The 2013 Indycar schedule came out on Sunday and fans have shown equals parts joy, hate and total indifference. I am positive you readers have had about enough of the scheduling talk, but I’ve got a few things to say as well. As we were expecting, street circuits are featured heavily in the schedule. Ten of the 19 races to be exact, with ovals taking six and natural terrain road courses granted the remaining balance of three races; no better or worse than the 2012 schedule.
We are minus one event in Edmonton that was deemed a “financial loser” and plus two events in Huston and Pocono. The revival of double headers has really skewed the balance of power to the twisties for 2013 and could open the door for even more championship hopefuls. Nearly all of the returning races are taking more or less, in the same position on the calender. The date equity gained by many of these events could do more for attendance than any amount of unfocused promoting. Date equity makes the events feel more stable and big time; yet another good thing for all parties involved.
Double Headers – 99% of this blog’s readers attend multiple races a year and 99% of those people, more than likely, spring for a weekend pass no matter what is happening on Friday and Saturday of a race weekend. Yet the basic response was: “Meh, cheap way to make it to 19 races…” I am totally confused by this. When I head to the track, constant on-track action throughout the weekend is a major selling point for me when deciding which event or events to attend outside of Indianapolis. I went to Mid-Ohio this year for only the Sunday indycar race. Would a second race on Saturday have swayed my mind? Absolutely, and I would have camped on-site; exactly what the promoters want to hear.
Double headers do have a slight minor league feel to them, but they are a part of our sports history. Most importantly, we don’t even know if they will or will not work in today’s economic climate. And with the state of indycar racing as a whole, we might as well try some new things to mix it up. We aren’t instituting green-white-checkers, or competition cautions. This is not dumbing down the racing, or adding any unnecessary gimmicks to “spice the racing up”. Instead of making two trips to a facility twice in a single season, the series is squishing them into a single weekend. It could be a financial win for teams, owners, sponsors, the series and, most importantly, the fans.
Balance – Having 19 races and two new facilities signed, sealed and delivered by October is no small feat. Randy Bernard needs to be commended for such a herculean effort to secure the 2013 schedule before time starts to melt away during the long offseason. However, I am still concerned with the balance of ovals to twisties. Last year, there were 265 points available on ovals with Indy qualifying and no bonuses, and there were 500 points available on the twisties. 2013 looks to have 315 on the ovals and 650 on twisties; less than a third of the total points available in the 2013 campaign will be awarded on ovals. Moving from a pure fan simply wanting more ovals to an overall championship perspective, drivers can be less versatile and still have a good shot at the Astor Cup. I believe Will Power would have clinched the championship in 2012 if the season was contested with the 2013 schedule. I am more concerned with maintaining the championship impact of oval racing verse a numerical balance of schedule; I am totally onboard with weighting the points awarded on ovals to do that.
But the Break is Sooo Looong – Compare the 2012 schedule to the 2013 schedule. The series has actually gained two events above the 14 that are returning in 2013. I don’t care how you want to spin it; that is a very good thing. Ovals or twisties, the balance of the is as long as I can watch top-level open wheel racing on an oval five or six times a year; that is my reality, I have accepted it. So how did we get stuck with such a long break between Baltimore and Huston? The obvious answer is the loss of Edmonton. But remember how loud everyone complained when there was a very real possibility that the 2013 season could end in Huston? To appease the fans, Fontana was pushed back a few weeks so the season could finish on an oval.
WE SHOT OURSELVES IN THE FOOT. And we got exactly what we wanted. What is more important to you: the season ending on an oval, or not having a five week break in September? Plus, there are still a few balls in the air in regards to Providence and Kentucky. Although Randy Bernard has stated the schedule we have is what we will run, I have a hard time blindly believing anything he says. Better to exceed expectations by adding another race to a “completed” schedule than disappointing the masses by giving them hope and ultimately not adding another race.
ABC – The much maligned TV “partner” has taken a fairly good route when they chose what races to broadcast and have actually picked up an extra race as well. In 2012, ABC had initially signed up to broadcast five races, but broadcasted the NBCSN produced Mid-Ohio race due to conflicts on NBCSN. A very public olive branch was extended to the series by allowing the broadcast and the relationship seems to be warming a bit with ABC taking main broadcast duties on six races this year; the Saturday race in Detroit is the addition. They are also choosing to use the midseason block of ovals minus Milwaukee, plus Detroit as their broadcast window. That gives us over a month of nearly uninterrupted coverage on network TV.
Pocono – We are finally headed back to the east coast mecca of American open-wheel racing… epic. Not much more needs to be said.
Once it’s all said and done, there really aren’t that many differences between the 2012 and 2013 schedule and overall, it seems like a moderate step in the right direction. I will say it seems like Penske may be muscling his way around with the Detroit GP. He gets the week after the 500, ABC coverage, and now has been given a double header; I expect track changes to increase the odds of passing. Anything less and we know Penske may have gotten the best of us yet again. During double header weekend, the paddock on Saturday afternoon and evening could be one of the more hectic places to be seen. It will be very interesting to see how teams cope with those three super busy weekends. The 2013 schedule could be better, but it could be far worse. Considering what the series had to work with, the release of the 2013 schedule this early and in such complete form could be considered a minor miracle. ON TO SILLY SEASON!