Putting A Wrap On 2010 And Looking Ahead To 2011

New Berlin, Wisconsin – It’s been a year of the status quo in many racing series, and a year that looks ahead with hope for change in others. We view the overall racing future with anticipation despite lower TV ratings and empty seats at many events. "Green" fuels and power plants should make competition rules more relevant to the cars we drive every day, while preserving the sounds and speeds that have drawn fans to tracks for more than a century. With that, we present some thoughts on racing as we saw it in 2010, and how we think things may be in 2011.

• The Indy Racing League turned to the simpler Indy Car name to mark its place in the motorsports world as Randy Bernard took the reins from Tony George to lead the series back into the racing mainstream. The 2011 schedule will see a separation from the ISC tracks (Chicago, Kansas, Watkins Glen) and a return to classic tracks like The Milwaukee Mile. A street race around the Baltimore harbor and a return to New Hampshire will give the open wheelers an East Coast presence that has been lacking. Unfortunately, the new engine/chassis/aero package won’t be on the tracks until 2012, but Bernard has made great strides to grow IC. With new owners, some American presence in the cockpits, and a bit of enthusiasm in the international racing community, things can only get better for a group that deserves to return to the prominence it enjoyed in the 1990’s and before. Hope for a series return to Road America in 2012 along with a more available TV package and a big crowd at Milwaukee.

• The Indianapolis Motor Speedway will conclude its 3-year Centennial celebration with the 100th anniversary of the first Indianapolis 500 in May. Ticket sales are up for the celebration and many special events should stir interest in the race. The 500 will also benefit from the buzz created by the upcoming Indy Car rules changes in 2012. Now we need some schedule cooperation between the Hoosier race and NASCAR’s CocaCola 600 that would allow some drivers to compete in both events. THAT would create needed water cooler talk among casual fans.

• NASCAR saw better on-track competition when it changed its COT racer back to a trunk lid spoiler at mid-season. Many complained as Jimmie Johnson won a spectacular fifth championship, while those more understanding of the fete appreciated what he and the Hendrick/Chevrolet team have accomplished. Carl Edwards gave Ford fans some hope by winning at year’s end, Dodge struggled and RCR put three cars in the Chase after recent lack of success. The financial troubles at Petty Racing, or their 2011 name of choice, have hopefully been solved with new investors and a return to a 2-car team. Testing at Daytona in January will answer many questions about the expensive new track surface laid down in fall after the embarrassing delays during the Daytona 500 in February. When the economy is down, paid attendance at tracks usually suffers as discretionary income shrinks. TV ratings usually rise at such times as fans stay close to home. But contrary to that rule of thumb, ratings have been slipping the past few seasons with many using the term "boring" for races that were supposed to "let the boys be boys" on the track. Edwards Keselowski and Kyle Busch tried to spice things up, but apparently it wasn’t enough to spark much renewed interest. Sprint Cup will run its inaugural event at Kentucky Speedway in 2011, and, if wisdom prevails, they should join their Nationwide Series brethren at Road America sooner rather than later. The NASCAR community lost a strong leader when their Vice-President of Corporate Communications, Jim Hunter, passed away after a year-long battle with cancer. They were very fortunate that 2-time Busch Series champion Larry Pearson survived a horrific crash during a legends exhibition event at Bristol. Now, if the NASCAR Hall of Fame could see its way clear to include more of NASCAR’s rich history of drivers, owners, mechanics and officials onto the HOF ballot before many of these pioneers pass away, they could enjoy the recognition that they deserve.

• Sports Car racing in North America continues to confuse casual fans as NASCAR’s Daytona Prototypes vie with the America Le Mans series for public attention. The DPs are more of a spec series with little technical innovation, while the ALMS encourages innovation and strives to present a diverse field of open and closed cockpit prototypes and GT cars. Both will run at Road America in 2011- the DPs on the same day as the NASCAR Nationwide event in June, while the ALMS will stretch their Wisconsin race to 4 hours in August.

• Notes: Badger Midgets have apparently settled their differences with the firemen at Sun Prairie after various problems in 2010 saw Badger run at Beaver Dam while Sun Prairie attempted its own series. New cost-saving rules for 2011 are aimed at greater car counts while a new Micro-midget 600cc series should help to train young drivers. Sun Prairie racing on Sunday nights is a treasure that needs support by both fans and competitors. They deserve better than they got last season. *** The Menards ARCA racing series returns to Wisconsin with a summer event at Madison International. The series will also support the Kroger Speedfest at O’Reily Raceway Park in Indianapolis during the Brickyard 400 weekend. *** F1 racing is scheduled to return to the US if promoters in Austin,TX have their way. Approval for the track design is being sought and construction should commence early in 2011. An attempt to field a US F1 effort failed in 2010, but this proposal seems to have some traction, as many involved with the series have expressed support for another try at a US Grand Prix . Time will tell.

As we close our 46th year of motorsports writing and photography, we ask for a healthy and safe 2011. Enjoy Christmas and the New Year, and remember that Jesus is the reason for the season.

Share Button