Randy Bernard is Right! We Need a “New Track Record” at Indy!

HAMMOND, IN: There are definite reasons for the pathetic crowds around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway prior to the Race itself. The weak economy, the competition for the entertainment dollar from NASCAR and others, and the crummy weather that usually visits the Speedway each May are among the many problems.

Unfortunately, the negatives mentioned above are, for the most part, unfix-able. Creating a path for Americans to race in the 500 was tried, and basically failed. The only way to eliminate the weather problem would be to move the Race to June. (Yeah like THAT’S gonna happen ). And of course, there will always be plenty of competition for our hard-earned entertainment $$$$.

There is, however, one other important factor that has contributed to the almost non-existent crowds at the Speedway for practice and qualifying days during the Month of May.

For the past 13 years, one building block of Indy Tradition has been missing. No one has heard the spine-tingling voice of Tom Carneige (or anyone else for that matter), uttering the famous, “And it’s a NEW TRACK RECORD!

There’s no question that the possibility of new track records, during practice and/or qualifying, used to pull the crowds through the Speedway gates. In the ’50’s, the one minute lap (150 MPH) was the target. As the years passed, the breaking of the speed barriers was a huge draw. 180 MPH, 200 MPH, 230 MPH the spectators ate it up. Pole Day crowds of 150,000 were common.

Finally, in 1996, two time 500 winner Arie Luyendyk set what is still the official one lap record during time trials with a lap of 237.498 MPH. A few days earlier, Luyendyk was timed in practice at an amazing 239.260 MPH, which remains the unofficial single lap track record. And, as we remember, the following year the new IRL cars came on line, and the speeds dropped nearly 20 MPH.

Is there some way to recapture the appeal of the absolute track record being challenged during the month of May? Would the possibility of a 240 MPH lap help to rebuild the diminishing fan base?

Hey anything’s possible.

How about this: IndyCar and the Speedway could promote the “Ultimate Lap Record Challenge”. The defending 500 winner and the current IndyCar champion could face off in a daily dual for for the best lap of the day. Talk about the ultimate “happy hour”! In order to achieve the additional 10+ MPH needed to challenge the 240 MPH barrier, the rule book would have to be thrown away. Thinking outside the box, things like wing sizes, gears, ground effects, perhaps side skirts, could come into play in order to go for the record. Of course, these “record cars” would not be eligible for the actual race; they would be strictly “exhibition cars”. Who knows maybe even the Delta Wing car could be involved. Of course, the monetary reward for such an endeavor would need to be high: say, one million to the team that records the “Ultimate Lap of the Month”.

If this concept were properly promoted, I think we’d pack ’em in

It’s obvious that this idea is far fetched. But, if you think about it, had you been told 20 years ago that the Pole Day crowd in 2009 would be maybe 15,000 tops, you probably would have found that far fetched, too.

All I know for sure is that it’s an ugly feeling to wander around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the first day of time trials with only a few thousand of my best friends in attendance.

And it wasn’t even raining!

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