Cynon wrote:I know I'm going to get chewed out for it, but this needs to be said.
1.5 mile ovals draw fans out specifically because of pack racing. Not to see a big crash or anything of the like, but because of the uber-close finishes and random-draw that kind of racing tends to generate. If the IRL is going to recoup some of the losses it is getting from NASCAR, it needs racing like that.
There is no denying that. I myself will admit that if you were not to care about safety, then pack racing and highly banked 1.5 Mile Ovals are may be the only ovals you want on the calendar. But that's the problem. The majority of the viewing base probably don't give a bathplug about safety, and who can blame them? People watch motorsport because they want daredevils driving fast, side by side, wheel to wheel. And as sickening as it seems, they also like crashes. In fact, would it be wrong as to say some people love them? There was a taxi driver I met a while back who said that he always wished it would rain during the (F1) race, because he said 'what's a race without crashes?'. But the problem is, the IRL is not going to recoup their losses, not like this, not at this stage, not now. After Roger Penske sold his PMI tracks to the Frances at ISC, he had given a monopoly to NASCAR to decide what ovals to put on the calendar. The ISC pulled the plug on the races at Homestead, Chicagoland and Kansas, in addition to the road course race at Watkins Glen. 3 1.5 Mile Ovals gone, just like that, they can do more, I can assure you that.
NASCAR superspeedways were fan favorites because of the hard racing on the last few laps and the drag race to the finish line. Keyword there is "were", after NASCAR royally screwed the entire superspeedway package up, giving way to a "two-car tandem" type of racing which is about as frustrating as watching a montage of 400 different variations of Austria 2002 for 3 hours.
Never really understood what the whole two-car tandem thing was all about. Curiously, I've become a NASCAR fan despite this and so many other confusing things. It ain't as simplistic as most people on the old continent make it out to be.
I remember going to the IRL race at Chicagoland in 2009, and Ryan Briscoe had just notched what was ... I think the 4th closest finish in IRL history. Either way, it was a great race-long duel between the Penske cars (Castroneves and Briscoe) and the Ganassi cars (Dixon and Franchitti), and Ed Carpenter, before Castroneves was eliminated after a cut tire. A guy a few rows in front of me was talking to one of his friends about the future of the IRL, and not a minute after the race had finished, he said;
"Yeah, they're going to replace THIS with more street races."
Like I said, you can't blame him and people like him. People want action. Racing on tracks like Texas and Vegas is how you get action, but inevitably you go head on with drivers and safety advocates. Dan Wheldon's win at Homestead in 2006, in the light of Paul Dana's tragic death was fantastic wheel to wheel action, and when I showed my mum this race, she was pretty impressed.
The crowd was a little smaller than for some NASCAR races at the same track, but it was still a very respectable number of people showing up for the race. Easily five times the crowd that had shown up for Milwaukee and New Hampshire put together. Want to get rid of pack racing? Not happening.
The IRL has promoted pack racing for some time now, of course they won't be getting rid of it. But you just mentioned Milwaukee and New Hampshire. Here is my MAJOR MAJOR issue with the IRL and it's cookie-cutter ovals. CART always managed to put on a show on flat ovals. Milwaukee, New Hampshire held some of the most exciting racing ever in 1993. Both are banked under 10 degrees (TMS is 24, Vegas in its new layout is 20), and lets not forget Nazareth (at most 4 degrees I think) and Phoenix (has been NASCAR-ized lately). Indianapolis is 9 degrees, and all the CART 500s were exciting, with the exception of 1994 I guess, although at least we saw Emmo kiss the wall at the end.
We had Homestead in 1996 (back then it was a flat oval), Jacarepagua (had no banking at all) and these races succeeded pretty well in their debuts, despite the drivers complaining of the lack of passing chances at Homestead (rectangular ala Indy for that year only, later reconfigured for 1997 onwards to be a regular oval, and finally reconfigured in 2003 to have an 18 degree banking). Rockingham was a fantastic track, and Motegi is a driver favourite with just 10 degrees of banking. This only proves that exciting racing on flat ovals is possible, and was indeed achieved by CART. But good old Tony George just didn't care, did he? No! Indianapolis is what matters, and preserving American talent and blablabla. The irony of it all is that Honda is the sole engine supplier, and Dallara the sole chassis supplier, in addition to the fact that the last time an American won the championship and/or the 500 was Sam Hornish, Jr. in 2006.
NASCAR cars can't have pack racing at 1.5 mile ovals, and never could. Pack racing at Las Vegas in Champ Car did not have many safety concerns, because if you ran into the back of the car in front, the wedge-like nose the Champ Car had would just jack up the car in front's rear wheels and spin them out. Only flying cars I remember in Champ Car were from fluke crashes or from the same kind of huge bumps in the grass that killed Greg Moore.
Of course, their NASCAR's. As you said, Champ Car at Vegas did not have much safety concerns, if any. They were running road course wings IIRC, and at the time, Vegas was banked at 12 degrees, not the 20 degrees of today. Good observation regarding flying Champ Cars. In one word; RARE.