First off is the prospect of two international rounds opening the season. Running in Brazil makes sense: racing passion, high profile Brazilian drivers and a time-zone amenable to US TV audiences. The success of Latin American drivers in the series would have you anticipating a south-American double-header. Instead the series appears to be favouring Dubai in the United Arab Emirates around Valentine’s Day weekend.
Hullman & Company CEO Mark Miles believes that international exposure from the Dubai race could leverage sponsorship from non-US companies. A great idea but how likely is one overseas event to drive new sponsors to IndyCar’s door?
The oil-rich nation could easily pay a substantial sanctioning fee as well as the extra costs of travel and freight. But the cars will likely race in front of tiny crowds (almost no race series outside of F1 and MotoGP has managed decent attendances), in a market that serves little purpose for the majority of current sponsors and in a time-zone that will not sit well with US audiences (unless run at night). Aside from swelling IndyCar’s coffers it feels a bit like the mistakes of the past being repeated.
The possible timing of the calendar does bring some positive news. Whilst the location of the mooted opening race is disappointing, it could see IndyCar starting before the NASCAR season is in full swing. The season end stills seems set to land right as NASCAR gears up for the start of the silly and artificial Chase period however. You can see the logic in a desire to avoid running in to the NFL season but by running shorter than NASCAR is IndyCar again admitting that they have given up on the fans that switched to stock cars?
Seeking to create ‘date equity’ by keeping successful races on similar dates will be music to fans ears. As well as helping us (and promoters) plan, it has the potential to create some heritage in the series; heritage and tradition that was lost when IRL/Champ Car started switching dates around more often than Mike Conway and Ed Carpenter switch seats.
Where are the ovals?
Notably, there is little on the oval rounds for 2015 aside from Indy and the Fontana season finale. This may just reflect the on going issue of small attendances at IndyCar oval events. Interestingly though if you take a look at some NASCAR ovals this year, you will note increasingly empty sections. Is America falling out of love with oval racing? You hope not as the blend of circuit types is what makes IndyCar such a fantastic proposition and watching the cars on an oval is a ‘must-do’ experience for any self-respecting auto racing fan.
There appears there is cause for optimism ahead of the 2015 schedule being formally announced. Sadly, more head-scratching on IndyCar’s decisions also appears likely.