Feast or Famine

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All of us have been lamenting the fact that after a three-month delay to the start of the IndyCar season, there is now another month between the opening race at Texas and the next race on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I think everyone understands that it’s because Richmond was cancelled and Road America took the date previously vacated by Toronto, so that they could make sure fans would be able to attend in July. But that doesn’t make this month of inactivity after the season-opening race any easier to swallow.

But if you’re looking for any silver lining in all of this, take note that once the GMR Grand Prix runs over the Fourth of July weekend – it’s going to be crazy! In fact, beginning the next weekend with the REV Group Grand Prix – there will be four races over an eight-day period.

We are planning on making our usual trek to Road America in a couple of weeks, and I had almost forgotten that when they moved the race from last weekend to July 10-12 – they made Road America a double-header, to make up for some of the other races that were lost. I’ve never been to a double-header before, and I’m not quite sure what to expect – but I’m looking forward to it.

I know that USAC staged some double-headers in the old days, but that was a long time ago. In this “modern era” of double-headers, meaning over the last decade, double-headers have only been held at three tracks – Belle Isle, Toronto and Houston, which are three tracks I’ve never been to. Belle Isle is the only double-header left on a “normal” IndyCar schedule, so it will be different to have two races to attend at Road America in one weekend.

Just five days after the Sunday race at Road America, there will be Friday night racing at Iowa, for the Iowa IndyCar 250s. This is the second venue to schedule double-header races to make up for races previously lost from the schedule. It just so happens that they are over back-to-back weekends. The double-header at Iowa is scheduled for July 17-18. What’s unique about this double-header is that it is on an oval.

Ovals tend to cause more damage to cars when things go wrong. At Road America, a car may drift harmlessly into a gravel pit or accidentally slide out into a field before the driver collects it and gets back on track. Sometimes a front wing is damaged or a sidepod may not look quite right; but many times, it’s the drivers ego that suffers the most damage on a road course. At an oval like Iowa, cars tend to go into the wall…hard. While most drivers escape serious injury, many times their car is not so lucky.

There is a good chance that a few teams will be working until daylight on Saturday morning to repair crash damage from Friday night’s race. Then they have to perform pit stops flawlessly again on Saturday night – their fourth race in eight days. While this will be like a gluttonous buffet for IndyCar fans watching at home, this stretch of July races will be grueling for the teams and the drivers – but especially the crews.

We are not planning to go to Iowa, but for those that are – you got great news last Thursday. Iowa Speedway will allow a limited number of fans in the stands for both nights. Apparently a fairly large number of tickets have already been sold. They will sell a few more and then reassign those that were previously purchased in order to practice social distancing (yet another term I’ve grown to despise). I am assuming those that come from the same household will be allowed to sit together. I know if Susan and I were going, I wouldn’t want her sitting six feet away from me, however the thought may actually be appealing for her.

For fans of the NTT IndyCar Series that have been starving for live racing, only to get a slight taste from Texas before things went dormant again – we are about to indulge in a racing fan’s cornucopia. We’ve been living through mostly a nine-month famine, but we are about to get our feast. Think about it; four full points-paying IndyCar races in eight days, or if you count the GMR Grand Prix – it’s five races in fifteen days. I’ve been following this sport for a long time, and I never dreamed of being able to take advantage of something like this.

Of course, there is a downside to all of this. After we go through our IndyCar blitz in July, we enter another down period. It’s feast or famine. But this one won’t be too long – only three weeks. That’s nothing after what we’ve been through. When it starts back over the weekend of August 7-9, it’ll be the biggest month of August we’ve seen.

It will all start with the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. The following week starts practice for the Indianapolis 500. Qualifying weekend will be the weekend of August 15-16, before we finally get what we’ve been waiting on for way too long – the elusive 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 on August 23. Each day I am more and more convinced that it will run on this date – with fans. Many of you still think I’m wrong and even delusional to say this, but I’ve been saying it since Day One after they postponed it and I still do. After the Indianapolis 500, we close out the month of August with the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Worldwide Technology Raceway (the track formerly known as Gateway).

July and August will be hot and heavy with IndyCar racing, but I’m hoping the emphasis is not on the word hot. I don’t know about where you are, but so far Nashville has been very cool for June. Temperatures in the high fifties have been very common at night, and most days have been in the low-to-mid eighties. I’m hopeful that is a sign of what’s to come, because I also insist that the Indianapolis 500 in August is not going to be sauna that many claim it will be.

After fasting for so long, we can finally start gorging ourselves in July and August. We’ve been patient throughout all of this. We deserve our feast.

George Phillips

3 Responses to “Feast or Famine”

  1. billytheskink Says:

    Can’t complain about more racing. I wonder if drivers will take it easier in the opening half of the double-headers in order to save their equipment. There appeared to be some element of that during the Texas double-header in 2011, though that involved two races in a single evening.

  2. Yannick Says:

    Stay safe and healthy and enjoy the racing events. Happy traveling!

  3. Ballyhoo Says:

    So glad you are representing the OP crew this season.

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