Should IMS Host A Grand-Am Race?

If you had asked me about a year ago if I would have been in favor of yet another form of racing invading the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I would have said a resounding NO. However, having seen the videos of the Grand-Am cars on the road course at Indy, I think I would like to see them try it.

The Indianapolis market has been asked to help support some pricey events at the historic Speedway. I’m not sure that there is a market to support sports cars on an annual basis at the track, but I liked the idea that Curt Cavin threw out the other night. The Grand-Am cars should run one stand-alone event at the Speedway as part of the ongoing three-year Centennial Celebration taking place at 16th and Georgetown.

I’m not quite sure when it would be best to stage such an event. There are currently three major events taking place at the track every year. The Indy 500 in May, the Brickyard 400 in late July and the MotoGP race in late August. Indiana weather probably would not permit anything to be run in early spring. Even if the configuration allowed for it, I don’t think IMS officials want any other type of racing going on in the month of May. It probably doesn’t surprise anyone that I agree wholeheartedly with that. That would leave probably late September or very early October.

Another issue to consider is what year to run this one-time event? My personal opinion is 2010. There was really no significant milestone that took place in 1910 that we should celebrate. 2009 marked one hundred years since the opening of the track. 2011 will celebrate the one-hundredth anniversary of the first running of the Indianapolis 500.

The most significant occurrence in 1910 was the first race to run on the new brick surface, which was laid down in the fall of 1909. There were no motorcycle races, but many auto races to take place – none of which were scheduled for more than one hundred miles. There was a weeklong aviation meet in June of 1910. There were actually two altitude world record set at Indianapolis that week. There was a twenty-four hour race scheduled but it was cancelled and never took place. In the fall of 1910, Carl Fisher and his three co-owners decided to scrap all of the minor races throughout the year and hold only one event – a grueling five-hundred mile event that would test man and machine – to take place on Memorial Day.

In my mind, the climax of the Centennial Celebration will be the ninety-fifth running of the Indianapolis 500 in May of 2011. I think it would be somewhat anti-climactic to run a special race in the fall of 2011. Running a Grand-Am event in fall 2010 makes the most sense. It gives us something significant to celebrate in the middle year of the Centennial. One thing I am certainly NOT in favor of is running the IndyCars on the road course – not with Grand-Am or at any other time. The IndyCars belong on this track one time per year – and that’s the month of May.

It probably surprises no one that I was not in favor of NASCAR invading the hallowed grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I considered even a Goodyear tire test in 1992 to be something of a sacrilege. I thought that my dying father was going to cry when he saw stock cars running at the Speedway in the inaugural Brickyard 400. It irks me to this day that I feel like I can no longer refer to IMS as “the Brickyard” because everyone will think I’m referring to a NASCAR event.

But what’s done is done. Once a horrible deed is done, it’s much easier to do it the second time around. Although it took some getting used to seeing them run the “wrong” direction, I didn’t have the same resistance when Formula One came to the track. I actually embraced the notion. I went once, in 2002, and felt like I was in a foreign country. It was a totally different setting than Indy, but I enjoyed it. I still haven’t been to the NASCAR event at IMS.

I was sorry to see F1 go, but I understood the fit of the MotoGP motorcycles at IMS. Motorcycles ran in the inaugural year of the Speedway in 1909 – along with a balloon race. I also liked the fact that the bikes ran the “correct” way around the Speedway. Thursday’s Grand-Am test ran BOTH ways around the Speedway – trying out both configurations.

For years, there was a mystique about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The huge piece of property hosted only one event per year – the Indianapolis 500. That mystique was lost for good when NASCAR showed up in 1994. Now that it’s gone, I realize that hosting events for the world’s top series like MotoGP, Formula One and Grand-Am – will only enhance the reputation and allure of the Speedway. If they choose to host a stand-alone, single event for Grand-Am; I hope they don’t do it immediately after the NASCAR race. Otherwise, they’ll have to make sure to sweep up all of the chicken-bones beforehand.

FYI…I plan to take a couple of days away for Labor Day weekend. I’ll return here on Tuesday morning, Sep 8. I hope everyone has a safe holiday weekend.

George Phillips

13 Responses to “Should IMS Host A Grand-Am Race?”

  1. tim nothhelfer Says:

    I would prefer to see ALMS cars that look good as opposed to the drab daytona prototypes….but the latter series has the nascar backing, popular nascar stars available…..

  2. ALMS would be a better fit, they run race’s together with the IRL anyways. If ALMS ran there likely the teams from Europe would go to the race, and you’d have a large field.

  3. I don’t follow that type of racing, but I was under the impression that ALMS was on it’s way out of business. Any truth to that? And I would assume that Rolex Grand Am’s ties with Nascar was looked at positively by IMS and probably how they got the test. If anyone could explain the basic differences between the two series, I’d sure read it.

    If they did have another event at Indy on the road course, I’d like to see the sports cars as a support race for Indycars. Or why not in the first week of May? They don’t need two weeks of qualifications anyway.

  4. Count me as another vote for ALMS. Another possibility mentioned at Last Turn Clubhouse is a shared event. Put ALMS and GrandAm cars on the track at the same time.

  5. Wow, I thought I was going to be in the minority if I mentioned that I’d rather see the ALMS run, but judging from the previous comments, I guess I’m not the only one! I could see a combination Grand Am and ALMS race weekend. That would be pretty cool.

  6. The 24 Hours at Daytona is a great event with drivers that come from all fields of motorsport in North America. It’s the perfect time of year because it’s right at the end of the off season when all of these drivers are able to make this one off effort. However, the race doesn’t draw any people. A similar race at Indy would not be able to draw as many drivers because you would have to hold while most championships are underway. ALMS cars would be great there but the facility is not arranged to provide for the type of event that the series puts on. Alan McNish summed it up nicely on this weeks Mid Week Motorsport podcast on Radio Le Mans.

    By the way, “Katrina Flood” from the last turn club is another pen name for Tom Kjos’ line up a la Murphy the Bear.

    You’ll see a shared weekend with ALMS and Grand-Am when NASCAR and Formula One share a weekend.

  7. IMO, the 500, BY 400, & Moto GP, tell the world Indianapolis is the USA’s Racing Capital. GA/DP’s only grab crowds when aligned with NASCAR (maybe… ) I don’t see an Indy/ Grand Am event as a “Gotta Have” event for IMS. ALMS would be a different story

    I love Scott Pruett’s concept of a day into night 6 or 12 hour race… however with one BIG change… ALMS & their cars that would bring the WORLD to Indy.

    Add IMSA’s Atlantics, Playboy MX5 Cup, Patron GT3’s & Star Mazda as the support events. One kick a$$ road racing weekend. Another issue would be the empty grandstands. IMS has WAY MORE than Daytona (also empty during that event) Is Indy set up to pack in crowds & camping in their infield?

  8. I don’t follow that type of racing, but I was under the impression that ALMS was on it’s way out of business. Any truth to that?

    NO to ALMS “death” rumors. GA has bad news too. Porsche rumored to be pulling factory support. Pontiac teams to run what? Camaros maybe replacing GXP-R’s?

    BTW: ALMS car count @ Mosport 19 cars Grand Am @ Montreal 28 cars (15DPs/ 13 GTs) Add 1 if you count the Edwards/ Ambrose DP that DNS Add Audi (2), Peugeot (2),Pickett’s P2 RS Spyder (1) & ORECA (2?) to the ALMS grid for PLM as well. An Indy date could attract morevELMS teams

    One last thought… ALMS adding their “DP” class in 2010. the ORECA “spec” proto with Elan track support & Ford power plants… (that or Chevy LS3 motors). Refugees from GA/DP could allow these rules to be adjusted as well.

  9. To that suggestion that GrandAm and ALMS share the track, either separate events on the same weekend or on the track at the same time: never happen. NASCAR effectively owns GrandAm. NASCAR will not want to portray GrandAm in any sort of negative light, unless it’s a negative light that they themselves shine on the series (see my blog from this week for an explanation there). Fact: GrandAm DPs are only marginally faster than ALMS’s GT2 cars, and would absolutely be embarrassed by ALMS’s prototypes. Pole speeds at Mid-Ohio from this year:
    ALMS P1 – 1:09.443
    ALMS P2 – 1:10.464
    GrandAm DP – 1:18.059
    ALMS GT2 – 1:21.022
    GrandAm GT – 1:25.257

    Under no circumstances would GrandAm share the track with ALMS, as they’d be so visibly slower than all of the ALMS cars that they’d be impossible to take seriously again as “top-level” sportscars. You can scratch that idea right out. It’s fun to consider, but it’s not realistic in any way.

    I don’t think that any sports car event at IMS is a guarantee that either GrandAm teams or non-American Le Mans-style teams (Audi, Peugeot, Oreca, etc.) will show up just because it’s Indy. There is no equity in Indy for any of the European teams. By the same token, there’s not really any large scale fan following for either series in the US. There is absolutely no proof that you could draw 100,000 people for a sports car race at IMS. Sebring draws huge numbers because it’s a spring break destination of sorts, has 50 years of history and sports car fans have been starved of action for 5 months by the time the event rolls around. None of these things will be true for Indy. Daytona draws enough fans for the 24 to semi-fill the infield, but how many fans do you think that actually is? 20,000? At the most? On top of all of this, the economy has not really turned around yet. People are going to fewer races nowadays, not more. Personally, living 500+ miles away from Indy, I can only afford to attend one race per year there. What am I going to pick, a sports car race of questionable quality and probably scant fields, or the 500? That doesn’t even take five seconds of consideration on my part.

    What I’m saying is this: just because there are cars going around the track at Indy is no guarantee that you’re going to attract a crowd (or sponsorhip, or a TV deal) good enough to justify putting on an event. Until somebody proves to me that the numbers are going to work out, I’m not going to believe that it’s going to happen.

  10. Jack in NC Says:

    Slightly off the topic (but you opened the door to it, George) – I’d like to see an aviation event in June of 2010, 100 years after the “week long aviation meet in June of 1910”. How about a Red Bull Air Race? Probably too late to get into the schedule for 2010, but it would be fun. There aren’t any big aviation events in June. Oshkosh isn’t until late July, and Idianapolis is closer to being in the middle of the country than Oshkosh is.

  11. I do follow Grand-Am-as well as all types of motorsports-and yes, the cars are underpowered, not techologically advanced and frankly, are closer to the anachronisms that NASCAR is. I would only run GA at Indy in a horse-trading situation. That is, ISC gives IndyCar dates at Michigan and Phoenix-good dates and proper promotion- in exchange for the Grand-Am race at Indy. If ISC doesn’t agree to that, no GA race at Indy.

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