Now that a little time has passed since the conclusion of the 2013 IndyCar season we can look back and reflect on ten takeaways from this year’s competition. Definitely some memorable moments and highlights along with other not so great items that need to be addressed.
Beginning with the positives:
The often heard phrase by those that watch IndyCar is “the racing is great” and it’s absolutely true. While some dislike all competitors using the same chassis and one of two engine packages it makes for close and feverish competition.
The tremendous amount of parity
It’s also given realistic opportunity for just about any driver in the field to win the race. Sure there are a few that are in their cars for economic or other reasons but the number of drivers that could come out the winner at any event is higher than it’s ever been.
Seeing the little guys come out on top
As a result of this parity, we saw ten different race winners during the 2013 racing season. Not just the big teams like Penske, Ganassi, Andretti but Dale Coyne Racing, Schmidt Peterson and AJ Foyt racing all captured victories this season.
All of the first-time winners
As you would expect, coupled with the team success, was the fact that there were four race winners that captured their first ever series victory. The excitement and thrill of that first win was clearly visible on the faces of James Hinchcliffe, Takuma Sato, Simon Pagenaud and Charlie Kimball.
The success that the old guard attained
There were also very nice moments for series veterans. Tony Kanaan capturing the Indianapolis 500 after so many years of coming close. Scott Dixon storming back in the second half of the season to capture his third championship, although I’m sure most felt bad that it was Helio Castroneves that wound up second again.
Not all was good, however. As with anything there are also areas of concern that need to be looked at by IndyCar.
Management needs to get organized
First and foremost, get your management house in order once and for all. Mark Miles was named CEO of IndyCar parent company Hulman and company nearly a year ago. I completely understand that he wanted to analyze and reorganize the business structure and find the right people to fill any new rolls. However there are top executive positions that still need to be filled.
Derek Walker was hired mid-season as the president of operations and competition and has two areas that need to be addressed.
Better, stricter officiating would be welcomed
The sniping picked up as the year went along about unfair rulings from Beaux Barfield and race control. In short order it’s time to make the rulebook as black and white as possible and if a driver or other team member disparages or questions the integrity of your series in the future, fine them and make them write the cheque, not allow them to work it off in public appearances.
A bigger focus on track safety
The undiscovered until it was too late bump in Houston caused numerous difficulties; this kind of stuff can’t happen if you’re going to be a top-level sport. Same goes for the seams in the track that had drivers skating around and crashing out at the season finale in California.
In addition, two other issues also need to be addressed.
Embrace and promote the new blood
Oakville’s James Hinchcliffe is a talented driver, multiple-race winner and has a connection to the race fan like few others. And there are more like him on the way. Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly -- who both drove in the Indy 500 – as well as Indy Lights Champ Sage Karem and fellow Lights competitor Jack Hawksworth along with current regulars Graham Rahal, Marco Andretti and perhaps Tristian Vautier. These are some of the drivers who will be the next wave of stars in the series. It won’t be long before Franchitti, Kanaan and others won’t be around.
IndyCar can't continue to live in the past
Perhaps most importantly, look to the future and not to the past for the direction to take the IndyCar series. While it’s heartwarming and enjoyable to know and remember the history of IndyCar, when some fans or naïve commentators suggest we return to what were successful venues or use ideas from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s or 90’s just because it worked then is a road to failure.
While there is a lot of work to do for IndyCar to grow, they have the most important thing as their starting point. Fast, exciting racing with great competition.