We’ve suspected this for many years and now it’s official. The Indianapolis 500 is no longer a reasonable aspiration for most racing drivers, blogs Stephen Cox.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) president Doug Boles was kind enough to talk with me briefly at the annual PRI trade show in Indy. I asked him what his plan was to increase the number of entries at the Indianapolis 500. His answer took me by surprise.
“We grew up falling in love with the sport when you had that number of entries,” Boles said. “A lot of those entries were guys who sat around in December and said, ‘You know what? We’re going to build a car in our garage and we’re going to enter it at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indy 500.’”
“But first and foremost in my mind is just really safety. I don’t think it makes sense for us to get back to fifty or sixty cars just from a safety standpoint,” Boles continued. “I’d love to see fifty or sixty or seventy cars entering and guys just being able to decide that they have a driver who’s running at Putnamville and we’re going to give him a shot to run at the Speedway. I just don’t think it’s practical anymore.”
Let that statement sink in. American short track drivers – who routinely filled the field until the 1980s – are now considered unsafe and incapable of running the Indy 500.
Don’t ever go back to the speedway and expect to find the next A. J. Foyt or Parnelli Jones. There won’t be one. Nor will you ever see another Stan Fox or Rich Vogler claw their way up through the ranks and make it to Indy. For that matter, we’re also unlikely to ever see another Rick Mears or Robby Gordon. Those guys got to Indy through off-road desert racing, not Indycar’s current ladder system. They would likely be considered unsafe at the speedway today.
Boles countered by saying, “We have the best on-track product that we’ve ever had in the history of the speedway with the last five years. The number of lead changes we have, the number of cars in the field that have a chance of winning it.”
True, recent events have had a certain NASCAR-green-white-checkered-overtime excitement to them. However, this was not achieved by eliminating drivers of sprint cars, off-road trucks, midgets, late-models or amateur sports cars from the speedway. It was achieved – if indeed, this can be called an “achievement” at all – through regulation.
More teams are in contention because everyone is forced to use the same spec car. The additional lead changes were artificially created through “push to pass” legislation and turbo boost mandates. Using this logic, even better races could be manufactured by enacting a rule disqualifying anyone who leads two consecutive laps, thus assuring 249 lead changes in every 500!
The bottom line is this – SCCA drivers are welcome to compete at IMS in the Run Offs. SVRA drivers are welcome to Indy’s vintage event. Short track drivers are welcome to buy tickets and sit in Turn Three.
But the speedway has no intention of enlarging the field past forty cars and creating space that could be filled by new drivers from other disciplines. That is bad news for thousands of very good racing drivers worldwide. And it is even worse news for the Indianapolis 500 itself, whose relevancy continues to fade.
For the longest time, going to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway meant one thing, and one thing only: The Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. Don’t worry about the fact that the first event at the venue was actually a balloon race, or that the first motor race was a motorcycle race in 1909. Traditionalist have always clamored that having anything other than the 500 at IMS is detrimental to the venue and to the 500. Bah! Over the years, the Hulman-George family have been steadily adding to the number and variety of events at the famous racecourse. The first to be added was NASCAR racing with the Brickyard 400, then the short-lived Formula 1 United States Grand Prix, followed by the MotoGP Red Bull Indianapolis GP, and this past year with the IndyCar Indianapolis GP which opened the Month of May. While many of those events are, or were, exciting and have done nothing but add to the venues coffers, the best addition to the schedule of events at IMS this year was the vintage race held in early June.
The vintage racers are coming back to Indianapolis in 2015 from June 11th through the 14th. Last year, they raced various classes on the infield road course, and held at-speed demonstration runs of many of the vintage Indy cars on the oval, including the famous turbine-powered Lotus 56. Vintage races are amazing events. It’s like a rolling car show! You have the aspects of a car show in that you get to see a wide variety of classic machines lovingly cared for and preserved by their owners, but you also have the exciting aspects of motor car racing. Seeing these classic machines not on parade but out on track being driven as they were intended to be driven, with gusto and in competitive anger, is an awesome sight. Cars were meant to be driven. I have no patience for trailer queens. At a car show, I want to see some bugs caught in the radiator. I want to see the heat-induced discoloration of your exhaust pipes. I want to see that you actually drove your car to the show! Likewise, when it comes to vintage racing machines, it’s neat to see the old, often sketchy, beasts in a museum, but it’s even better to see them on the track and being raced!
Official announcement from IMS
SVRA Returns To IMS For The Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational June 11-14
The Sportscar Vintage Racing Association’s (SVRA) Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational will return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the second consecutive year, with more than 500 of the world’s finest and most historic racecars competing on the recently reconfigured road course and running exhibition events on the famed 2.5-mile oval from June 11-14, 2015.
The races will showcase a wide variety of cars including those that competed in past Indianapolis 500s, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series, Formula One, Grand-Am prototypes and Trans-Am. In addition, American racing cars from makes like Chevrolet will compete with historic racecars from Ferrari, Porsche, Jaguar, MG and many others in 12 different classes of racing. A special class will also feature open-wheel racecars with Indianapolis 500 or other historic racing backgrounds.
In addition, the Charity Indy Legends Pro-Am race, which will benefit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, will return to run on Saturday, June 13. The Charity Indy Legends Pro-Am race pairs former Indianapolis 500 drivers with amateur partners during a 45-minute race on the 2.43-mile road course. The cars used in the Charity Legends Pro-Am race will be 1963 to 1972 vintage Chevrolet Corvettes and Camaros, and Ford Mustangs.
Al Unser Jr. and his partner Peter Klutt won the inaugural race while sharing the driving duties in Klutt’s No. 42C 1969 Chevrolet Corvette, with six-time Indianapolis 500 starter and four-time top-10 finisher Eliseo Salazar and his partner Gary Moore finishing second in Moore’s No. 98B 1965 Mustang GT350. Rounding out the podium in third place was two-time Indianapolis 500 starter Willy T. Ribbs, who drove the No. 5 1972 Corvette owned by his driving partner Ed Sevadjian. Other past Indianapolis 500 participants included 1996 winner Buddy Lazier, Scott Goodyear, Dick Simon, Lyn St. James, Mark Dismore, Johnny Parsons Jr., Alex Lloyd, Pete Halsmer, Robby Unser, Rocky Moran, Jaques Lazier, Robby McGehee, Spike Gehlhausen, Billy Roe, Scott Harrington, Rick Treadway, Tom Bagley, Bob Lazier, P.J. Chesson and John Martin.
Racing at IMS will be virtually non-stop each day from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. The cars will be on display in the infield and open to all fans providing up close access to the racecars.
“Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans appreciate and enjoy the history of racing and the Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational showcases great historic racing cars in a setting unlike any in the world,” said J. Douglas Boles, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president. “The positive feedback from fans and drivers after following the inaugural event earlier this year was overwhelming and the 2015 event will be even better! In addition to the great racing on track, the fan access to these historic racecars, owners and drivers makes this a must-attend event for anyone that enjoys racing or cars. This will quickly become one of the best events of its kind anywhere in the world. ”
The Sportscar Vintage Racing Association is one of the oldest and largest of the vintage racing organizations in the United States. Originally called the Southeast Vintage Racing Association and founded in 1981, the organization has become the premier vintage racing organization in the United States with more than 1,500 members. Over the years SVRA has conducted Vintage events at legendary race tracks throughout the country including Sebring, Road America, Watkins Glen International, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and Circuit of the Americas.
“We are extremely pleased and excited to return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” said SVRA President and CEO Tony Parella. “The event was phenomenal this year and we’re definitely looking forward to building on that success next season. The fans in Indy are so knowledgeable and interested in vintage cars, the culture and racing in general that it’s an absolute honor to come to town and share our love of vintage sports car racing with them.”
A complete racing schedule for the Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational will be announced at a later date. The event will begin with a practice day on Thursday, June 11, with free admission for everyone, with racing throughout the weekend beginning on June 12.
Fans have three quick, convenient methods to buy tickets:
– Online: Visit http://www.ims.com/tickets. Tickets are available 24 hours per day, seven days per week.
– Phone: Call 800-822-INDY or 317-492-6700 between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday.
– In Person: Visit the IMS Ticket Office at the IMS Administration Building at the corner of Georgetown Road and 16th Street between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday.
Tickets for groups of 20 or more also are available. Contact the IMS Group Sales Department at 866-221-8775 for more information.
Information on parking and camping at IMS events is available at http://www.ims.com/tickets.
In a bid to add a bit of extra excitement to what in recent years has been a somewhat lackluster full month of May, IndyCar will be holding it’s inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis tomorrow on a revised combined road course. Formula One also ran for eight seasons between 2000 and 2007 on a circuit which comprised of a portion of the Brickyard’s oval and a then newly constructed infield section.
Though the new layout is relatively the same as the one that F1 ran on, the IndyCar series will compete on the newer layout used by MotoGP, though with the competitors running clockwise as opposed to the direction the bikes run.
The portion of the infield around Turn Nine has been reconfigured, but the biggest difference between the F1 iteration and the new layout is the use of Oval Turn One. When the Formula One fraternity raced at Indy, the first turn used for the Indy 500 was the final corner of the F1 circuit. The GP cars came off the infield onto the short chute between Oval Turn Two and One, with that last long turn slingshotting the drivers down the long front straight.
The IndyCars do still use a short portion of the short chute, but turn right back into the infield for a three corner complex before reentering the front straight at what is essentially the entry point of Oval Turn One. The new layout is now sixteen corners, three more than the previous circuit, but is 2.43 miles compared to the 2.6 that the GP cars ran on.
Surprisingly, the lap times are fairly similar. During qualifying for the 2004 USGP, Rubens Barrichello hustled his Ferrari around that version of the circuit in 1:10.23 seconds to take pole position. The fastest time in yesterday’s IndyCar practice was a 1:10.46 set by Scott Dixon. Granted, the new layout is slightly shorter, but the IndyCars have three more corners to deal with. But then there’s also the fact that Rubens’ quick lap was set some ten years ago. So ya’, there’s that.
Qualifying for the first Grand Prix of Indianapolis will be held today, though it looks as if that may turn out to be a wet session, so yesterday’s practice times may be the quickest of the weekend. Back in that 2004 USGP in which Rubens set the fastest pole time of the eight F1 races, qualifying saw a full 4.58 seconds separate the first and last place cars on the grid. At Indy yesterday, all twenty-five cars to set practice times were split by a mere 1.1 second.
Recent years have seen the lack of a real Bump Day, not to mention a line of drivers with helmets in hand trying to find rides. Hard financial times have, of course, hit teams and the series just as they have the rest of us. But in the lead up to the 2014 Indy 500, the Grand Prix of Indianapolis will hopefully be an exciting addition to the month of May.
The political strife that has dogged the 2005 season behind the scenes finally boiled over onto the track, leaving the US Grand Prix an unedifying farce that may have caused terminal damage to F1′s reputation in the USA.
When Ralf Schumacher’s Toyota slammed into the Steel And Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) barrier at the height of turn 13 on Friday morning, the paddock winced at the scale of the shunt and the untimely coincidence of Schumacher crashing so soon at the corner where he injured his back last year.
Overnight the consequences of the incident proved serious. Schumacher, who suffered a powerful impact, was forced out of the race to recuperate while Ricardo Zonta took his place.
Michelin, meanwhile, revealed major concerns about their tyres. They could not pinpoint the exact cause of the failure, which had also caused a blow-out on Zonta’s car and been observed by all the other Michelin teams – up to eleven separate tyre failures, in all.
For Saturday morning the Michelin teams were ordered to run the tyres at higher pressures, so they would flex less. While Jarno Trulli took pole for Toyota – their first ever – it soon became clear that Michelin were not able to guarantee that their tyres could safely complete a race distance. The cause was a manufacturing error and not a consequence of producing an overly soft compound to guarantee race pace. Schumacher’s failure occurred on only his first flying lap.
When the impossibility of running on Michelin rubber became clear, the sides in the dispute over how to proceed immediately crystallised around the ‘Group of Nine’ versus Ferrari, who have been at loggerheads since October 2004.
It soon became apparent that neither side would countenance giving any ground to their rivals. What was needed was a rigid, decisive governing body that could identify a mutually agreeable solution.
But, from the FIA, nothing, bar a firm rejection of any solution the ‘Group of Nine’ teams put forward – even solutions that would allow all the Bridgestone teams to start from the front and prevent Michelin teams from scoring points, provided a chicane was installed.
The outcome was thus effectively decided on Sunday morning; but only after hours of frenzied, tense meetings (which, apparently, Ferrari declined to join) did the reality of the situation dawn.
It came when every Michelin driver, to a man, declined to take the start. This left a preposterous six-car grid. The fans booed and jeered, and later even threw bottles on the track, but not even this was enough to postpone the excruciatingly embarrassing farce that was this ‘race’.
Michelin were entirely responsible for the tyre failures: there can be no dispute about that. Even though the problem was a simple manufacturing fault rather than a consequence of too radical a tyre, a mistake was made, and it was theirs.
But for there being no race, the blame rests entirely with the FIA. This demands at the very least an apology from those in charge of the sport.
Of course Ferrari were going to turn down every Michelin proposal. This is why Formula One needs strong, accountable management in place to take charge and prevent crises such as these from descending into farces the like of which we have just witnessed, which jeopardise the integrity of Formula One.
Jordan, desperate for points, broke rank at the 11th hour. Their protestations that they felt obliged to provide some kind of a race were cynical and hollow. Nor did Paul Stoddart’s defence of Minardi’s decision to race, “provoked”, he insisted, by Jordan’s decision to break ranks, sound anything but selfish.
On the grid, ITV commentator and ex-driver Martin Brundle pounced on Bernie Ecclestone and became the effective chair of a media storm around him. Ecclestone, who would ordinarily breeze about with an indifferent air and set everything right, was today completely impotent.
In the event, Michael Schumacher took an inevitable win, Rubens Barrichello throwing the lead away after a pit stop problem had contrived to give it to him. Whether this was real or an orchestrated show, hardly anyone cared.
Jordan’s Tiago Monteiro collected third, and the scenes of him celebrating while the spectators who hadn’t left booed and whistled hammered home just how far detached from reality the race had become.
The F1 community will hit the ground hard as the press justifiably tears this pathetic disgrace of an event to shreds.
INDIANAPOLIS – The FIM MotoGP World Championship will return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a seventh consecutive year in 2014, as the Red Bull Indianapolis GP will take place Aug. 8-10 on a revised motorcycle circuit that will create even more exciting action.
The 2014 date is one week earlier than the 2012 and 2013 events at IMS.
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