Kirby on the state of IndyCar


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    The usual excellent if grim read from Gordon Kirby:

    For me the particularly sad thing is a lot of the racing in IndyCar is very good, it just doesn’t draw a crowd. Perhaps Montoya will help change that next year, I don’t know. Having such a short calendar in terms of the duration of the year they cover is a concern and will surely lead to more teams laying off staff.


    A sad state of affairs indeed. I try to keep reminding myself that things have been much worse for the series.


    Sadly it’s all true. I personally feel that the condensing the calendar is a horribly wrong move. A 7 month off-season is utterly insane, particularly when NASCAR (a series which IndyCar is desperately trying to steal fans from) only has 2 months off. Heck, Formula One won’t even be finished in Europe by the time IndyCar crowns it’s champion.

    IndyCar would’ve benefited by doing the opposite. Start the season earlier and finish much later, with longer gaps in between races. Now, I love F1 more than anything and try to never miss a live race, but I wouldn’t want to have to organise every single weekend around the Grand Prix. Sometimes there are other things I’d want to do on a Sunday afternoon, and IndyCar is asking an awful lot of its fans to set aside time nearly every weekend for 5 months so they can watch a race. If IndyCar is trying to establish a loyal, hardcore fanbase then I believe it is going about it completely the wrong way.


    Whether compressing the calendar is a good thing remains to be seen. What it does do is avoid long gaps between races (as was the case around Sonoma this year for example).

    As for Kirby’s article, the usual negativity. He does make some valid points (Houston, the oval crowds vs Nascar, the low car counts in Lights this year) but I don’t agree with the conclusions he draws. For a start, several track owners (from Road America, Laguna Seca, etc) have openly been in negotiations for the 2015 season. As for officiating…it isn’t perfect, but clearly Kirby has forgotten how bad some calls were with Brian Barnhart in race control. He also ignores that the technical regulations are gradually being opened up (this ranges from the front and rear wings to virtually the entire chassis minus the safety cell over the next 3-4 years). Perhaps he thinks there is a bottomless pit of money to have 4 different chassis right now, but I wouldn’t like to see a repeat of CART’s demise. Being locked into the NBCSN contract until 2018 is obviously less than ideal, but it generates vital revenue for the series. The contraversial GP of Indianapolis has a slot on ABC, along with 7 other races (including Pocono and of course the Indy 500).

    Moving forward to Indy Lights, there is reason to believe Dan Andersen is doing a good job. For a start, he is securing agreements to reduce costs and modernise the cars used. The Mazda Road to Indy and Skip Barber scholarships for racechampionship winners are moving forward talented American and Canadian racers as well as those from overseas (examples: Matthew Brabham, Jack Hawksworth, Scott Hargrove). If the Atlantic series Kirby laments the loss of was so good, why did it have only 9 full time cars in 2009? Why did the scholarship winner Raphael Matos decide go to Indy Lights instead of CCWS in late 2007?

    The UK and European Formula Ford (2011) and UK Formula Renault (2012) champion Scott Malvern decided he wants to race in Pro Mazda next year because winning in Europe does not guarantee moving up into the next category (unlike the MRTI). Sam Bird, as I posted here, is potentially a GP2 champion expressing interest in the series. If Indycar is as dead as Gordon Kirby makes out, none of this would be happening.

    R.J. O’Connell

    Hinch, Marco and Kimball are the only Indy Lights graduates to win a race in the top level, and out of those three, Marco is the only one that wasn’t racing in the Atlantics (Hinch) or in Europe (Kimball) prior to joining Indy Lights.

    The list of graduates from Atlantics to IndyCar/ChampCar is much more impressive: Pagenaud and Allmendinger are former champions, RHR, Graham Rahal, Hinchcliffe, Simona de Silvestro and Rob Wickens have all come through Atlantics…Plus there was over 30 years worth of history that Atlantics had that the (current) Indy Lights doesn’t, with Michael Andretti, Al Unser Jr, Danny Sullivan, Dan Wheldon, Sam Hornish Jr., and Jacques and Gilles Villeneuve all former champions.

    And I’d take a series that graduated Gilles Villeneuve to F1 over a series that graduated AJ Foyt IV to a handful of mediocre IRL seasons.


    There haven’t been all that many Lights graduates recently, mainly because the teams are recycling Servia and Tagliani etc for the nth time. I notice you selectively excluded the likes of Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves, Greg Moore etc. If you’re going to talk about the old Atlantic championship before it ran into trouble, then why ignore pre-2002 Indy Lights? I think one of CART’s failures was acting as an F1 feeder series rather than retaining top drivers, and secondly hiring F3000 drivers while neglecting the local ladders.

    I’m also not sure why you would exclude drivers from Europe that went to race in the US ladders. You do realise that would mean the likes of Pagenaud as well?

    Indycar’s popularity peaked in the 1970s when USAC circle trackers like AJ Foyt, the Unsers, Rutherford were racing on primarily an oval schedule. There were nothing like the entertainment optionsTV channels there were today, and the vast majority of the field were Americans. Some people think the series should return to that model. Some people think it should be F1-lite. I’m not in agreement with either group.

    R.J. O’Connell

    The Indy Lights that closed in 2001 isn’t the same series that uses the name now. It’s like saying that the Lotus team of today has anything to do with the Team Lotus that Colin Chapman founded.


    I don’t see a shorter season resulting in layoffs, in fact I see them keeping or needing more staff during the season because they’ll have less turn-around time between races to get the cars prepped.

    As far as the schedule goes, the long off-season is being used to give teams the time to prep for a longer more diverse 2015 season that may even see the return of international touring for the series.


    The same could be said of the Atlantic championship. What does the 1977 version have to do with the 2004 or 2009 ones? Which ones are relevant when it was split between EastWest? It makes about as much sense as judging a driver by only one of their racing seasons, instead of their performance across a range of series and years.

    If you’re going to just talk past me and ignore the other points I’ve raised, this is obviously a waste of time. Wallow in negativity if you like, I’ll be watching the racing.

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