IndyCar 2014 And The Future

The Indianapolis 500 – crown jewel of the Verizon IndyCar Series. [Russ Lake Photo]

When Michael Andretti’s marketing group took over the IndyCar race at the Milwaukee Mile four seasons ago, they installed a Ferris Wheel in the infield as part of their Indy Fest fan entertainment package.

Perhaps a roller coaster might have been more symbolic of the ups and downs that event, and the series in general, have experienced over the past few years.

Changing race dates, events that appear on the schedule but disappear after a year or two, fluctuating TV ratings and flat at-track attendance coupled with seemingly annual management changes seem to take attention off the superb race competition; especially recent Indianapolis 500s.

So with that “up and down” series path looking like the Chicago skyline at times, let’s looks at some of the good and bad of IndyCar racing now and in the future.


• Every racing series should have an Indianapolis 500 as its premier event. You can’t make up the history of a race, and ninety-eight 500 mile races are packed with it. Milwaukee comes as close as you can come to Indy’s history but the Daytona 500 isn’t even close. 2016 will mark the one-hundredth 500 and interest should be high; everyone will want to see that historic event. The track’s plans for major updating of its facilities should be completed by that centennial race.

• Hopefully the inaugural Indianapolis Grand Prix will be able to sustain the interest it generated on the IMS road course in early May. Fans could move around from place to place and despite the empty seats in the cavernous facility, the race was well attended-certainly better than a boring day of practice that occupied that weekend in the past. A standing start wreck pulled the plug on the opening lap excitement, but that won’t happen next season.

• The abbreviated Verizon IndyCar Series schedule adds two important early-season events to its 2015 schedule. Brasilia, Brazil on March 8 and New Orleans on April 12 introduce two vibrant cities to the series’ 17-race calendar. It is hoped that the Brasilia facility will be ready in time.

• Aero kits will give the various Chevrolet and Honda teams some separate visual identity. More important is the downforce and speed that should be generated, and with it better racing. Early testing has been positive and Round Two in St. Petersburg will be the first real race test.

• IndyCar and the Indianapolis Speedway both reported finishing in the black regarding finances. Whether that was $1 or $1million, both groups need to start investing in the future, their future, of open wheel racing in North America.


• Having a title sponsor is an important plus for every racing series. Verizon stepped in last season after IZOD left, but many insiders don’t feel that it has had much impact, failing to activate its sponsorship to the level that other series have. IndyCars should be featured in every March-August Verizon print and electronic advertising piece. At-track pit tours, fan hand-outs and signage could help fans make the IndyCar/Verizon connection.

• It’s been argued a million times, but the fact is that IndyCar disappears from the media and public radar screens from September-February as the abbreviated six-month series’ schedule allows the NFL to dominate the air-waves . NASCAR, baseball, hockey and basketball don’t hide from the NFL juggernaut and neither should IndyCar.

• IndyCar lost the Houston race and the second Toronto event for 2015. Seventeen events will be contested beginning in Brazil, but those races will be held in just 15 markets. For a series to truly be North American, more events need to be scheduled in Canada, Mexico and the Pacific Northwest. Some series’ dollars need to be spent to help tracks in Vancouver, Calgary, Portland and Mexico City hold events with sanctioning fees that are affordable. And please don’t forget Road America in 2016.

• Race dates seem to be very “liquid” on the IC schedule. Milwaukee is in its third different month in the past three years and the July 12th green flag won’t wave until after 4:00 PM in 2015 thanks to TV’s demands. Pocono and Fontana have also changed months as both tracks look to increase small 2014 crowds. Those races may be in jeopardy if seats don’t start to fill this season. Fans make plans in advance while promoters and sanctioning bodies look for prime attendance months and TV looks at what’s best for its schedule. Stability in race dates needs to become an important factor for all concerned.


• As of mid-December eighteen seats seem to be filled for 2015 with six TBA drivers still to be announced, for a potential full-time grid of 24. Drivers looking for rides include Simona De Silvestro who is returning from Europe, Ryan Briscoe, F1 refugee Jean-Eric Vergne, American Alexander Rossi and Brit Dean Stoneman.

• Standing starts are a thing of the past in Verizon IndyCar while only one doubleheader remains on the schedule. Toronto will have just one race on its weekend and the loss of Houston eliminates its two-race event. Detroit’s Belle Isle is now the only Saturday/Sunday event.

• With a new Dallara IL-15 chassis set to debut in 2015, look for more cars on the sometimes sparse Indy Lights’ grid. British-based Team Carlin, one of the most successful open-wheel operations in Europe outside of F1, has committed to participate in the 2015 Indy Lights series with hopes of moving to IndyCar by 2016. Carlin’s drivers have yet to be announced.

• Only two races, the Indianapolis 500 and the season’s finale at Sonoma will award double-points.

• And perhaps the best news of all: AJ Foyt has returned home after a longer than expected hospital stay. The four-time Indianapolis 500 winner underwent heart bypass surgery on November 12 and was kept in the hospital longer than expected after developing lung problems. Foyt, who will turn 80 years old in January, is expected to make a complete recovery.

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