After racing on ovals for two straight weekends, the Verizon IndyCar Series heads back to the street circuit this weekend for the final doubleheader of the 2014 season. The IndyCars will be up in Toronto, Ontario in Canada for the Honda Indy Toronto at Exhibition Place. Arguably the second biggest street race on the IndyCar schedule behind Long Beach, Toronto has been hosting IndyCars since 1986. Canadian racing fans have a big passion for open wheel racing.
Coverage of the Saturday/Sunday doubleheader starts each day at 3pm Eastern time on NBCSN and also on radio with the IndyCar Radio Network. You can find your local station right here. If you have satellite radio, you can listen to Sirius channel 213 and XM channel 109.
“Question: Other than obviously Dario Franchitti, are there any retired senior statesmen in the IndyCar paddock who would acquit themselves well if they were to race today? (Dave, Cincinnati, Ohio)”
This is a very good question. It would take some thinking. If you would give the driver a car that can be competitive and run respectfully, there are quite a few drivers that I can think of. My list would include Gil de Ferran, Paul Tracy, Michael Andretti, Bobby Rahal, Little Al, Jimmy Vasser, Bryan Herta, and Robby Gordon (even though he is still racing with his Stadium SuperTrucks series.). There are quite a few more drivers that would acquit themselves in today’s IndyCar Series, but the drivers above are all I can think of off the top of my head.
“Question: I am curious if you have heard of or has the Speedway decided on a replacement for Jim Nabors? I grew up with him singing “Back Home Again” and will be difficult to find a worthy long-term replacement. I have thought about it since the end of this year’s race. I think Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs” and “Deadliest Catch” fame would be a popular and offer a fine rendition. Thoughts? (Gary, Beaufort, S.C.)”
The Speedway has not named a replacement as of today. I never realized Mike Rowe had a singing talent. I will have to look on YouTube for his singing. You are correct on the difficulty of finding a long term replacement. Whoever replaces Nabors will have some huge shoes to fill.
“Q: You are spot on with your commentary about the ovals. After spending most of my adult life in advertising and marketing (and fighting against a lot of the nonsense marketing gurus pass off as gospel) there is one aspect of marketing wisdom that is utterly true now. You cannot expect today’s consumer to only want the THING…it’s not enough. Today, people want the whole EXPERIENCE, and that’s why the road and street courses are successful and the ovals are not. I grew up going to a lot of short track races but have been converted to a road racing enthusiast because it is so much more involving to be able to wander around to different vantage points and not just be stuck in an aluminum bleacher for hours leading up to the show. To your point, there are many things the series must do to reinvigorate the oval part of the schedule, but until they figure out a way to allow the spectators more up close and personal experiences, they have a tough road to hoe.
Steve C., Ithaca, NY”
You make a very good point. Just the oval race itself doesn’t draw a packed house much anymore (unless its the Indianapolis 500). Some suggestions to add to the one oval race would be Robby Gordon’s Stadium Super Trucks, the three ladders of the Mazda Road to Indy, and the Global RallyCross. A good benefit of going to an IndyCar race weekend is paddock access, access that is not much allowed in NASCAR and Formula One. Ovals need to step it up if they want to draw crowds like road and street course events.
“Q: I was just wondering why the series does not consider doubleheaders at Iowa or Milwaukee. It is obvious that IndyCar has a problem giving fans a lot of on track action on ovals. It is crazy to have a race at 7:30pm and have no activity beforehand. Why not shorten the distance of an oval and run one Saturday and one Sunday?
Also, with NASCAR coming over to NBC and NBCSN, would IndyCar ever consider working a buyout with NBCSN to get out of the deal? The idea would be to keep the 5-6 races that ABC pays for and buy airtime with the proceeds of any NBCSN buyout for the remaining races that ABC would not be willing to pay. I know what the series would get in any buyout would not cover all the airtime to purchase but it would help. My thought process is that 300,000-400,000 viewers a race is killing the series and it would be easier for the teams to get sponsors if they averaged 900,000-1,300,000 viewers a race.
Brian, Joliet, Illinois”
I was thinking about this the other day and thought to myself, “Why don’t they do doubleheaders on ovals? Have two races on a oval on the same weekend but shorter distances?” Instead of having one on Saturday and Sunday, have both races on the same day. Start the first race at lets say 1:00 and then have the second race at lets say 6:00. IndyCar tried bringing back twin races on the ovals at Texas three years ago but didn’t fare out so well. It needs to be done right. I don’t think IndyCar is considering a buyout with NBCSN. That wouldn’t be the smart thing to do considering NASCAR is joining the channel next season. Let’s wait and see how the ratings do in 2015. ABC has exclusive network TV rights to IndyCar which is why you don’t see IndyCar races on the main NBC channel. I would like for IndyCar to negotiate ABC to drop their exclusivity and let NBC air races. Obviously it would help the ratings.
“Q: The way to fix IndyCar Racing 101? Just listen. Horsepower must be the largest in auto racing. Put drivers in TV commercials for Verizon, Snapple, DHL, Target, etc. in prime time TV. Put out a line of toys with the drivers cars and names. Stop rotating drivers; drivers should stay with the same teams and sponsors and car numbers. Double file restarts on ovals and street/road and standing starts on all street/road courses. Larger Indy 500 purse, no speed limits in the pits and bring back apron. Lower infield tickets by 50%. More races on the East coast like Watkins Glen, Loudon, NH and Port Imperial N.J. The series must be on NBC, FOX or ABC not CNBC or NBCSN.
Tony, Mamaroneck, NY”
I like your suggestions. Don’t forget to add Richmond to the list of east coast venues and maybe Baltimore. More races on network tv would be a boost. Trust me, if ABC didn’t have exclusive network rights, NBC would air a few races on the main channel.
“Q: The solution for oval shows is sitting right in IndyCar’s lap. It is The Mazda Road to Indy. You have three feeder series right there, and these young guns need time on an oval. Running all four races in one day will increase the value of the tickets and remove the boredom of the two-seater droning around. It would also be a way to help out with Saturday’s gate if there is action all day. Also, Iowa would be perfect for a USAC show with midgets, sprints and Silver Crown cars on Saturday. If Phoenix ever did this again, I would be buying tickets in a heartbeat. Give the fans more action, not some band that Hinch and Rahal think are boring. If Bobby Rahal and AJ Foyt like them, don’t book them! As for promotion, IndyCar missed it again with Pocono. If you have an event that doesn’t have a title sponsor, put Verizon on it. Help get their name out more. Why would Verizon help out IndyCar if they don’t help Verizon?
John in Arizona”
The Mazda Road to Indy would work well at short ovals such as Iowa and Milwaukee, but you can’t run USF2000 and Pro Mazda on big ovals such as Indy, Pocono, and Fontana. USAC would be a nice addition to the race day as well. I would run the USAC event the same day of the IndyCar race. Day/night doubleheader maybe?
“Q: I feel like this letter is a repeat of my letter last season after the Baltimore race. Great job by RHR, but I’m more excited to see Josef Newgarden on the podium again. The kid has loads of talent and personality, something IndyCar needs. I know he’s had a tough year up until now with most of it being out of his control. We watched him win in Indy Lights and have been rooting for him since. I sense this kid is going to go far. Are any of the Big Three interested in him?
Sue from MA”
Josef is one of IndyCar’s many great personalities. Very fan friendly and a good sense of humor. Not to mention a good driver with a small Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team. I would think any of the big three would love to have him. I think he would be a good fit at either Penske, Ganassi or Andretti. We shall see.
“Q: The Iowa race was the best flag to flag race I’ve seen this year. I had to watch it in a bar in Boise, Idaho with no sound other than a jukebox playing heavy metal music. I sat next to a couple that were not race fans, but as the race unfolded they got hooked and stayed to the end. I know that every race can’t be as exciting, and there are more factors that make a great race besides the track, but Iowa brings the best out of IndyCar drivers. (And Iowa might have converted the couple sitting next me.) Politics and funding aside, what existing tracks that resemble Iowa would you like to see added to the IndyCar schedule? Phoenix? Gateway? Richmond?
Gerry Courtney, San Francisco, CA”
I would put it next to Indy as the best race of 2014 so far. Nice to add a couple of new fans from Idaho out of all places. I have watched some races at sports bars and I also had to listen to music instead of the broadcast. If at all possible, Phoenix, Gateway, and Richmond ALL need to be on the schedule.
“Q: Helluva race in Iowa! What a steal for RHR and he’s looking ready to make a serious charge for the championship now. How fast did Ed split town after the race to avoid JPM? Probably the best race next to the 500 this year and that’s saying a lot because there has been tons of action most of the year. Really makes me we wish that someone would use their brain and get these cars back to New Hampshire. I know all has been quiet on the Rhode Island front although I hear that talk might be ramping up again soon…but I think NHMS would be a better call. You have any info on RI? Heard that the powers that be might have wanted a Boston street race but that got nixed because folks didn’t want to fight the tree huggers to put a race on.
RHR pulled a Kevin Harvick didn’t he? Brilliant move by Andretti Autosport and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing to put their drivers 1-2. I imagine Ed and JPM have talked about the incident and I believe all is good (I think). I wish New Hampshire would have been given another chance. The last race was pretty good with the exception of what happened on the last restart. Look up the 1993 race at Loudon and you would agree that IndyCar needs another chance at New Hampshire. The DW12 would be a great fit for Loudon. There was talk of a street race around Gillette Stadium but not so much now.
“Q: I have to say PT is getting better and better in the booth with every race. I was watching qualifying and it was great how he described what was happening in the cockpit and all the things the driver is doing for his two-lap run. I was also happy to hear him say good things about being involved with Team Penske. It’s been a long time since Roger has taken a flyer on a young driver and regardless of all the conflicts and firings, he did give PT a career in a winning car (well, most of the time). I’d be interested to hear what PT has to say about Roger sticking with his own chassis when clearly the Reynard was the best car. I guess we know the ultimate answer as the year he went to the Reynard/Honda/Firestone, Gil won the championship. Whatever happened to Reynard anyway?
PT is a nice addition to the tv booth. He was made for the tv booth in my opinion. I wouldn’t know what PT would have thought of Penske staying with his own chassis and the Goodyear tire from 1996-1999. I think PT is appreciative of Roger because he pretty much launched his racing career even though it did not end well. Reynard went bankrupt in 2002 and I don’t believe they are in racing anymore.
“Q: About drumming up interest in oval racing how about a twin bill with NHRA? (By watching ESPN and attending, crowds are hurting). There are 12 tracks that Indy can team up with them. I know Charlotte, Atlanta, and Vegas are iffy. The two that pulled my attention are Gateway and Bristol. Bristol run eliminations till you have 12 cars or less for the finals. Gateway would be a lower risk way of returning and dragging some more butts in NHRA seats.
Dennis Halaszynski Pittsburgh, Pa”
Don’t know if this would work, but it is worth a try. I have never been to a NHRA event, but would love to go to the U.S. Nationals sometime. I believe it would be beneficial for the Verizon IndyCar Series to have dual weekends with the Tudor Championship – United SportsCar Racing series.
Thank you to Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star, Robin Miller of Racer.com, and to the readers for their questions from their respective Q & A’s.
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Featured image by Chris Jones