The early phase of the Indycar season is complete. If the three races run so far are any indication of the rest of the year, this will be another great season! Three different pole winners, three different race winners, old favorites on top, and validation of some tough choices.
Next up is the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, when Indycar will run on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. At first, I was opposed to running this race in May. I accepted that maybe a road race at the Speedway wasn't such a bad idea, but should be run at a completely separate time. As the season finale, for example-especially if the season will end by September, when good weather is still the norm in Indiana.
My problem wasn't the track layout or using the facility for something other than the 500. Personally, I thought that the Mickey Mouse track configuration used during Formula 1 races was less important than the fact that there were Formula 1 races held there. And I can't really complain about the use of the track-it's also hosted Stock Cars, minor-league stock cars, motorcycles, a lesser sports car series, showroom stock sedans, autocrosses, and bracket racing. Ok, maybe not the last two. Yet.
I didn't think that the Month of May should suffer the distraction of another points-paying Indycar race. The focus, I believed, should be on preparations for the World's Greatest Race. My opinion has turned around 180 degrees. Leadership at the track and at Indycar seem determined to bring back the luster and the glory (and viewership) of the 500. They are doing this not with 3 weeks of practice and time trials of interest only to the most dedicated racing nerds (yes, you), but with events that have real stakes to the participants and the fans: A full points-paying Indycar series race on the road course on May 10 and a day of qualifying that sets not only the starting order for the 500, but pays out even more championship points. I think these are very important things.
Personally, the more Indycar and Indianapolis 500 stuff I consume, the more excited for the race I get. Trouble is (and I can't believe I'm alone), my time is limited. It's easy to sneak in the Trackside and Talk of Gasoline Alley podcasts while commuting, working, eating, etc, but sitting down in front of the TV to watch hours of practice is hard to justify. My free time is limited after work, my wife, my small children, side businesses, and the regular chores. Add in the first good weather since October here in the upper midwest, and watching part-time backmarkers scuff tires gets really hard to justify. I do make time, however, to watch every race live. If it's an Indycar event that has racing and actual championship consequences, watching becomes easy.
The Grand Prix of Indianapolis gives fans a real reason to watch more Indycar, and get more excited for the Big Race. Awarding points on qualifying weekend does the same thing. The result is one continuous, weeks-long festival with the 500 as the climax, where everyone at the track and at home is more excited for the race and the series. I know I'm looking forward to it!