An Idea Whose Time Has Come…and Gone

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Every week, I enjoy reading Robin Miller’s Mailbag that he posts every Wednesday morning on Racer.com. I like to see what other IndyCar fans are thinking, but I also like to read his responses. Not only are they humorous, but more times than not – I learn something new. Some say they are bothered by the negativity on there, but I find it entertaining. It’s sort of like listening to Donald Davidson on The Talk of Gasoline Alley, and hearing someone ask if it’s true that Jim Hurtubise put his Mallard through the qualifying line, only to find out he had cold beer under the hood. You know what the response is going to be, but it’s still funny when it happens as you thought.

While many were moaning about the Genesys 300 at Texas last week, I saw the continuation of a theme I saw emerging in last week’s Mailbag – the clamoring for one-day oval shows. I guess Robin Miller started this with an article he wrote a couple of weeks ago, to underscore that a one-day show is nothing new. In fact, it happened quite a bit during the fifties and sixties.

I understand why IndyCar chose to make Texas a one-day show. With all of the restrictions of the pandemic, they were lucky to pull it off at all – so I had no problem with a one-day show last weekend.

But let’s get one thing straight – I don’t want one-day shows to become our “new normal” (a term I’ve grown to despise) for ovals, or any tracks for that matter.

One-day shows may sound great to some people that live in the market where a race is being held, but that would be about it. Susan and I travel, on average, to about seven races per year. Even in this abbreviated season, we had planned to make it to five before they made the Grand Prix a no-fan event. Still, we plan to go to Road America, Qualifying Weekend for the Indianapolis 500, the “500”, Gateway and the Harvest Grand Prix in October. I’m still toying with the idea of going to the season-finale at St. Petersburg, but I’m not getting buy-in from Mrs. Oilpressure on that one.

My point is, we make races our vacations. We really enjoy traveling to races. If I am going to go to the trouble (and expense) to go to an oval race, I at least want it to be a two-day event. I maintain that was one thing that killed Pocono. For those of us that went to the trouble to fly into Newark, rent a car and drive two hours into eastern Pennsylvania – that was a lot of effort for a Saturday morning practice session, qualifying and a late afternoon practice session and then the race the next day.

That’s why we usually travel to road courses. When we go to Road America next month, we are flying out on Thursday after work. We’ll be at the track on Friday morning before the first IndyCar practice. We will have three full days at the track, plus three nights to take advantage of all the great restaurants and scenery that central Wisconsin has to offer (not counting Thursday night when we fly in), before we fly out on Monday.

We enjoy making it a weekend at the track. That’s hard to do when the race you are going to is a one-day show.

I guess if Texas decided to do a one-day show next year and there were no pandemic restrictions to deal with, there is enough to do in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area that the race day could just become one of many attractions. If you’re a casual fan, that might actually appeal to you. But I grow tired of so many moves being made for the elusive casual fan. Just once, I’d like for a racing series to cater to their die-hards.

One reason why I enjoy going to a three-day race weekend is I like to immerse myself into the race. We have made quite a few friends over the years that we only see at race tracks. We enjoy chatting with them at tracks, and have gone to dinner with many of them. Guess what we spend most of the time talking about – racing. To me, the whole idea of a vacation is to get away and forget about the everyday things in life that drive you crazy. I enjoy submersing myself into an IndyCar bubble over the weekend, where all we think or talk about is the race we have traveled to see. Most of you know that Susan is not near the race fan that I am, but even she enjoys climbing into that protective IndyCar bubble when we travel to races.

Quite honestly, it’s beyond me why any fans would want the NTT IndyCar Series to revert to a practice of the fifties and sixties. Those were the days when the series of the day might run sprints at Winchester on Saturday and championship cars at The Milwaukee Mile on Sunday. It’s quaint when you’re talking about a regional sport, not so much for an international racing series.

Even if I lived in the local market, I would want – and expect – at least a two-day event. On Wednesday I wrote of the possibility of an IndyCar return to Nashville Superspeedway. I live here, but I would want to make a weekend celebration of having an IndyCar race in my town. I would invite family to come to town for the race weekend, not just the race day.

I can’t imagine the teams were all excited about a one-day turnaround. I understand that by the time some team-members arrived back home in the wee hours of Sunday morning, some had been up for more than twenty-four hours. That will max out your engine life way too early.

A one-day show puts qualifying late in the day for a night race. Takuma Sato demonstrated the dangers of not having much time between qualifying and the race. After his qualifying crash last Saturday, his crew thrashed his car back together. Unfortunately, it didn’t make it through technical inspection in time to make it out onto the grid. Consequently, Sato starts the season in a deep hole with a big DNS by his name for his and his team’s effort.

The only possible reason I can think of for purposely planning a one-day show under normal circumstances is to save money on hotel bills and extra meals on the road. If you’re a car owner fretting about an extra night at the Holiday Inn Express, you might want to find another hobby.

I don’t know who started this serious discussion among IndyCar fans that a one-day show was a good idea, but they need to stop it right now. I don’t even know how this thing gained any traction, but oddly enough – it has. The first time I heard it mentioned, I thought the person cheering for it would be laughed off of the planet. Instead, several have jumped on that bandwagon and given this idea legs.

Am I missing the boat here? Is there something I’m missing that makes this a can’t-miss idea? If so, please enlighten me – because I can’t see it for the life of me.

George Phillips

6 Responses to “An Idea Whose Time Has Come…and Gone”

  1. James T Suel Says:

    The reasons I do not want one day shows, are simple. In the late 50s and the 60s the cars were a lot less technical. Set up was way more simple. The main reason the Texas race was not the best, was lack of practice, track time, Firestone was not able to produce tires for the race. And of course the crap Nascar put on the track. Add in some rookies with little or no oval track time.

  2. billytheskink Says:

    It always puzzles me a bit when Miller bangs the one-day show drum for races like Texas and Iowa, because he completely ignores the fact that these ovals (when not dealing with COVID-19) have support races that justify a multi-day event. He interviewed the top 3 drivers from last Saturday about how they liked the one day event… I would have been more curious about Sato and VeeKay’s thoughts on the subject.

  3. LOL You and me both ! new normal” (a term I’ve grown to despise) .

  4. Brent Blaine Says:

    Any good restaurant recommendations for Elkhart Lake?

  5. SkipinSC Says:

    Going forward, I could see the use of one-day race weekends, but only in situations where there is no ancillary series to join with IndyCar. If Indy Lights, USF2000, Pro Series or whatever (including NASCAR Trucks or XFinity,) are available to race, then bring it on!

    I have seldom been more spellbound by a race weekend than the initial Grand Prix Indy weekend, where you had the entire RTI “family” racing at the same venue.

    It has long been my opinion that this particular idea is one that gives the fans in attendance more bang for the buck, and keeps them interested throughout the weekend. Perhaps running this type of program on ovals would promote better attendance

    However, if scheduling does not permit multiple types of racing at a given oval venue, under this circumstance I could see using the one-day format.

    And yes, I think the phrase “New Normal” has run its course and needs to be permanently retired.

  6. one-day works when TV money is all the money.

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