Another Black Eye for IndyCar?

Posted in IndyCar on December 7, 2022 by Oilpressure

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In the past, I have been accused of being a shill for IndyCar. I certainly don’t feel that way, but when something good happens with the NTT IndyCar Series – I tend to celebrate it. Part of that is because the series takes a lot of knocks, so when I see something good to write about, I do it. That’s not always the case. Just go back to what I wrote about on Monday regarding the massive price increases at Iowa, if you don’t believe me. Unfortunately, today is not very rosy either.

IndyCar took another black eye yesterday, in my opinion.

The series sent out a press release touting their efforts in “Sustainable Leadership in Motorsports”. They mentioned their new partnership with Shell, to use 100% renewable resources in their fuel starting at St. Petersburg next March – while also requiring that all team transporters be powered by 100% Renewable Diesel. The new guayule Firestone tire that was run at Nashville was also mentioned in the release. The fourth paragraph started off discussing the plans to introduce a hybrid engine platform in 2024. It was in the last of the fourth paragraph where they causally mentioned that the new 2.4-liter engine that was announced in 2018 (originally for 2023) has been paused. It’s funny how that was sort of buried deep into the release.

It was with much fanfare that this new engine was announced over four years ago, as “fast and loud”. 2023 would begin a new era of bigger and more powerful engines to be mated with a new car at some point to replace the aging DW12. Later on, it was announced that a hybrid component would be added with the capability of producing close to 1,000 hp, while showing off the newest hybrid technology. The 2020s sounded promising for IndyCar.

Supply chain issues pushed the engine back to 2024. New IndyCar owner, Roger Penske, decided that the current car was just fine for several more years. Then there were multiple issues with the hybrid unit being developed by German manufacturer MAHLE. Finally, Honda and Chevrolet convinced IndyCar to allow them to take over the hybrid component development together.

The once celebrated and then delayed 2.4-liter engine went away very quietly yesterday. According to an outstanding article by Marshall Pruett of Racer.com, the culprit was ultimately the lack of a third engine manufacturer. Honda and Chevy had already poured millions into the development of the new engine, but that was a drop in the bucket for what it was going to take to develop, build and service these new engines. They simply weren’t willing to take on half of the burden with the other – they needed a third manufacturer to come in and absorb all the cost.

According to the Pruett article, Honda Performance Development (HPD) President David Salter put it best saying “We’re not here to make a racing series, we’re here to promote through a racing series. But we’re not here to make the racing series. That’s not our job. That’s somebody else’s job. We’re here to support it, but only if it gives us something back. And we have to also show a return on investment, and that needs to be people watching.”

We fans sometimes forget that the main partners of IndyCar are there to ultimately turn a profit. It may not be through the direct sales of tires or engines to teams, but it is to enhance their brands that are for sale to the general public. If the partners don’t sense they are getting a good return on their sometimes sizeable investment, they are under obligation to continue past their contract.

In this case, the development costs of the engine were much higher than originally anticipated. Without a third engine manufacturer, a lot of those costs were going to be passed along to the teams. That could have resulted in a significant decrease in car count.

So the call was made to apply the hybrid technology now being developed by Ilmor, Chevy and HPD, to the old 2.2-liter engines that have been powering cars in the series since 2012 and have those engines ready (hopefully) by 2024. Was it the right call? It was probably the fiscally responsible call, but one that will not go over well with fans.

While Formula One is experiencing the biggest surge of popularity in the US in decades and NASCAR (for better or worse) has their Next Gen car – IndyCar is electing to stand pat on their cars and now their engines for the foreseeable future. The hybrid technology may resonate with a few fans, but the promise of Fast and Loud seems long gone for now.

While it may be the prudent decision, this will not excite the fan base. In fact, from what I saw on social media – it has infuriated the fan base. If you listened to Trackside last night, you heard Kevin Lee downplay this and say that most fans won’t care about this. I disagree.

Fans are already starting to get restless with the new regime (Penske Entertainment) that officially took over in January of 2020. While fans should be eternally grateful that IMS and the series were in the hands of Penske to be sustained during the economic woes of the pandemic; fans now want to see the improvements they envisioned when the purchase was first announced in November 2019. Pushing back the engine development before finally shelving it, and squashing any hopes for a new car for several years is not the way to rally the fan base.

Making a prudent decision is not sexy, and it’s easy for us to tell people how to spend their money. Most of these owners became wealthy by making sound business decisions. But IndyCar fans have been watching these same cars and engines circle tracks for eleven seasons. Fans want something to look forward to without having to cheer abut another sound financial decision.

George Phillips

Please Note: There will be no post here on Friday December 9 or Monday December 12. Susan and I are flying out on Thursday morning to Boise, Idaho to go meet my new grandson. To be honest, he’s not that new anymore. He was born in June, the weekend we were at Road America. With Susan spending July and August in the hospital, we were not able to go until now. I will return here on Wednesday December 14. – GP

The Wrong Side of the Line

Posted in IndyCar on December 5, 2022 by Oilpressure

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Let’s get this out of the way on the front-end. I am probably not the best expert around to judge how someone in their early-thirties looks to spend their entertainment dollars. Being almost twice their age would normally disqualify me, but even when I was in that age group – I was not a good representation of that demographic. This will probably come off as an old man yelling at a cloud, but so be it.

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A Curious Choice by Dreyer & Reinbold

Posted in IndyCar on December 2, 2022 by Oilpressure

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The 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500 is still almost six months away, but the dominos continue to fall as available seats continue to fill up. One such seat was filled a couple of weeks ago, and I’ll admit it caught me by surprise.

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An Alternative for the Music City Grand Prix?

Posted in IndyCar on November 30, 2022 by Oilpressure

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As we learned a few weeks ago, the Tennessee Titans are planning to build a new stadium to be ready for play in the fall of 2026. So far, there has not been a ton of resistance – so it looks as though this might happen. If it does it will greatly impact the Music City Grand Prix while the new stadium is under construction, since it will be going in the same spot that serves as the IndyCar paddock.

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Much to be Thankful For

Posted in IndyCar on November 23, 2022 by Oilpressure

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As I grow older, but not necessarily wiser – I am amazed at how quickly the years are passing. It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is already here again. It’s hard to believe that it’s been nine months since we drove down to the season-opener at St. Petersburg in late February. Suddenly we are 186 days away from the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500, and I have a feeling it will be here before we know it. The years are passing by way too quickly. I’d like to think I have at least another thirty left in me, but that would put me at 94. This is a not-so-gentle reminder to make the most of what’s left and to take stock in all the things we should be thankful for.

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MSR Needs to Change Their Formula

Posted in IndyCar on November 21, 2022 by Oilpressure

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If you are close to my age, you probably remember Fast Masters – racing’s answer to the old PGA Senior Tour, which is no longer branded as such. I’m assuming having the word Senior in the name conjured up images of old men sitting around a country club, swapping old war stories (if there is anything really wrong with that).

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Thoughts For a Good Friend

Posted in IndyCar on November 18, 2022 by Oilpressure

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I had, what I thought, was a very good post written up for today. But I learned something yesterday morning that made me shift today’s post until Monday. It wasn’t anything that timely, so it’ll certainly keep until then. I thought it would be appropriate, considering what has happened.

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