Many years ago, after my first marriage hit the rocks, I fell in love with a woman in Vancouver who owned a toy store. The romance was destined to fail – Ask Ellie could have saved me a lot of time and money – but it was fun while it lasted.
One time I asked my girl why she opened on Sunday. "Because somebody might want to buy a toy for their child on Sunday afternoon and if my store isn’t open, they will go to the Bay," she said. "The next time, they won’t even think of me and will just go to the Bay."
In short, according to my old sweetheart, if you’re in business, you have to be open when everybody else is open or you risk being forgotten.
I thought of that woman and that little toy store on Thursday night when the 2014 IndyCar Series schedule was announced and the long-rumoured five-month-long season became reality. IndyCar’s first race next year will be held March 30 and the season will wrap up five months later, on Labour Day weekend.
When every other professional sports league on Earth is stretching out its season (the World Series of baseball will end on the last day of October this year if it goes seven games and they play NHL hockey in June now), the title-sponsorless IndyCar Series will call it a day on Aug. 30, 2014, leaving the auto-racing field clear for more than two months with Formula One and NASCAR both racing well into November.
If the 2015 season doesn’t start until March 30, the IndyCar Series won’t be heard from for seven months, which is more than half the year. If I was still friends with that woman in Vancouver, she would be saying that this is not very smart.
Now, I honestly don’t know if this is good or bad. I’m a fan of IndyCar racing. They’ve got me already – and probably many (or most) of the people reading this column.
But as I’ve said time and again when commenting on this series, the people you have to sell IndyCar racing to are the people who aren’t fans and if you’re not on the radar for seven months out of a dozen, you’re going to have a hard time convincing those folks to buy in.
This ending the season early, of course, is nothing new. In 2006 and again in 2008, the Indy Racing League wrapped up the season in early September because the feeling at the time was that the behemoth known as the National Football League was too powerful to go up against.
But NASCAR didn’t blink, nor did U.S. college football, and the people running Indy car could have done all sorts of imaginative things to sell the product, like racing on Friday or Saturday nights instead of clashing with football and NASCAR on Sunday afternoons.
But they didn’t then and they’re not going to do it next year. I wish them luck maintaining interest.
Mark Miles, the marketing whiz hired to revitalize IndyCar, says 2014 will be a "transition" year and the plan going forward is to have IndyCar races at international venues before and after what he sees as the March-August "American season."
Gee, where have I heard that song before? Oh, wait. Isn’t that what Formula One does already? They have international races (called "flyaways") until it warms up enough in Europe to have the "European season" and then after the Italian GP in early September they fly off to other, more temperate, climes to wrap up the schedule.
The more they try to change things in IndyCar, the more the same problems keep cropping up. And trust me, they are way too numerous to mention.
TORONTO DOUBLEHEADER TO RETURN IN 2014
Eighteen races over 15 event weekends highlight the 2014 IndyCar Series schedule announced Thursday night.
The schedule includes a new event on Sat., May 10. The Grand Prix of Indianapolis will be held on a 2.343-mile, 14-turn road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Brazil and Baltimore are both gone from the series but the popular double-headers at Detroit, Houston and Toronto will return.
The Honda Indy Toronto races will be held on Saturday and Sunday, July 19 and 20, 2014.
Meantime, the IndyCar Series will crown its 2013 champion at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., on Saturday night. Scott Dixon leads Helio Castroneves by 25 points going into the final race. Qualifying can be seen on Sportsnet 1 at 9 p.m. Friday and the race will be on the same channel Saturday night but starting at 8 p.m.
And Andretti Autosport is planning what’s being billed as a major announcement Friday in California. Speculation is that the team will switch to Honda engines for 2014 and that sponsorship from Honda Canada will keep Oakville’s James Hinchcliffe on the track.
Let’s hope so, eh?
One last thing. The Speed channel has got the American Le Mans Series Petit Le Mans race scheduled for viewing Saturday afternoon from 2:30 p.m. till 9 p.m. I said the other day it wasn't available on TV up here and I was incorrect.
- NORRIS McDONALD
2014 IndyCar Series Schedule
|March 30||Streets of St. Petersburg||St. Petersburg, Fla.||1.8-mile street course|
|April 13||Streets of Long Beach||Long Beach, Calif.||1.968-mile street course|
|April 26||Barber Motorsports Park||Birmingham, Ala.||2.38-mile road course|
|May 10||Grand Prix of Indianapolis||Indianapolis||2.4346-mile road course|
|May 25||Indianapolis Motor Speedway||Indianapolis||2.5-mile oval|
|May 31||Raceway at Belle Isle Park||Detroit||2.35-mile street course|
|June 1||Raceway at Belle Isle Park||Detroit||2.35-mile street course|
|June 7||Texas Motor Speedway||Fort Worth, Texas||1.5-mile oval|
|June 28||Reliant Park||Houston||1.634-mile street course|
|June 29||Reliant Park||Houston||1.634-mile street course|
|July 6||Pocono Raceway||Long Pond, Pa.||2.5-mile oval|
|July 12||Iowa Speedway||Newton, Iowa||.875-mile oval|
|July 19||Streets of Toronto||Toronto||1.75-mile street course|
|July 20||Streets of Toronto||Toronto||1.75-mile street course|
|Aug. 3||Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course||Lexington, Ohio||2.258-mile road course|
|Aug. 17||The Milwaukee Mile||Milwaukee||1-mile oval|
|Aug. 24||Sonoma Raceway||Sonoma, Calif.||2.385-mile road course|
|Aug. 30||Auto Club Speedway||Fontana, Calif.||2-mile oval|