Two Things I’d Like To See Changed

Nothing in life is perfect. We were all taught that at a young age. None of us are perfect, either. We have many people in our lives reminding us every day just how imperfect we are. That accounts for all of the cheesy motivational posters that adorn many offices and the countless self-help books that are out there. We are told that we are always evolving and tweaking what we do. For someone who abhors change like I do, that’s sometimes hard to swallow.

While the Verizon IndyCar Series has evolved and improved greatly over the years, there are two things I’d like to see changed, sooner than later – double points races and double-headers. Both spell double-trouble for fans and participants, in my opinion.

For anyone that has been a regular visitor to this site, this is nothing new. I’ve complained about both for years. It sounds like I might get my wish on one, but the other may not change for a while.

One thing I always liked about CART and the early days of the IRL/IndyCar was that as big as the Indianapolis 500 was, it counted in the points as much as the poorest attended race on the schedule. The Indianapolis 500 stands on its own. No one needs to be reminded of its importance by offering double points to the drivers.

Entering the Month of May, many fans were afraid that had Josef Newgarden’s early-season momentum carried through May and he won the Indianapolis 500 – he would wrap up the IndyCar title before Labor Day. Of course, that didn’t happen and Newgarden is suddenly fifth in points.

But the potential for something having the opposite effect did come to fruition this past May. During the running of the IndyCar Grand Prix, James Hinchcliffe finished seventh. Hinch had been having a solid season and was fifth in points, trailing points leader Josef Newgarden by just thirty-four points.

As we all know, it all went terribly wrong in qualifying. Hinchcliffe was surprisingly bumped and missed the Indianapolis 500 entirely. Missing a race would be a bad enough hit in the points, but missing the Indianapolis with its double points was essentially like missing two entire races. Add to that the embarrassment to himself and his sponsors for missing the biggest race in the world, and you’ve got a team going from a solid season to despondency in the blink of an eye. A check of the standings today shows Hinchcliffe eleventh in points, and trailing points leader Will Power by 132 points.

The double points have an artificial effect on the standings. Without double points, Power would probably not be leading the points and Hinchcliffe would not be near as far back. Missing the Indianapolis 500 took away any realistic shot that Hinchcliffe had at the championship or even having a decent season.

What other sport does this? The Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots have had a big rivalry going for way more than a decade. If they ever play in the regular season, it is usually on Sunday night or Monday night, because it is such a big game. But do they award a two-game victory to the winner, just because it’s a big game? No, winning that game pays just as much as beating the Cleveland Browns. That’s the way it should be.

Even more ridiculous is that IndyCar awards double-points for the season finale at Sonoma. It was bad enough that Fontana garnered double points as the season finale in 2014, but when Sonoma became the final race of the season – it became almost an insult that it would be awarded double points.

Leave the points gimmicks to NASCAR. As they have tweaked their system and made it more complicated with the Chase/Playoffs, segment racing, etc. – look at what they’ve done to their fan base. They’ve confused them and are in the process of losing them. If they keep the IndyCar point system pretty straight forward, we fans don’t have to think too hard. That’s more important than it sounds.

This particular rant may have a happy ending. I keep hearing rumors that the double-points races are going away for 2019, but I haven’t heard anyone from IndyCar say that. This was just some of the scuttlebutt I was hearing in the IMS Media Center in May. Stay tuned.

Unfortunately, I’ve heard no such news on the other item I’d like to see go away – the double-header at Belle Isle, or any other track for that matter. I never liked the idea of the double-header – even when I’m watching them from the comfort of my own couch. This past weekend, I set the DVR on Saturday while I did all the yard work that I had neglected in the Month of May. We ordered a pizza and watched Saturday’s race about 8:00 that night. We did watch Sunday’s race live that afternoon. But without the luxury of a DVR, fans are being asked quite a bit to give up both afternoons of a weekend to watch two races at a venue that is not that popular with fans in the first place.

But we fans are the last group that I’m concerned about. After a grueling Month of May, crews and drivers are asked to stick around Indianapolis Monday night for the Victory Banquet. Friday morning, they are hitting the streets of Belle Isle for the first practice session. They qualify Saturday morning and race on an extremely bumpy track that afternoon. If you’ve ever driven the oval at Sarah Fisher’s Speedway Indoor Karting facility, you know how a rough track can wear you out by beating you to death – and that’s only for five minutes. Just imagine what seventy laps at 170 mph does to you.

After an exhausting race on Saturday, they get to come back Sunday and do it all over again. And that’s if they don’t wad up a car on Saturday. Graham Rahal’s crew did not leave Belle Isle until 1:00 am, after he stuffed his car into the fence in Saturday’s race.

Then there’s the question; do most drivers protect their car on the Saturday of a double-header, knowing that they’ve got to be ready to go again the next morning? I would think so, especially the low budget teams. But even if I drove for Team Penske, I would not want to face my crew if I just crashed my car on Saturday and I just guaranteed my crew a late night rebuilding a car that I just crashed by taking a stupid chance.

Fortunately, most of the double-headers have gone away. Remember back in 2013 and 2014, there were three double headers each of those seasons – Detroit, Houston and Toronto. Since 2015, there has only been one per season – Detroit. The bad thing is, Roger Penske is the promoter at Belle Isle and he likes having two separate races to offer the patrons in his home town. If Roger Penske wants it to happen, it happens.

The premise of the double-header was always so transparent to me. IndyCar was losing tracks right and left in the early part of this decade. Fans were used to seeing at least sixteen races on the schedule. In 2014, IndyCar bragged that they featured an eighteen-race schedule. While that was true, that was counting three double-headers and the IndyCar Grand Prix. So while there actually were eighteen separate races on the schedule, they took place in only fourteen venues.

The schedule is a little better now. For 2018, there are seventeen races at fifteen venues. The IndyCar Grand Prix serves its purpose and is not going anywhere. But even if no new tracks are added for next season, it wouldn’t upset me a bit to see Belle Isle scale back to only one race. We’d still have a sixteen race season, without taxing the teams, drivers and fans so soon after the Indianapolis 500.

I think the hiring of Jay Frye as President of Competition and Operations of IndyCar is one of the best hires I can remember in CART, Champ Car or IndyCar. He seems to have his finger on the pulse of what’s best for fans as well as drivers and teams. I’m sure that he is already contemplating what to do about double-points and double-headers. He has not made many wrong calls in his tenure and I feel confident he’ll make the right call on these two topics in the upcoming offseason.

George Phillips

19 Responses to “Two Things I’d Like To See Changed”

  1. Paul Fitzgerald Says:

    George…I couldn’t agree more with you about double points, they are a sham and an embarrassment. However I love the doubleheader and wish there was another one. I can’t get enough races during a way too short season.

  2. BrandonWright77 Says:

    I’m not going to be able to find it now but a couple weeks ago I read an interview with Jay Frye and he was commenting that they were going to reevaluate the double points and see about changing them or doing away with them. I can’t recall if it was just for Indy or for Indy and Sonoma, and of course he didn’t say anything definitive, but it’s good to know they’re at least looking at it.

    I understand why they do the double-points and it does manufacture drama for the end of the season, but I feel it’s drama for the sake of drama and has no real value.

  3. S0CSeven Says:

    Forget double points. That’s a disaster.

    However, double races…………. yeah, I’m all for it.

    All around the world race series are maximizing their product by doing double and triple race weekends. Think Aussie Supercars and BTCC are the first to come to mind.

    Here to build a street circuit requires millions to build the walls, fencing, communication links, bridges, blah, blah, blah and the money has to come from somewhere. Without a super sponsor the cost falls on the ticket buyers ….. so ……. you can either charge (say ) $500 for a 1 race event or $250 each for 2. I exagerate of course, but the problem is still the same. The cost for a family at the event.

    Last fall grandma & I took 2 grandchildren to an NHL Leafs game. $228/ticket plus lunch, plus other crap was over a grand. For a hockey game???

    There is a breaking point at which modern families just can’t possibly afford it and IMHO if double races can cut ticket costs in half then I’m all for it.

    • BrandonWright77 Says:

      $200+ for a ticket to a hockey game? That’s crazy. Don’t understand how they can sustain that.

      • S0CSeven Says:

        Unfortunately, Toronto is the hockey mad capital of the world. With 16,000 seats in a hockey mad population of over 7 million people the sky is the limit. Most tickets, 90% or more are pre-sold to large companies. The average fan can’t beg or buy a seat at any price and over $200 is cheap in these parts.

        Fortunately, I have a really big ‘IN’ so I was actually able to get some.

        However, returning to Indycar, the last time I looked at grandstand seats here the price was over $200 for the good seats. that was some time ago but that was still over a grand for a family of four. I used to to work the series but now just go to “free Friday” and watch the race on TV.

        Money and greed are going to kill a lot of sports, but not hockey in Toronto,

        • BrandonWright77 Says:

          $200 seems a bit high for grandstand seats for an average IndyCar race. I had tickets this year for the 500 under the roof right on the start/finish line and I think the face value was around $125, and that’s nearly double what I’ve ever paid to go to the 500 in the past. I had excellent seats in E Stand for the GP and those are around $60. I’m sure you can pay $200 for seats at most IndyCar races but there are usually lots of great options for a lot less than that.

          Makes sense about Toronto hockey, just kinda sad to see such events priced out of the range of the average fan. I could never pay anywhere near that much for one ticket to a random sporting event, let alone take a family. But as long as there’s rich people willing to pay stupid prices for tickets, to hell with the common fan, right? Sad situation, and it likely doesn’t have a good ending.

          • S0CSeven Says:

            Yeah, well ….. the good seats this year are only $185 per and before the split were about …. um …… well over $225. That’s life in a huge sports mad population base.

  4. George, base points on the length of the race,(longer race more points) as for double races on a weekend I see both sides so….?

    • billytheskink Says:

      Using the old USAC system that awarded points to the top 12 based on race distance (and rounding current race distances to USAC’s nearest designation) would produce the following top 10 standings:

      1. Dixon – 2050 pts. (+1 position)
      2. Power – 2030 pts. (-1)
      3. Rossi – 1995 pts. (0 change)
      4. Hunter-Reay – 1810 pts. (0)
      5. Newgarden – 1460 pts. (0)
      6. Wickens – 1315 pts. (0)
      7. Rahal – 1070 pts. (0)
      8. Carpenter – 950 pts. (+12)
      9. Hinchcliffe – 930 pts. (+2)
      10. Bourdais – 840 pts. (-1)

      Other notables:
      Carlos Munoz (300) would have more points than full-timers Zach Veach (195), Charlie Kimball (120), Spencer Pigot (45), Max Chilton (30), Matheus Leist (20), and Gabby Chaves (0)… and be right on the heels of Tony Kanaan (330) and Takuma Sato (380).

  5. Ron Ford Says:

    I would be in favor of double classic tenderloins at IMS.

    • ed emmitt Says:

      Nan,you want to go to Charlie Browns on Main St. I had the hand breaded tenderloin with coleslaw on the side. Now that was good eating.

  6. I actually like double points for the 500 because I think the 500 winner should be well represented in points. I don’t think it’s a good look when the 500 winner finishes 13th in season points.

    I also love the doubleheader weekends because it actually brings attrition and fatigue back into the equation. NASCAR for example, it has grown so boring watching Kyle Busch run 3 races a weekend with no stamina issues. The double headers in Indycar are actually a challenge, I enjoy watching tired drivers and crews getting that little bit more out of the car vs. their competition.

  7. billytheskink Says:

    Without double points or Indy 500 qualifying points Power would be 3rd in the standings behind Dixon and Rossi. Hinchcliffe would move up one spot to 10th without double and qualifying points. Other changes of note, Marco and Bourdais would swap 8th and 9th and Pagenaud would fall from 10th to 12th.

    While I would prefer there to not be double points, they have not typically altered the standings drastically. While, at present, they have altered 6 of the top 10 positions, last year they only altered 3 of the top 10 (none of the top 7). In 2016 they altered the 4 positions but none of the top 3. 2015… well, yeah they made a difference that season… but so would have the old CART or USAC points systems.

    Double header races are great for the fans in attendance. I have no argument with them for that reason alone.

  8. long time indycar fan, but I really dont care about the season championship. As for the duel, I think its great, I get to see two races on one weekend

  9. Shyam Cherupalla Says:

    I’d like to see double points go away but Standing starts at street and road races and open pits during yellow brought into play

  10. this is what i would like to change:

    Will Power‘s win ranks as the lowest rated and least-watched Indy 500 on record. The previous lows were set last year.

  11. Brit indycar 26 Says:

    Couldn’t agree with you anymore no double races or double points however I’m fine with Indy gp as it’s a different circuit if not different venue and if we had early 90s points system for top 12 for all races I would not argue the points going a bit deeper at the Indy 500 as it’s normally a 50% deeper field but I would stop just short of winner getting double points as the American part of motor racings triple crown is enough on its own.

  12. Brit indycar 26 Says:

    Also as above would love open pit lanes for most yellows and more standing starts at all road and street tracks and on the really long ovals or those with really wide pit lanes i would slap a starting grid on them as well! Also my mad but inspired “big idea” I think is at certain ovals with roval tracks it could be possible in certain changing weathers to switch from an oval on dry tires to an roval on wet tires mid race! It would need the laps to be halfed for simplicity and cars would have to run fairly neutral symmetrical suspension from the start with staggered dry rear tires then whole field at the drop of rain would pit for equal larger diameter wet tires and larger wings with more elements. Even if you risked staying out on dry tires a simple traffic light system controlled by race control would dictate wether you follow the oval track or go inside onto the road part of the roval.

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