Some easily accomplished changes can save the fastest and in our opinion highest form of IndyCar competition, oval track racing. Neither difficult nor expensive to implement, these improvements should be made immediately for the sake of the sport. May God save open wheel oval racing, the closest thing to spectator heaven that exists upon this earth.
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Long time fans of IndyCar racing on ovals, we’ve consistently raised alarms at their steady erosion from the schedule. At first blush the very thought of bettering side by side racing at over 200 mph seems ludicrous, but it can be done and fairly easily so. There are a number of things IndyCar needs more of to attract fans to its oval events – and one less. Among those additions are more comfort and fun. The subtraction involves putting someone in charge who appreciates IndyCar’s heritage.
According to a recent article in USA Today where Jeff Olson interviewed crusty old IndyCar Chief of Competition Derrick Walker, concerns expressed here and elsewhere about the proposed idea of canopies for IndyCars were allayed. He mentioned having only a “front half of a canopy,” stating an entire enclosure would be unnecessary and even detrimental to the quick escape from cars by drivers.
Photo from IndyRaceReviewer
The Ford Lotus Indy 500 entrant from 1963 pictured above illustrates how partial enclosures have been around for decades and don’t radically alter the nature of open cockpit cars as full coverings would. Walker also said a chassis redesign would be necessary to install canopies, which isn’t scheduled until 2018. Finally there’s some good news out of IndyCar as traditions aren’t trashed and common sense prevails for a change.
The latest bad idea acknowledged as under consideration by series honcho Derrick Walker is canopies. That’s right, canopies on gorgeous open wheel, open cockpit cars that have had the same general look since they were invented over a century ago (DW-12 ass pods notwithstanding). Attention IndyCar brass: rich traditions and history are not mere nothings to be sloughed off by the people who happen to be in charge of IndyCar’s sacred stewardship at the moment.
Rather than using unsightly canopies, we suggest airbags as alternatives. Advanced, ultra-safe airbags similar to but stronger than those in passenger cars could solve the perceived problem, which is protecting drivers’ heads during catastrophic collisions. They would accomplish the goal without altering the characteristic open-topped aesthetic appeal of IndyCars. In keeping with another hallowed and ancient IndyCar tradition, the development of such revolutionary airbag technology has all sorts of safety applications for the citizenry, from motorbikes to passenger vehicles to the military. This would enhance IndyCar’s long legacy of safety and technology innovations – including rear view mirrors and safer barriers – while not radically altering tradition, the unique look or inherent riskiness of the sport.
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Honda’s misery deepens as they continue to lose teams as well as championships. Most recently the newly fused Carpenter-Fisher-Hartman Team announced they’d be utilizing Chevrolet power in 2015. This wasn’t surprising considering ECR’s success this year using Chevy to the tune of three wins, a podium and pole position at Indianapolis. On the other side of the steering wheel SFHR and Josef Newgarden didn’t wow the crowds with Honda in 2014 and willingly accepted the change for next year. Big things are expected of the newly merged team, due in part to the bow tie power plants. Of course the aero-kits of both Honda and Chevy and their overall effects upon the racing in 2015 remain to be seen and are a true wildcard. They’re supposed to make the cars faster.
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As for silly season news, there really is none. Interestingly, Frenchman Simon Pagenaud who’s been driving for Sam Schmidt the last few years is the hot free agent this off season. Recent rumors linked him to Penske, whereas earlier rumors had him at Andretti. No signing has been announced as of yet, so it’s all been pure speculation. IRR only knows this – we’d hire him.
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The final bit o’ IndyCar news this week concerns the schedule. The long rumored race in Brazil – at yet another new venue in the capital Brasilia apparently made with leftovers from the World Cup building frenzy – will in fact take place early March, 2015. Unfortunately it’s an additional street course. This flies in the face of IRR’s sound advice to the series to instead race in Colombia, which is not only a nicer and safer destination for tourists but also the home nation of no fewer than four series participants, three of whom swept one of the podia in Houston this year. But no, IndyCar seems determined to go about things in the same old way while expecting different results – and that’s just crazy.
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In spite of IndyCar’s obtuseness and flat out refusal to accept our wise counsel, we’ll conclude by offering a few other helpful bits of advice. First, include more oval tracks on the schedule, as they are the sport’s heritage and provide by far the best racing. Second, start listening to your fans and supporters while you still have some left. And third, can the campy canopy idea.
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On a related note, there was some international news this week as Scotland voted whether to secede from the United Kingdom and discard a mutually beneficial and peaceful union of three hundred and seven years. Fortunately for most concerned including the United States, the large majority of Scots kept their senses and voted no. The IndyCar connection? It’s three time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti, tiny Scotland’s only recent series participant. The former driver’s stance on the historic decision of his countrymen when asked directly by an IRR reporter? A resounding no comment.