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Should IndyCar Drop 1.5-Mile Tracks? – a Fan’s Opinion
Sometimes no can mean yes.
When a death occurs in motorsports, often there are more questions than answers - and opinions abound. The sport isn't stagnant about safety but sometimes - sadly - it takes awful circumstances to move more quickly in the right direction. That's fine and there already are improvements with the new 2012 car. As long as constant pressure is there, I'm sure more improvements will be made. But what about the tracks themselves - are there certain types that should or shouldn't be raced on at all?
The IndyCar I grew up with was mostly raced on circle tracks. Of course, I was lucky enough to watch races at facilities like Ontario Motor Speedway or Big O, as I remember it (see related articles). But it seems size does matter. What has changed that doesn't allow certain tracks to work safely with IndyCar?
One of the answers, if there are any, is NASCAR. With the advent of stock car racing taking over as the premier motorsport in the United States, the track size of choice is the one-and-a-half mile high banked oval. The action on the track is maybe more fun to watch than the small-but-hard-to-pass-short-tracks or the monstrous two-and-a-half mile facilities where you need binoculars to see anything. With higher banking, the cars are easier to view than flat tracks such as Indy, Pocono or the long since closed Big O.
I'd much rather go to a race where I can watch more than one or two turns at a road or street course. And now since the death of Dan Wheldon, amongst the many inquisitions is whether circle tracks and its pack racing should be driven at all.
Where to run
I've been to a variety of tracks and seen all kinds of racing through the years, including Long Beach many times, Sonoma, Laguna Seca, and several times to both Fontana and Phoenix; plus the since-closed facilities of Riverside and the Big O. The best viewing was at Phoenix although I probably had the most fun at Long Beach - but that's for another story.
The shorter tracks like Phoenix offer its quirky dogleg (which they've exaggerated more this year) and different banking all in a one-mile track so it's pretty easy to see everything and enjoy good racing. You're not going to find "good racing" at Long Beach or other street and road courses as it's mostly follow the leader. IndyCar needs tracks like Phoenix and others in the industry agree.
So what to do - or not do - with these NASCAR mile-and-a-half tracks which create the pack racing that seems to have been the biggest culprit in Wheldon's death?
IndyCar has been healing the wounds of a civil war and then on top of that the Recession has made business tough. So they go where they think they can make money, either at the track or on TV.
Here's my opinion. First I think you should make it so you can race at any venue. IndyCar has a multitude of tracks, but in-order-to run at big high-banked ovals, take the downforce away from the cars. You want to sail it into the first turn and force the driver to not flat-foot it. He'll be forced to get his foot out of it and in-turn, be able to control the car better by using the throttle more … or less. That would change the on-track dicing. No, there probably won't be as much tight or close racing but it will make the drivers work harder so in the end, it's safer and there won't be cars next to or on top of each other.
Yes, this is my opinion but many other racer friends, family and associates have agreed with this premise. It makes sense and keeps in play all the different tracks IndyCar runs at which I think makes it the best sport on the planet.
So the answer to the title question is no. Am I right?
Sources - Ron Driver, USA Today, IndyStar.com
Daryle has been involved in motorsports most of his life and has blogged about every type of racing for several years.
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