I’m working on a pro-con piece for FoxSports.com about the IZOD IndyCar Series’ new three-title format that’s debuting this weekend in Kansas, so I won’t go into a long dialogue about it here. But after a day to digest it, I have a couple of things to say about it.
First off, I think Randy Bernard, the IRL’s chief executive officer, clearly saw the fact that the series has two distinct fan bases between the oval and road/street course disciplines. The four straight road/street events to start this season were, on the whole, entertaining. But you get the feeling that most of the IRL’s oval fanbase were making like old-school Sonic the Hedgehog on the Sega Genesis, tapping their foot and waiting for the “real” fun. So why not give both bases their own title fights within the bigger picture of the overall championship?
Second, copying NASCAR does not appear to be in Bernard’s gameplan. Instead of riding the juggernaut’s coattails, he’s instead attempting to set it apart from NASCAR and other forms of motorsports by highlighting the diversity of its schedule. I think that’s a smart move. And regardless of what you think about the new oval and road/street championships, there’s still gonna be one driver that walks away with the biggest trophy, that of the overall series title. As long as this championship is considered the top prize by the league, does it really hurt that much to have two sub-titles?
But let’s also face facts on this aspect of the new format: This is designed to help Danica Patrick, who’s had a rough start to the IndyCar season. To state that she’s a better oval racer than a road racer is stating the obvious, so why not have her fighting for a title that plays to her strength? Consider this as one of the IRL’s ploys to have their biggest star stay in the series and not head to NASCAR full-time in the future…Whether it’ll be a successful ploy is another story altogether.