Sad to say, there’s just no interest in the IndyCar series anymore. You can’t argue how good the 500-mile race was at the California Speedway last weekend; there were 80 lead changes during the race and it was very entertaining. I was on the edge of my seat for two-and-a-half hours, but nobody watched it from the grandstands or saw it on TV.
The tell-tale sign for me now is that NBC is starting its broadcast contract with NASCAR for the second half of the season. Everyone inside IndyCar has been saying that if the series was on some network other than NBC it would get better ratings than it got from California and most other races the last three years.
But if NASCAR’s ratings continue to stay the same on NBC as they’ve been on Fox for the first half of this year and don’t suffer a massive drop, then it will be clear that NBC is not the problem.
The competition in California was very close and I think if there had been no major accidents at the end of the race the drivers would have sung a different tune about how much they dislike that type of racing. But everyone’s adrenaline and emotions were running high of those accidents and when the TV people came to Will Power and Tony Kanaan asking how they felt, they were going to get a negative reaction.
The two drivers said they don’t like that style of racing, but when they were in the heat of the moment they didn’t have any trouble running wide-open and trying to fit in a gap that wasn’t there. Drivers may say they hate it, but when they’re out there doing it they’re not backing off the throttle. Instead, they’re bumping wheels at 215mph.
Still, it was a really exciting race, one of the best I’ve seen in years. OK, it was marred at the end by 10 cars trying to win the race in a three-lap shoot-out and going wild like it was NASCAR. They ran 475 miles caution-free but when it came to the end everyone started taking more risks – that’s when accidents happen.
Again, I thought they put on a great race in California. If you didn’t find it entertaining, I don’t know what is. They weren’t going 235mph like we did in the CART days, they were running laps at 212mph, but it was close, exciting racing.
The aero package they used in California was based on the one used at Texas last month where Scott Dixon won the race by seven seconds. Nobody thought the Texas package would produce a much tighter, closer pack race in California. But there’s much more room to move around in California than there is at Texas, which is only a two-lane track. At California there are four or five lanes, so it encourages much closer racing.
In today’s world you can’t have the type of racing where somebody can win by a lap or two. People want to see close, thrilling action. You’ve got teenaged motorcycle kids today who are doing triple backflips, and that’s what we’ve got to compete with.
I don’t know what the answer or solution is – I can’t put my finger on any one thing. I don’t know what car you would design, or what you would make it look like, and I don’t know what type of racing it takes to get the fans to come back. The IndyCar series will keep going, but I don’t know what people want from it and I don’t know how to rebuild or fix it.
As far as the championship is concerned it looks like Montoya is in a dominant position. With five races to go he’s leading the championship by 46 points. He’s driven well in all the races and got another top five finish in California. He’s now driven ten 500-mile Indycar races and he’s only got one DNF, with a finishing average of 3.2, which is very impressive.
Team-mate Power is Juan’s biggest challenger, but the tide is going against him because Montoya has been running as quick as him all season and has raised his game in qualifying for the street and road courses. Nor did Power finish in California which didn’t help his cause. It’s going to be very tough for him to catch the Colombian, especially after post-race penalties had been applied.
From the archive: Simon Taylor has lunch with Paul Tracy (2014)