Saturday , October 25 2014
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Open Wheel Wednesday: WTH Was That

Open Wheel Wednesday: WTH Was That

The IndyCar Series has been somewhat lucky so far this year.  Unlike the monster that is motorsports in the U.S., NASCAR, the open wheel series had managed to avoid one of those things that aggravates holding competition: rain.

2014 IndyCar Toronto 2 Power Castroneves

It was a wet weekend in Toronto for the IndyCar Series.

For a racing series that needs all the positives it can get, being able to run the races when scheduled just seems like an easy aspect.  But nothing is easy anymore.  The first of two races in Houston gave just that sort of realization.  Rain messed with the event, both with its timing and also with the competition.  Throw in IndyCar’s common suspect officiating and the result is the reason why casual fans may not find a value in using their time to follow the sport.

The Houston track seemed to be a mess, but then again, drivers drive, and they drive to win, so it’s no surprise that they may push the issue.  Marco Andretti’s comical avoidance of a black flag for what seemed like 10 laps was the other issue worth noting at the time.  When Graham Rahal punted Tony Kanaan, out of seemingly an honest mistake, it didn’t leave much of a mark.  Never mind that the race winner’s car, that of Carlos Huerta, was discovered to have an unapproved fuel tank that most likely gave him the win.  What’s that you say?  What?  Nothing to see here.  Oh look, ice cream cones!

Right, the series seemed to ignore their own controversy, and because IndyCar doesn’t have the legion of fans of other sports, management could move along with little fuss.  Did you like the ice cream cone?

The problem is…that they failed to learn from their mistakes.  Hello Toronto!

The concept of holding two points paying races at one track over two days is still a bit a questionable.  At the same time, the argument that it deflates the importance of one race means that the overall value of the race weekend is indeed inflated.  With that being noted, the 3 dual weekends (Detroit, Houston, and Toronto) plus the three oval track double-points weekends (Indy, Pocono, and Fontana), mean that six weekends account for way more than the other nine on the schedule.  Or better put, those six weekends account for almost 60% of the points.  This issue may be one that needs further scrutiny as the series moves into the future.  Of course, all this stuff is an aside.

Right, Toronto.  And rain.  And some more rain.  IndyCar has some ability to run in the rain.  They’ve got the tires for it. One of the things they don’t really have, however, is drivers with much experience doing it.  Unlike their open-wheel brethren Formula One, IndyCar has seemingly dealt with rain far less often.  Though the drivers might be the easy target, it’s the sanctioning body that seems to need seasoning with regards to figuring out what to do.

Nothing says we’ve got our act together like sending out the pace car in the rain and watching it spin out.  It’s the freakin’ pace car – it’s not like it’s got 750hp and is looking to rip through a turn.  Hm….

It’s also good to be put in a quandary where the driver sitting second in the points, Will Power, becomes a victim to doing pace laps by spinning out and damaging his ride.  Power’s fault?  Partly.  But shouldn’t IndyCar have sent the pace car out on its own for a few laps before thinking they should put the field behind it?

This silliness put the organization into a difficult position.  Should Power be allowed to fix his car as everyone sat about, waiting, twiddling their thumbs, giving bad interviews, and eating ice cream?  One side, IndyCar sent him out there.  Other side, he was the only one to punish his car like that.  There’s no easy conclusion for the issue, but IndyCar got off easy…thanks to more rain.

Here’s where IndyCar fails just as bad as NASCAR.  (Holy moly, that means that IndyCar is equal to NASCAR at something; oh right, not a positive here.  Sad face.)  What is it with postponing a race?  Why is there some kind of need to wait out almost the entire duration of the original broadcast length before calling a race?  It’s time to have a set time to determine when a race will be called.  Casual fans just aren’t going to sit around for so long, and it tests the patience of the diehards.

Then there’s the modern aspect to throw into the mix, looking at you Tivo and DVR.  Got errands to do?  Out of town?  At a wedding?  The DVR is a wonderful thing.  The DVR, however, is not a sentient entity and does not recognize that a race may start two hours late and adjust accordingly. So even adding the normal extension isn’t going to cover any protracted delay.

2014 IndyCar Toronto 2 Conway on track

Last weekend was such a mess that it might just be best to forget about the whole thing.

So, to those fans who aren’t watching live: Oh well.

Wait a minute, aren’t sports leagues supposed to be trying to keep their consumers, er, fans?

To compound the miserable weekend in Toronto further, the series held both races on the same day, albeit dropping 20 laps from both.  So that means there was 40 laps missing, on a weekend that pays DOUBLE points.  Something doesn’t add up there.  Why not just have one race and make it longer than the regular 85 laps?  Too much logic or something.

That many fans may have missed Race 1 because the IndyCar site stated the race would be on NBCSN and instead was shown on CNBC is practically moot at this point.  Neither is the wreckfest that culminated Race 2.  Call it IndyCar’s wasted weekend.

Now it’s off to Mid-Ohio at the beginning of August, with the points battle at the top tight, and everyone can try to tuck this weekend into the recesses of their mind, even though it deserves further analysis in what not to do.  But hey, the championship will be decided in just over a month’s time, so pushing Toronto aside should be easy.

More ice cream?

About Huston Ladner

Huston Ladner
Promoted to editor this season, Huston works through some of the site’s biggest columns while writing one of his own: Happiness Is… (Fridays). “Stranded” on the islands of Hawaii, the aspiring college professor also helps anchor our IndyCar and Formula One racing coverage while coordinating Pace Laps, our multi-series news update (Mondays) each week.