distressing issue made imminent good sense and were – although entirely off the cuff – impeccably delivered.

Brian

Photo from Brian Carroccio

“Let me start by saying, this is a very complicated multi-layered matter, the roots of which go back many, many years. Let me also say that before I get labeled an oval hater or something, ultimately what makes IndyCar racing unique to me is the diversity. I like ovals, banked and flat, short and long. I like street courses, I like road courses, I like airport courses. In short, the variety of circuits is the best thing IndyCar has going. I want ovals to succeed. IndyCar without ovals is GP 1.5 with the Indy 500.”

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Image from dudespaper.com

Some in the group at the end of the bar murmured while others, overhearing, nodded their heads in agreement. BC paused momentarily, taking a long Dude-like sip of his white Russian. When the ensemble had quieted down again, he continued.

“However, one of the main problems – and people don’t like when this is brought up – is IndyCar doesn’t control any of the tracks. All these places people want to go like Phoenix, MIS, and Chicagoland are if not NASCAR controlled, then certainly NASCAR-affiliated. This means the track’s marketing budget, for example, centers on its NASCAR events. An IndyCar event at those facilities is a secondary part of their overall business plan.”

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Photo from ftw.usatoday.com

Uh-oh, now he’d done it. In typical fearless fashion, BC had broached the N*$CAR conundrum head on when it comes to IndyCar oval racing. The discussion now had arrived at the heart of the matter. Glancing around the barroom, we expected to see some sort of reaction to his rather controversial comments. Shocked silence and anticipation were the only replies from the swelling crowd that now surrounded him. Suddenly the center of attention, after downing his drink Brian coolly elaborated upon his line of thinking.

“Now, that’s not a criticism of the tracks or NASCAR or anyone. These tracks are in business to make money. But the business reality is something people often overlook when saying ‘IndyCar needs to go here, IndyCar needs to go there.’ The truth is it often makes no business sense for IndyCar to go ‘here or there.’”

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Photo from racing.ap.org

Now thoroughly depressed in knowing he’s right – NASCAR is helping to kill IndyCar oval track racing –  we gulped our drinks and ordered another round.  It was refreshing to hear the issue so frankly stated. Others in the crowd voiced opposing points of view, but none very convincingly. BC had pretty well nailed it, though without laying the blame within IndyCar or mentioning the atmosphere in which this was allowed to happen. There were several related issues as yet unmentioned, but Brian had quickly identified a particularly crucial one.

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Photo from flickr.com

At this point in the evening the tavern was buzzing and so were we. Brian had certainly given the crowd something to consider and they began discussing his views. Finishing our drinks and settling IRR’s hefty bar tab, we thought the impromptu lecture on IndyCar oval racing had concluded. Had it been over, his thoughts already had been enlightening enough. But the buzz had made our comprehension bleary, for neither BC nor this circular conversation were close to finished.

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Photo from Indy Race Reviewer

In part two, we reveal the rest of Brian’s remarks on the state of oval racing as well as a few thoughts of our own on what can be done to end ovals’ slide toward oblivion.

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6 thoughts on “Circular Reasoning: Fitting a Square Series into Round Tracks

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