Saturday, June 7, 2008

Rich, chocolatey ovaltine

Eddie Gossage, the president and of Texas Motor Speedway is not afraid to say what he thinks. Last month he publicly dared Dale Earnhardt Jr. to race in the Indycar event at Texas. This week he offered Indycar some unsolicited advice about the future of open-wheel racing in America: stick to the ovals. He argues that the demise of CART/Champcar proves that the American audience is not interested in F1-style street races.

This argument has some merit on both sides. When the series was at its popularity peak in the early '90s (prior to the split) the CART schedule was comprised mostly of road courses. There is clearly a hardcore group of racing fans that attend the road races because they like the acceleration, braking, and steering involved. These are the same folks who wake up early on weekends to watch the F1 events on televison. Can you grow the sport based soley on these type of fans? No, but I don't think you can do it without them either.

Americans like speed and danger. They like to be reminded of their own mortality. Oval racing allows for dangerous passes at high speeds. The series has wisely incorporated a few street/road courses in the past couple years. These events work best when they are staged in metropolitan areas where they come off looking like something out of a early '90s videogame. They currently have 11 ovals and 6 road courses. This seems like a nice mix to me.

The truth is Indycar has bigger issues to worry about. They need to find a way to get some American drivers to feed into the series. Also, you know you lack relevance when your race is shown on tape delay at 10pm so ESPN2 can air a Nationwide (formerly Busch) Series race. I threw up a little typing that.

In other racing news Dan Wheldon sullied himself at Texas yesterday.

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