Wednesday Wheels - November 12

Hi, it’s been a long time since I’ve written in this space. I’m back. Back when I started this site last year, my goal was to write here at the very least three times per week. Then life and the rest of the network got in the way. For now, I’ll start with trying to write every Wednesday and we’ll go from there. I don’t have a name I like for this column, but I’ll come up with something. If you’ve ever read any of the “College Quickies” we do at the College Football Roundtable, this will have a similar feel.

NASCAR: Touching is racing. Finale should be Stupendous

Let’s get the full disclosure out of the way right now: I’m not a fan of NASCAR’s new Chase format. In fact, I’m not a fan of the Chase at all, but writers have already wasted enough words on it, so the 32 I just wasted was more than enough. While we’re getting things out of the way, I’ll say this: most fans' commitment to one driver has blinded their objectivity about racing. What’s that mean? Stock car racing is about driving, and when someone is in your way, it’s about moving that person out of the way. If you’re interested in racing where no one touches anyone, and the racing is actually about speed and grace, then open-wheel racing is for you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdsvoloZAbg

Make sure you watch and listen to that video. It’s from Richard Childress Racing, and it’s great. Yeah, Childress owns Newman, so there’s some bias there, but the message is the same.

I love open-wheel racing, but stock car racing isn’t open-wheel. I get that many Jeff Gordon fans are upset about Ryan Newman moving Kyle Larson to advance to the Championship 4 (terrible name, btw) this weekend at Homestead, but it is what it is. NASCAR is built on the ability of its cars and drivers being able to take a punch, either by car or fist, and all Newman did is what racers in the sport have done for years.

Yes, I’m a Gordon fan, and I’d love to see him get a Cup Championship so everyone can shut up about how he can’t compete and how old he is, but it isn’t happening in 2014. Finishing 29th at Texas didn’t help his case. He did what he needed to do, but Ryan Newman gets paid millions per year and he did what he needed to do, too. Newman did more than Gordon.

So, I’ll bring in the oldest analogy NASCAR fans of sick of seeing: If Dale Earnhardt, Sr. had done same thing under the same circumstances, would anyone be complaining?

Didn’t think so.

Homestead will be great, and the brawl after will be just as exciting.

IndyCar Needs To Move Beyond 500

I love the Indianapolis 500. It’s my birthday gift to myself every year, and it’s truly IndyCar’s most important event. It’s so important, that I have the feeling IndyCar is sacrificing the rest of the sport to prop up one month.

Last year, IndyCar decided they didn’t want to compete with the NFL, so it no longer has any races after Labor Day. There was a small glimmer of hope that would change in 2015, but it isn’t the case. IndyCar shuffled the deck chairs and moved the schedule around a bit, but did nothing significant to improve its schedule.

I’m sure New Orleans will be great, finding a way to stay in Baltimore and Houston while adding NOLA would have been more impressive. Sure, I’d take another oval or two, but as I’ve said before, for the sport to survive it has to bring in more road races and street circuits. The die-hards want speed, and the casuals want to look at more than cars going in left-hand circles.

That’s the harsh reality of IndyCar right now. It does itself no favors by seemingly propping up the month of May as the only thing the sport can stand on while the rest of the schedule languishes. A few weeks ago I suggested they return to Cleveland, and I’m not stupid enough to think that would ever actually happen, but it should find a way to extend the season beyond Labor Day.

As George Phillips wrote Monday, the series could first start by being a better promoter of itself. I can’t speculate if the marketing dollars are there or not, but yeah, putting an IndyCar at or near every NFL stadium would probably get NFL fans a little more interested in IndyCar.

I promise they’d at least take the time to Google Image search the funny looking car that doesn’t look what Dale Earnhardt, Jr. drives. If they do that, and they land on IndyCar’s webpage, then marketing dollars are worth it.

I live in Cleveland, and Mid-Ohio is in the middle of August, and I see almost no local advertising for the race. When I wear Mid-Ohio gear, non-racing fans ask me where the track is, and when racing happens there. That’s the fault of IndyCar AND the folks down at Mid-Ohio. Again, not suggesting that Mid-Ohio does all of IndyCar’s advertising, but you should probably at least lock up your back yard.

So, what’s IndyCar’s solution? I don’t know, and finding the proper balance isn’t easy. Making traditional fans happy won’t happen if they hope to draw in casual fans. Traditional IndyCar fans would riot if IndyCar tried to do an elimination-based playoff system like NASCAR is doing. But would that bring in casual fans? Probably.

Would effectively ripping up the schedule and starting from scratch to include places like Road America, Watkins Glen and Kentucky work? Probably. But, how many different races can you have in the Midwest and East Coast before the market is oversaturated and all races suffer? That’s the problem IndyCar needs to solve with its scheduling.

IndyCar is no longer a mainstream sport enjoyed by millions. All the mainstream interest went away when the series split in 1996, and it isn’t coming back. So now IndyCar is a niche sport, and if that’s the case, why do you care if you’re competing against the NFL? I get TV ratings are important, but if you’re getting 1.1 ratings in July, then why do you care if you 1.1 in September? Same rating; different month.

If this place is good enough for Formula 1, it's good enough for IndyCar. FORGET TMS.

Lastly, IndyCar should race in Austin. Texas Motor Speedway’s Eddie Gossage will have a heart attack, and will threaten to pull his race.

Thanks, Eddie, it’s been real.

What’s that mean? He is either going to pull his race or he won’t, and if he does it’s no big loss compared to what IndyCar can gain by racing at the Circuit of the America’s. Texas’ attendance has been down year-over-year, and Houston proved that circuit racing works in Texas, just not in the heat.

Go to Austin, and if you lose Texas in the process then it looks like you have a built in date.

What do you think? Send feedback to me on Twitter at @damiEnbowman or via e-mail at damien@morethanafan.net. Thanks for reading, and we'll see you next Wednesday. Maybe.

Circuit of the Americas photo is courtesy of Circuit of the Americas.