Where, When & How to do a Double-Header

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One week after winning his second NTT IndyCar Series championship, Josef Newgarden drove his Indy car with Shell/Pennzoil livery around the road course in an exhibition run inside Charlotte Motor Speedway. NASCAR-types call it the Charlotte Roval, because it incorporates parts or the 1.5 mile oval of the track.

I don’t like calling it that because that’s a term that NASCAR is being credited with, even though Rick Mears actually coined the phrase in the early eighties when describing the track at Pocono. He called it a “roval” due to the fact that it was an oval that raced more like a road course. As usual, NASCAR took something created within IndyCar circles and made it their own (see the SAFER Barrier, the HANS device, doing donuts after a win, etc). I’m quite certain that at some point, the winner of the Daytona 500 will drink milk in Victory Lane and a new tradition will be started, but I digress…

But for simplicity sake, I will reluctantly refer to it as the Roval here, just to save me some keystrokes. Since Newgarden’s run, fans have automatically assumed that the Charlotte Roval will be the site of the unofficially proposed NASCAR/IndyCar double-header weekend within the next few years.

While Newgarden’s solo run drew some interest from those there and watching online videos, I cannot imagine watching an IndyCar race at that venue. The track just seems too short and too confined for the nimble and much faster Indy cars. If you think some of the road and street courses on the IndyCar schedule are somewhat processional, I hate to think what an IndyCar race on the Roval would look like. The idea of a double-header is using a venue where both disciplines can shine. That would not be the Charlotte Roval.

I am all in favor of such a double-header taking place and I think the idea has some momentum behind it. Ten years ago, I never would’ve given such an idea getting off of the ground. But with NASCAR’s dwindling fan base and the popularity of motorsports declining across the board – it seems that all parties are at least interested in talking about it happening. Though some say it might happen as early as 2021, I think 2022 is the absolute earliest season such an event may take place. It may be even later than that, if it happens at all.

Just a few months ago, I wrote a post here throwing out different locations where this might take place. Robin Miller has suggested Richmond as a possible venue, but that doesn’t interest me. I think Richmond needs time to re-build it’s own event after a ten-year absence. Don’t go throwing in a double-header with NASCAR just as the IndyCar event is building some momentum.

One of the many locations I threw out was Texas Motor Speedway – with both organizations using the oval. Apparently, TMS President Eddie Gossage likes that idea too. Racer.com ran an article last week citing support from Gossage and Tony Stewart advocating for Texas to be the site for such an event. After reading this article and thinking more about it, I’m convinced that Texas should be the venue to host such an event.

With Humpy Wheeler out of the picture, Eddie Gossage is about the closest thing that motorsports has to PT Barnum. Give him a few headlines and a unique event to promote, and he will run for miles with it to make sure it is a success. I’m not sure there is another race promoter out there, besides Doug Boles, that could pull this off – and Boles can’t do it because this event does not need to happen at IMS. It needs to happen where both series have a history of good events. That knocks out NASCAR and IMS.

The most logical thing seems to be to allow each series to have their solo dates at Texas – NASCAR in the spring and IndyCar in mid-June – then have a combined date in September or possible October. This would preempt NASCAR’s usual fall date at Texas. I wouldn’t want to crown the IndyCar champion at such an event, so I would recommend making it the next to the last race for IndyCar.

NBC has IndyCar year-round, but they only have the second half of the NASCAR schedule – so it would have to be at that time in order for the event to be promoted on the same network. Eddie Gossage could heavily promote the event at each of the respective series solo dates and NBC could promote it throughout the year. NASCAR is used to running at Texas in the daytime, while IndyCar runs at night. Give each series its normal slot – IndyCar on Saturday night and NASCAR on Sunday afternoon, so that there is no perception of one being the warm-up act for the other.

I think this could be a win-win-win for both series and race fans. Eddie Gossage and Texas Motor Speedway probably wouldn’t be hurting after such an event either.

Over the last year, I’ve gone from being lukewarm to such an idea to being very excited at such an event actually taking place. I think this needs to happen and I also think it will eventually happen. Just don’t let it happen on the Charlotte Roval.

George Phillips

14 Responses to “Where, When & How to do a Double-Header”

  1. NASCAR gets no credit for “roval”, as a sim racer I’ve been aware of this term for at least a decade and it is not an uncommon term at all. Any oval that has a road course inside it that uses part of the oval track is a roval, and yes that means the IMS road course is a roval, so is Daytona road course, Kansas road course, etc. Road Course + Oval = Ro-val. I’d never heard an oval that drives like a road course being called a roval before today.

    • billytheskink Says:

      The first time I heard the term was when CART raced on the very low-banked Rio de Janeiro oval in the late 90s. Drivers and reporters colloquially referred to it as a “roval”, due to its flatness more so than because it was built as a part of the Jacarepaguá road course complex. I continued to hear the term as early ALMS schedules visited several road courses contained within ovals, though I do not doubt that it significantly pre-dates my knowledge of it.

      Alas, SMI appears to hold a trademark on the word “roval”, at least as it pertains to naming and marketing a racing event. I’m not sure NASCAR claims to have invented the word so much as they act as if they are the first entity to use it for marketing purposes… and they may be right about that.

  2. I vote for The Roval as it is the only way to get Indycar back to that track. Also, to really do it right, in a dream world, the champion from each series would have a ride in the other series for that race.

  3. On the surface a dual event weekend sounds good however on reflection what’s the point? I don’t see a lot of fan cross over between NASCAR and INDYCAR. Is it expected the same attendees will go to a Saturday night race and come back for a Sunday afternoon NASCAR race, would you? Unless you are camping at the track why go to the event you don’t regularly follow? Any day at a racetrack,is a good day but how many hours can one person take sitting in the grandstands over a weekend? It might work at a road course where people camp and can walk around such as Watkins Glen.

    • billytheskink Says:

      The point is, most likely, to give NBC, both series, and the hosting facility something unique to promote. Uniqueness sells, at least for a time.

      While I would not argue that it is an overwhelming number, I do think you underestimate the amount of fan crossover between NASCAR and Indycar, as pretty much nothing cuts into Indycar TV ratings as much as being scheduled opposite a NASCAR race does.

      • If there were cross over drivers in each race that might make it unique but a race on a Saturday and one on Sunday I am missing the uniqueness. I doubt there would be any cross over drivers on an oval, road course maybe. It’s good for NBC as it saves a lot of staff expense. I admit I just don’t see a lot of cross over TV viewership

        • billytheskink Says:

          It would be unique because it has never happened before, because it would only be happening at one facility (presumably), because having all of the top teams and drivers from both series at the same place provides for unprecedented opportunities for media and promotional interaction, and because folks who are fans of both series would get to see both in one trip at one event.

          The TV viewership crossover is verifiable. The worst-rated network NBC race this past Indycar season was not Laguna Seca (732K) up against the NFL on CBS and Fox, it was Mid-Ohio (670K) which was up against NASCAR at Pocono on NBCSN. Tape-delayed coverage of Mid-Ohio that aired after NASCAR at Pocono in 2017 drew a comparable number of viewers on NBCSN (644K) to what this year’s race drew against it. When NASCAR’s rainout at Pocono in 2016 resulted in live coverage of Mid-Ohio being moved into its timeslot, NBCSN recorded its highest ever race-long viewership of an Indycar race (811K). Of Indycar’s best non-Indy ratings on NBC and NBCSN in 2019, only one (Detroit 2) aired with any significant portion of the broadcast going against a NASCAR Cup broadcast. The two worst Sunday ratings for the series (COTA and Barber) both broadcast directly opposite a Cup race.

          • Thanks for the facts . Just voicing my personal biases and opinion which don’t mean much so I will try to keep it to myself

          • billytheskink Says:

            Please don’t keep it to yourself, your opinion means as much as mine and discussion is good.

            While I support the idea of a double-header, that certainly does not mean it is a guaranteed success. I absolutely agree with you that driver cross-over would make it significantly more interesting and that it is more likely to happen on a road course than an oval (though unlikely overall).

  4. billytheskink Says:

    Count me in for a double-header at Texas. More racing within driving distance is a good good good (and also good) thing and I would support the entire race weekend enthusiastically.

    I recall hearing a rumor that Gossage tried to keep TMS’ second Indycar race back when the track first got its fall NASCAR date by combining it with the new NASCAR weekend. Story is that Indycar would play but NASCAR said no. I can see why Gossage would support the idea again.

  5. We are under the assumption that it has to be one date for the double header. Why not do two of them, one at an oval like Texas and another at a road course like Watkins Glen? With NBC having contracts for both NASCAR and IndyCar, they can schedule as many double headers as they’d like. I also wonder if IndyCar would reconsider Fontana in October if it were a doubleheader. We still need to crown a champion on an oval.

    • Great idea, Andrew. I think Fontana only wants the IC season finale in October (and at night). It was thrilling to be part of the crowd at the crowning in 2013 and 2014. I’d actually stay out there for Sunday’s NASCAR race, if the weekend was a double header.

  6. NASCAR may well be a bit jealous over IndyCar’s success at Gateway and would probably be interested to try the double-header there just to get a foot in the door at that circuit.

    Newton/Iowa might be a better opportunity for a double-header as NASCAR owns the track and it is a proven IndyCar venue. However, the required paddock size for both Cup and IndyCar might be of concern.

    Throwing another new market in the ring, I feel that a Pikes Peak International Speedway would be a very suitable venue for a NASCAR Cup/IndyCar double header since both series could use an event in the area. Together, the 2 series could make it happen and find a workaround for the competition restrictions placed on the track once it was sold.

    I don’t think IndyCar should change the winning formula that’s in place at TMS with the current June date.

    And I don’t think the roval at Charlotte would be suitable for IndyCars.

    So it’s Pikes Peak which would be my suggestion. However, that is not an ISC track and might be not eligible for that anyway. Which ISC track might be able to make a double-header work? Brooklyn/Michigan, but that cannot happen because of Belle Isle.

    Yet, it makes one wonder why NASCAR hasn’t tried the Milwaukee Mile on its own yet, not even for an Xfinity race.

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