Grand Prix of Indy, a Few Local Reactions

Road racing is on at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and there were more than a few questions concerning the whole package. As the self-appointed every-mans indianpolis based indycar lifer and racing addict, I think some pedestrian opinion could be just what the doctor ordered.

The first bombshell dropped was an unfathomable statement from Mark Miles that goes something along the lines of: this new race will help expose the Indianapolis area to indycar. WHAT??? How does the city that hosts the only true blue-chip indycar event need even more exposure to indycar? Let me tell you that the days of show cars in liquor store parking lots, checkered flags on front porches anywhere except the city of speedway itself, cardboard cutouts at gas stations and element school indycar drawing contests are a thing of the past and have been since the start of the split. The circle city is not the kool-aid drinking, indycar loving city it once was, if it ever was outside of May.

NASCAR draws about three times the TV audience in Indianapolis on a regular basis. Is more proof needed? Of course, the majority of the super-duper-unquestionably- hardcore fan base reside right here, but what better people to use as unpaid tour guides into the intricacies of road racing than this very group of nuts? I can name countless accounts of amazement from long-time Indy 500 fans upon learning that there is a rest-of-the-schedule attached to this 500 thing. The second largest TV market for indycar is the St. Pete/Tampa/Ft. Meyers area, aka the Indianapolis retirement region. In 2014 they are looking to get a double header event. Sounds more to me like indycar is taking care of the most concentrated fan bases.

That’s all well and good, but won’t you think of the tradition?  Another indycar race at The Speedway, and in May no less? I see the addition of a road race in May as the completion a 100 year old vision: to create a facility where all types of cars could be tested and compete against each other, and to give the residents of Indianapolis three huge race and automobiling weekends a year on Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day weekends. That vision was completed in 1910 when each of those holidays were included on the schedule of activities with full programs of racing all three weekends. Carl Fisher’s initial vision also included… road racing at his magnificent facility. Finances, difficulties with the oval, and waning interest most likely doomed this dream to a couple of historic artistic renderings of what could have been.

In 1916, the year of the 300 mile Indy 500 that was scheduled as such, a weekend of racing dubbed the Harvest Auto Racing Classic was included on the championship trail to take place at The Speedway in early September. This was the first year of the new championship and the schedule would need some help getting off the ground, so The 500 was shortened and an additional event was added at the stronghold of racing. Sanctioning body AAA knew the facilities were capable, intrest was high in the surrounding areas, and media would be present to help pump the new series into the news cycle more often than a single weekend a year. If it weren’t for the intervention of WWI and the total shutdown of all national racing in 1917, we would probably still be running the Harvest Auto Racing Classic.

My only real concern about the addition of yet another Midwest race is market oversaturation. Yes, we have good fans to draw from, but those same fans make the trip to many venues on the schedule. My usual race budget comes out to about three races a year, indycar or not. Now IMS and INDYCAR are asking me to choose between the new road race and a trip to Milwaukee and mid-Ohio or even MotoGP and Super Weekend. My entertainment options are far and wide as an Indianapolis based racing fan are nearly limitless, are we just spreading the same butter even thinner?

Regardless, I will be there sitting in the grass with the rest of the loonies. 50 bucks for a four-pack of tickets with general admission coming in at 25 seems plenty reasonable. IMS got the pricing package right the first time out. No one is going to pay for the 75 dollar seats because we all know better, but that makes the event look big from any curious ticket pricers and most importantly, to the still missing in action title sponsor. Throw in the entire Road to Indy and you have one heck of a bang for your buck. With all the races I have been to, I still don’t think I have seen the Pro Mazda guys in the flesh.

NASCAR, F1, MotoGP, Nationwide, IROC, Grand-Am, CTSCC, Indy Lights, Formula BMW, Moto2, Moto3, 250cc Championship, 125CC Championship, Red Bull Riders and Rookies Cup, XR1200 series, eRoadRacing, Ferrari Challenge, Porsche Super Cup.  Although there may be even more series that have raced across the hallowed bricks, the only other facility to even come close to boasting this kind of lineup is the Circuit of the Americas. What sits as 16th and Georgetown Road is a rarity in the racing world. It is a facility that has tried to stay with the times by not pigeonholing itself into a single form of racing, and has catered to its local customers by providing a wide range of racing. This May, will only add to the heritage of the amazing facility. Next on my wishlist of series to see at The Speedway? How about Motocross on the infield during the painfully bleak and boring Saturday before the 500?

Eric Hall

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One Response to Grand Prix of Indy, a Few Local Reactions

  1. Bob F. says:

    I wish they had done this road race anytime but in May. I’ll spend a few days in Indy in May as I always do, but not until this event is over. Tradition does mean something.

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