Two news stories have been on the radar, one official and one based on a curious comment from a track president in Florida.
The official news was the announcement of Discipline Championships for Oval and Twisties. As I mentioned back in a post last August, I am a proponent of the idea. A lot of commentary has focused on the purity of the sport and other various competition based arguments, but for me the benefits are clear and as we will see over time, financially based.
My guess is that at least one of these trophies already has sponsorship dollars behind it. Not only will there be trophies awarded but there will also be prize money. The prize money has to come from somewhere, likely a sponsorship. The league could sell these discipline title sponsorships for $2 -3M per, give away $500k cash prizes to each and roll the rest into TEAM fund allocations or just simply towards improving the bottom line. Despite their recent decision to drop Vision as a sponsored team, the oval crown seems like a good fit for Menard’s.
I anticipate we may now start to see a handful of split season sponsorships pop up where a driver targets their effort in one or the other championships at a price half that of the full season deal. Last year Tomas Schekter could have put together an oval package with his Mona Vie $$$ competing against the likes of Sarah Fisher and Ed Carpenter who themselves might be replaced by drivers like Charlie Kimball or James Davison for the twisties at SFR and Vision respectively with all 4 in 500 rides.
I also think this split opens up the potential for revisions to the TV packages, ovals on one outlet and twisties on the other. And Finally I think this move is a commitment from the league to say to fans of both the IRL and CART/Champ Car that both Twisties and Ovals are and will remain important components of the series. For the first time officially from the league side, Randy Bernard has mentioned the importance of a 50/50 split. It’s about time. Now lets work on getting this puppy up to 24 dates by 2014.
Based on this year’s schedule, the coronations may need some work. On principal, no oval title should be awarded in Motegi and no title of any kind should be awarded in Homestead. Sonoma is probably ok to stay as the title race for the twisty title, in particular if the title were sponsored by some technology company based in the Bay Area. Homestead could be moved (if kept at all) back to the start of the season and the oval title could be awarded at a place like Phoenix or Las Vegas.
But what of the overall Izod IndyCar series title? Well here’s where we speculate a bit (more than usual!) and try to connect the dots. MyNameIsIrl had a post earlier this week where the President of the Daytona Speedway name dropped the “I” word in the context of repaving the track at Daytona (as if potholes during a race weren’t motivation enough). Keep in mind that Joie Chitwood is now running the show over at the ISC tracks division and last time I checked he seemed friendly to the open wheel persuasion. So I ask, could the Izod IndyCar series title that recognizes excellence on both Oval and Twisty circuits be awarded at a road course that incorporates parts of the second most famous racing oval in the world?
Which also begs another question, would IndyCars racing at Daytona signal the IICS’s rise back to relevance the same way that the Brickyard 400 proclaimed nascar’s arrival on the big stage 20 years ago?