Race Weekend Central

Open Wheel Wednesday: Shouldn’t IndyCar Be Hyping The Season A Bit More?

Can you hear that? It’s the faint din of the roar of the engines emanating from IndyCar. That’s right, the season is here. The teams just finished testing at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama, and the green flag will be dropped on Sunday. And what are we to make of it?

NASCAR, for all of its bloated silliness, does one thing right with the beginning of their season: they get people interested. With the pseudo-All Star race (the Sprint Unlimited), Daytona qualifying, the Duels, the Truck and Nationwide races, NASCAR makes so much noise that it’s hard to avoid them as a fan of racing. Some might even be exhausted by the time the actual Daytona 500 comes around.

IndyCar? Hard to make much out of it. Aside from drivers splashing Twitter with comments and the governing body trying to fill its site with news, there has been little hype surrounding IndyCar. For a series that is still trying to gain its place in the contemporary motorsports world, this lack of noise is problematic.

What if these guys ran a non-points race designed to generate excitement for the regular season? Photo courtesy INDYCAR LAT USA.

The Formula One series pounded the gas pedal this past weekend, and in many ways, they didn’t overhype the beginning of their season either. But with a series that attracts nearly 100 million viewers worldwide, they hardly need to do anything. Kick on the starting lights and let the cars go – people will watch.

Of course, one of the problems that comes with IndyCar is where it begins. St. Petersberg, Florida, while warm this time of year, is not quite the most inspiring destination. Not to pooh-pooh the city, but it just doesn’t conjure up the idea of needing to take a road trip there. The other problem is that much of the sporting world is tightly bound to the NCAA basketball tournament right now. Sorry, no brackets here. So with the relative dearth of anticipation surrounding the onset of the IndyCar season, is it time to borrow a little something from NASCAR?

No, there’s no way that IndyCar, even with Indy Lights, could sustain two weeks of interest for the series. Besides, the month of May is taken over by the Indianapolis 500 and all that surrounds it, which acts as their de facto speedweeks. But maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to concoct some kind of preseason non-points All-Star event, or some kind of gimmick like that. Otherwise, even as NBC Sports Network will be airing the first race, the amount of coverage on their side is lackluster.

Some kind of preseason event, however, could change that. It would get all the drivers together. It would make some of them race. With a little luck, it might even get a couple of them mad at each other, which would allow for a storyline. Look at how the media surrounding NASCAR continued to fuel the Jeff Gordon-Clint Bowyer feud. Now that Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano have taken their place, there’s the opportunities for more stories to mitigate early season boredom and everyday Gen-6 questioning.

Those statements may seem to indicate that what IndyCar needs is a good ol’ fashioned rivalry. With Danica Patrick out of the sport, who is the foil? Hard to say, mainly because that has yet to develop. An All-Star event, with no points on the line, might be an envoy to one such situation. At the very least, however, an All-Star-like race would get some general interest going. If the fans forget to watch it, that’s fine, but maybe they’ll catch some coverage on NBCSN or some blip on that thing called the Interwebnet or whatever.

And if the fans watch and don’t like it? That’s just as good. It’s still generating interest and fan response is a good way to gauge such a thing. An outcry would show that people actually care, which sometimes seems to be overlooked. There’s also the possibility that IndyCar might find a way to improve on the concept for the next go round. (Of course, this series is one that still hasn’t figured out how to keep a person in a position of leadership, so that aspect might be farfetched.)

This All Star race concept is not one that is sure to excel. In fact, it could possibly be horrible, and it might be a total waste of time and money. Heck, it might be better to have the drivers compete in go-karts on some kind of modified little track. Actually, that sounds like a good idea. But, whatever they would decide to do, the goal is to generate interest. And right now IndyCar is failing in that area.

Though IndyCar has fun at Long Beach, with the Pro-Am race, it has not held any kind of event that would act like an All Star event. Doing so would offer the chance for the drivers to possibly let loose a bit and give fans a sense of their personalities. Doesn’t seem like too terrible an idea. Oh, right, that’s why it will never happen.

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