At Indianapolis in May, it was revealed that owners of teams competing in the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series had voted unanimously against the introduction of special aero kits that would fit on the new Dallara-built chassis being introduced in 2012.
I wondered at the time about the meeting, and the vote. Since when was this CART? But I digress.
The CEO of IndyCar, Randy Bernard, said at the time that he sympathized with the owners because a specialized aero kit would cost $75,000 to replace the "spec" Dallara aero kit that would come with the new car that would already cost, in total, $385,000.
"The biggest thing about our team owners is that we are hitting them with a lot of capital outlay next year," conceded Bernard at the time. "I respect the fact they have to spend a lot of money for new cars and engines . . . But I don't think it's (the vote by the owners) the right thing to do."
Maybe not, but Bernard eventually came to see things the owners’ way and announced Sunday that the introduction of the special aero kits will be delayed until 2013.
Bernard came to realize what a lot of observers have known for some time: the IndyCar series is on shaky ground already and anything above and beyond the cost of the new car, plus the nearly $700,000 for an engine lease and who knows what for Firestone tires (the true cost of a season’s worth of rubber remains very murky), could sink the series.
Said Bernard Sunday following a meeting of car owners at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where he broke the news and explained that concern over cost was the motivating factor behind his decision:
"It is important that we maintain a high car count next year by ensuring we have cost containment for our teams," he told IndyCar.com
"We must listen to our team owners and try to help. We don't want to see our car counts go from 26 and 27 down to 16 because of the aero kits. The manufacturers have told us it's very expensive and the team owners have told us it's very expensive.
"No one is more disappointed than I that we're not going to do it, but I feel this is by far the best decision for our series."
Okay. Fair enough. But I hope that Bernard got a signed guarantee from every one of those car owners that they will be on the grid when the 2012 season opens next spring because this decision was made not for Chip Ganassi or Roger Penske but for Eric Bachelart, Keith Wiggins, Dale Coyne and that crowd – the owners who won’t run (or can’t run) a car unless the driver arrives with a cheque for several millions of dollars.
In fact, I think it’s very questionable whether any of those ride-sellers will actually spend any of their own money on a new chassis and engine package for 2012. Which means 16 cars could still be reality, new aero kits or not.
And if it is only 16 cars, I guarantee you that a variety of aero kits will be much more interesting for an already cynical fan base than 16 cars all looking the same, as is the case now.
Bernard has made many good decisions since he took over from Tony George following the palace coupe at Indianapolis Motor Speedway several years ago. But he’s made a couple of bad ones, too, the tire debacle being one of them.
For the good of Indy car racing, the future of the sport and Bernard’s tenure as CEO, let’s hope he’s done the right thing here.
SCHATZ WINS KNOXVILLE NATIONALS
Donny Schatz of Fargo, N.D. took home $150,000 Saturday night for winning the Knoxville Nationals sprint car classic at Knoxville, Iowa. He beat Shane Stewart of Bixby, Okla., and Sammy Swindell of Germantown, Tenn. to the wire after starting 13th. The Outlaws now head north and will race in Edmonton toward the end of the month. They were in Ontario and Quebec for shows in July.
Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor won the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series Canadian Tire 200 at the Glen Saturday, with Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas second and Ryan Dalziel and Alex Popow third.
American Burt Frisselle and Mark Wilkins of Toronto, aboard the Gamma 88 AIM Autosport of Woodbridge Riley-BMW Daytona Prototype, were fourth – which was an excellent effort considering the team hasn’t run all the Grand Am Rolex races this season.
In fact, it's the team’s third fourth-place finish in five races this year and Frisselle was in the lead for 22 laps of the 100-lap race that followed the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Watkins Glen earlier in the day.
After Frisselle pitted, Wilkins rejoined in fourth and wasn’t able to improve the car’s position. The team will now travel to Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal for a 200-mile race next Friday, part of the NASCAR Nationwide Series weekend at the Ilse Notre-Dame circuit.