2013 SCHEDULE BRINGS OPTIMISM AND SKEPTICISM
IndyCar doubleheaders? Cool. Standing starts? 'Not so much'
October 1. 2012
Doubleheaders received a cautious but generally positive response from Izod IndyCar Series teams Monday, but drivers weren't so sure about news that three of their 19 races next year will begin with standing starts.
The series will hold doubleheader race weekends at three street courses in 2013 — Detroit, Toronto and Houston — using a standing start in one race and a traditional rolling start in the other race. Each doubleheader race is expected to be full length, with full points, and (perhaps most important) pay full prize money.
"I'd rather race for money than practice for nothing," said Mike Hull, team manager for Target Chip Ganassi Racing. "When you consider the cost per mile run, if we can make some money doing that rather than doing it for free, then it's a step in the positive direction."
The addition of doubleheaders in three major markets is an effort by IndyCar to expand its fan base. While it was unclear whether promoters were given a break on IndyCar's sanctioning fee for the doubleheaders, the goal is maximum exposure.
"We started looking at our entire business model and how we could grow," IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard said. "We felt this was one of the ways that would make sense. It gives your fans a chance to see twice the action in one weekend."
Bernard disclosed the schedule Sunday night, expanding by four races from the 15-race 2012 schedule. The series added a 400-mile race at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa., and a street race at Reliant Park in Houston while dropping an event in Edmonton, Alberta.
THE SCHEDULE: Triple Crown races a highlight
The three doubleheaders reiterate IndyCar's recent shift away from ovals toward more lucrative street races. A potential 20th event in 2013, a street race in Providence, failed to meet a weekend deadline, Bernard said Monday.
"They just weren't able to pull it off in time for our deadlines," he said. "We have to stick to a formal plan, and we did that this year. In regard to 2014, we would love to see Providence, but we need to get that done sooner rather than later. There's a limited amount of races. There's not room for everybody."
While drivers seemed excited about the doubleheaders, there was skepticism over the idea of standing starts. American open-wheel racing traditionally uses rolling starts, while European formula racing, including Formula One, uses standing starts.
"I've always thought standing starts required more skill, and the driver had more of a say," said James Hinchcliffe, who drives for Andretti Autosport. "They can really mix up the start of the race more. But on the other hand, it goes kind of against tradition as far as American open-wheel racing goes. Hopefully the fans like it. If the fans like it, I'm 100% for it."
On Twitter, the uncertainty was matched by Graham Rahal, who wrote, "Standing starts ... not for me, but let's see how it goes." And Fontana, Calif., winner Ed Carpenter added, "I like the doubleheaders idea, standing starts not so much."
The addition of Pocono, however, restores two traditions in Indy-style racing. The 2.5-mile "Tricky Triangle" was a staple on the open-wheel schedule until 1990. And its inclusion led IndyCar to revive a triple-crown award (of $1 million) for any driver that sweeps the series' three largest ovals (Indianapolis, Pocono and Fontana).
"Everyone around here is through the roof," said Brandon Igdalsky, Pocono Raceway's CEO and president. "It's great to have IndyCar coming back to a speedway that IndyCar racing helped develop."
Pocono also is part of a crucial stretch in which six of seven races are on ABC instead of its less-watched TV partner, NBC Sports Network. The plan was to give viewers continuity from the Indianapolis 500 through the July 7 race at Pocono on a broadcast network that offers a larger potential audience.
"It's a great step in the right direction to get us better national exposure," Hull said. "You've got a string of races in a row on ABC after the Indy 500. You've got a real triple crown. You've got an effort to give fans more racing. I applaud what they're trying to do."