Indy Grand Prix - A Sign of the Future?
Indianapolis - RIS - May 12, 2012 - Editorial - The Indy Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a big deal no matter what you think? The entire Road to Indy Ladder Series is here, as are of course the Indy Car Series, the BIG cars.
This is the kick-off event of the most important month of the year for open wheel racing. The top of the ladder of the Road is Indy Lights, billed as the last step climbing to the Indy Car Series.
Just as IndyCar management has boosted about more interest and growth, a justifiable claim, there are signs all may not be peaches and cream. TV ratings remain flat, attendance remains flat. That said, there are more sponsors in the series. Are they bring more money to the sport? That’s hard to tell but there are fewer empty side pods at least in the premier level.
However, for a leading indicator of potential problems ahead, one needs to look at the starting grid of Indy Lights, the series that has been sanctioned by IndyCar since 2002, and is now owned by Dan Anderson. This weekend there are two Indy Lights races, Saturday’s saw a starting field on only seven race cars. Think about that, seven cars on a 2.439 mile track, that does not make for outstanding racing. Today’s grid is a repeat of the seven car field. And this in Indianapolis, the home of the “Greatest Race Course in the World” and the hometown of nearly all the teams!
Why is that? Stupid cost, mostly. A former Indy Lights owner told us the cost a team has to charge, is now well over $1,000,000.00 for a season of 17 races. There is nearly no prize money, and almost no interest from fans the stands. There is a $2,000,000.00 prize package for the team and driver in the form of scholarship money to be used only in IndyCar, however, that is only a drop in the bucket. A driver would need to find more than double that amount to simply be able to use the winnings.
Does this represent the future of the sport we love so much? We hope not but unless there is a renaissance coming, things may be grim.