Finally… Looking forward to the 2012 Season

It’s February; the INDYCAR season starts next month! Granted, St. Petersburg is still well over a month and a half away, but it still feels good to be this close. As we sit on the cusp of a new racing season we all have our gripes. Yes, we heard you… the car is ugly, the schedule sucks, seven Americans isn’t enough… you hate indycar but still watch… thank you for your support. Nevertheless, I have a few issues that have stuck with me through the past few weeks; hopefully these will be answered during the state of the union speech later this month. With the Super Bowl leaving town and the 24 hours a rousing success; I can finally take a serious look at the foreboding 2012 season.

My number one wish-list item is predicated on the certainty that the Milwaukee Mile will make an appearance on the 2012 schedule. If and when the historic Mile makes its way back to the schedule; I would really like to see a one day show. It is my opinion that the location of the track; inside the fairgrounds, really causes difficulties in making a multi-day show feasible. I have often heard about the Mile: “It’s like the Indiana fairgrounds racetrack; inside a gated area that is surrounded by city sprawl with no real central location to stay.”

A huge part of my personal draw to racing is the flash community created when cars aren’t on the track. Although this can be as simple as a close hotel, I always think of the camping areas around the facility. A major reason why the Indy 500 is so cool is the never sleeping, three day gathering in and around the local neighborhoods and lots. When we visited Kentucky Speedway last year the camping areas were close and accessible; pass outs were given and new friends made during down time at the track.

At Milwaukee there is no home base. For this reason I would never be able to get anyone to go with me. But with the possibility of driving up, watching a full day of action followed by a night race, getting a hotel for one night, and driving home the next morning; I have more than one person interested. There won’t be a two night hotel commitment. There won’t be a “alright, the actions done, let’s go to the hotel and be bored out of our minds for the night” feeling between Saturday and Sunday. There won’t be a need to plan for a multi-day, weekend stealing trip with no real highlights besides the time spent in the grandstands.

A weekends worth of action often goes down the best at locations with a built in audience. Mid-Ohio, Watkins Glen, Road America, Indianapolis, and even Kentucky before they jiggered its spot on the schedule were full all weekend because a huge amount of the paying customers are staying in, or real close to the facility.

Next, I need to see the track map for the Qingdao round to be convinced that we are, in fact, racing in China at all. We have no information about this weekend at all. Admittedly, Indycar.com is not the pinnacle of web presentation, but there is no logo, map or even an option to buy tickets. I’m not even sure I believe it’s actually taking place on August 26th.

The only track related news we ever hear about are the continuing failings of Baltimore getting their financial situation in order. Though this is bad news in of itself, the deafening silence regarding anything at all pertaining to China is starting to worry me more than a little. Initially I was concerned about the lack of track map, but the more I thought about it, China is really a huge question mark.

Of course I want the track to be fast with good overtaking opportunities and skillful rhythm sections. But what if I want to go and actually attempt to attend the race? The most recent news items I could find were late last year and dealt with the announcement of the race itself. The league has got to know more information; I refuse to believe that they are only in the initial planning phases for the event. I know it’s still too soon to really worry, but if there isn’t more info released at the state of Indycar, I am really going to start questioning the logistics. The infamous 16 race clause in the IZOD contract should be enough for everyone to worry when considering Baltimore, Milwaukee and China.

Finally, I just want to see some good, close racing. I was truly spoiled for an entire day during the Daytona 24 hours. Say what you will about the aesthetics of the DP chassis, but you cannot deny that Grand-Am has found a remarkable mix of entertainment and pure racing; of cost containment and competition while still drawing manufacturers to its paddock. Our new DW12 chassis is just such a machine. A racecar created from an accountant’s spreadsheet.

Make no mistake; although the new chassis is a huge technological step forward from what we were used to, it is the deformed offspring of budgetary worries, competition dreams, safety concessions, and backroom dealing. We already know the car will be a bit slow on the ovals, but it seems to be more than a bit faster around the twisties.

Even with the introduction of engine competition throwing a huge variable into the whole program; we can all still hope for good, close racing. Does it matter if we are a bit slower around Indy or if it does look less than desirable bombing down the Sambadrome if we have absolutely killer action? I think not. Above and beyond all wants, needs and worries; I just want the action to be close. I don’t even care if the car doesn’t work on a fundamental level as long as everyone is struggling together.

The season opener is nearly upon us and it feels like indycar on the whole, has consistently maintained its momentum through the off season. Of course it doesn’t hurt that every attendee of the Super Bowl festivities had indycar on their minds for at least a few minutes during the weekend. It would be nice to have some info on Milwaukee and China soon, but if we have the kind of racing we saw at Daytona I’ll be able to forgive quite a large amount of disappointment throughout the season. T-47 days…

Eric Hall

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