IndyCar: MAVTV500 Fontana review

Sadly Fontana wasn’t quite the climax we had hoped for. The point standings going in to the final race did not necessarily bode well and despite the efforts of Helio Castroneves, Will Power was really only racing himself Saturday night.

Power vs Power

The Australian’s title is deserved – he’s been the fastest driver on the grid for a number of years but lacked composure – yet his two rivals made it fairly easy. As mentioned in the race preview, Simon Pagenaud and SPM ran out of experience in the closing races. Watching the Frenchman’s pit stops it was hard to believe that much front wing could be taken out without his car taking off. That was the stark reality of a team big on ambition but very short on championship experience.

Meanwhile Helio was making the kind of mistakes that had affected Power’s title charges in previous years. Once again it seems that Helio will continue to come up short until he takes a more aggressive approach across the entire season. Ganassi came on strong for season close but it was too little, too late. Nevertheless their timing might be impeccable for carrying something in to 2015. And timing, in general, seems an appropriate theme on which to finish the concluding review of the 2014 season.

Timing is everything

Fontana was deemed too early in the day for fans sweltering in the stands and too late for armchair enthusiasts staying up to watch. For the locals, the ‘3 dates in 3 years’ scenario did not help at all and left the stands sparse. As a fan that only wishes to see the series get back to full strength, the empty rows were a source of embarrassment at the thought of a (potential) US-wide audience tuning in on NBC.

The early season finish has been maligned from day 1, yet with the engines falling silent and twitter feeds slowing, only now do you fully appreciate what it means. That’s it folks. 6 months of nothing. Zilch. It was bad thinking about it earlier in the year but now, barely in to September it seems even more ridiculous.

Momentum and interest gained this year will be hard to maintain from all but the most ardent of fans. First-timers who attended races or tuned in last year are now, in the main, left to wait for dates to be scheduled for 2015. Leaving promoters to go out and find their audiences all over again when dates are confirmed, instead of pitching 2015 races to them before 2014’s has finished. In practice the series is almost asking itself, its teams, their sponsors and partners to start again from scratch next year. Frequently you are left with the feeling that IndyCar plans from year to year.

Hibernation time

6 months is a long time in the world these days. With NASCAR not even in to the Chase and F1 still several races from conclusion, IndyCar seems to be frightened to go out there and fight for audiences. Yes, to go head to head with any of the major US sports in their peak season – especially NFL – would be stupid, but does IndyCar really need to hibernate until the big boys shut down again?

6 months also relies on the two mooted international races for 2015 – Dubai and Brazil – actually materialising. Sadly we have been there many times in recent years with fly-away races that never made it out of the workshop. Ultimately the off-season could be even longer.

This season saw 11 different winners in IndyCar. Granted, the season finale was an anti-climax but that does not take away from the fact the inherent product is sound and entertaining. Management need to accept that value and start to plan over 3-5 year timescales and not just in terms of chassi and aero kits. Dates should be locked in for race promoters for the duration of their contracts. IndyCar needs to realise that it must either extend the season or fill the off-season with initiatives to maintain some degree of interest. It needs to start dictating aspects of its own destiny instead of allowing other parties to set out their stalls first.

Here’s to a quick 6 months.

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