No. 947
May 23, 2018
 

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Fumes


Tuesday
Jul082008

FUMES #453

July 9, 2008

Three steps forward - and five back - for the Indy Racing League.

By Peter M. De Lorenzo

Detroit.
The IRL's IndyCar Series has been on a roll of late, there's no doubt. Unification of the two major league open-wheel racing series has been a positive, new sponsors are showing interest in the series, new young drivers are emerging, and the "buzz" has been notably upbeat during the first half of the season. All of which pointed to a much-anticipated race on the famous natural-terrain road racing circuit at Watkins Glen, a track that would be sure to show off the cars and stars of the IndyCar Series.

Well that was the plan anyway.

Instead, TV viewers were treated to an absolute stinker of a race, a boring, lackluster event punctuated by the kind of on-track antics and stupidity that you wouldn't even expect at an SCCA amateur race. This isn't meant as a criticism of young Ryan Hunter-Reay, who claimed his first IndyCar Series victory by winning the Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen by 2.4009 seconds over Darren Manning, because he drove superbly. But it is meant as a criticism of IndyCar, which looked absolutely inept at putting on a race on a real road course.

I should clarify that while watching the IRL's show from The Glen, I tried to put myself in someone's shoes who was looking to give the IndyCar Series a serious look for the first time. And I must say, if that was the frame of reference of a typical "casual" viewer just tuning in for a look, then the IRL dropped the ball, big-time. The spate of yellows toward the end absolutely destroyed what little flow there was to the race to begin with, and then when Scott Dixon screwed-up and took Ryan Briscoe with him, the whole race turned into a debacle.

Now I've been to and watched enough races to know that stuff happens on the race track, which is why I'm taking absolutely nothing away from Hunter-Reay's victory, but if this is the best the IRL can do - on what should be a showcase natural-terrain venue - then I fear for the rest of the season.

The IRL needs to do anything and everything within their power to make sure that they deliver cracking good racing wherever they go. Major league open-wheel racing in this country has dug itself a huge hole over the last twelve years, so any missteps will be magnified in comparison to what NASCAR is delivering.

If the IRL is ever going to attract new fans, they can't have a repeat of what went on last Sunday at Watkins Glen.

 

Publisher's Note: In our continuing series celebrating the "Golden Era" of American racing history, here is another image from the Ford Racing Archives. - PMD

mtrsptshist_1400_HR1.jpg

(Ford Racing Archives)
Daytona, FL, 1966. One of the early Ford "J-car" prototype development tests was conducted at Daytona International Speedway. Bruce McLaren (in car) and Mario Andretti (leaning in with the Firestone suit on) were the drivers as Ford engineers and crew gathered around. The "J-car," which was built to the FIA's "Appendix J" regulations for advanced race car construction, proved to be a handful aerodynamically, and Ken Miles was tragically killed testing one at Riverside, CA, in August of 1966. Afterwards the J-car was heavily reworked and extensively modified, becoming the Le Mans-winning Ford Mk IV for 1967.

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