The new era must begin in 2012

First off, I apologize for not getting back to you all sooner on the matter of IZOD IndyCar Series owners voting to delay the introduction of aero kits until 2013. Indeed, I’ve been keeping track of the situation but I’ve had to deal with a variety of factors including: 1) Having to fix a power failure on my ’97 Ford Taurus; 2) Setting up some medical tests on my swollen left knee; 3) Working an eight-game homestand with the Albuquerque Isotopes; and 4) Packing up my things to move into a new apartment near downtown Albuquerque this weekend.

Suffice to say, I’ve been quite busy. But enough about that.

I didn’t know about the 15-0 vote in Brazil until late Tuesday night when I checked my e-mails. Being as tired as I was, I just perused it and decided I needed to think about it when I wasn’t sleep-deprived. When Wednesday came along, it was all very clear to me — at least it was at the time.

The owners thought they can take over. The momentum for the new era of INDYCAR was in danger of dying again. And Randy Bernard would have to become Bill France and find a way to squash these people’s machinations once and for all to save the sport from itself.

All of this over an aero kit that costs a mere $70,000, designed to work with a machine that costs 45 percent less than the current nine-year-old Dallara chassis — which everybody and their mothers want gone.

Now, not everybody seems to be on board with delaying the aero kits. Target Chip Ganassi Racing general manager Mike Hull thinks this could blow up in everyone’s faces and A.J. Foyt did abstain from the Brazil vote.

Also, I’ll give Keith Wiggins credit for stepping up to explain the owners’ side of things. As much as I wanted to write a blistering rant telling Randy Bernard to show these people who’s the boss — and who’s gonna be the boss for a long time — this is why I didn’t. I needed some more perspective.

And Wiggins, the owner of HVM Racing, has come up with a compelling argument for the owners: The lack of time between the car’s production and the rollout of the engine manufacturers’ aero kits would force the teams to use the stock Dallara kits until that rollout, and upon that time, the teams would have to get those manufacturers’ kits. Throw in the cost of all the spare parts and you realize that only a few teams will have the money to develop the new kits while using the Dallara kits in those initial races.

But nobody’s forcing Wiggins or the owners to have to buy that second wave of aero kits — which appear to be already assumed better than the Dallara kits, even though we haven’t even seen the 2012 prototype hit the track yet. And if Penske and Ganassi can pull off development on those second kits, then just watch them. See what works. See what fails. Then plan accordingly for 2013.

Again, I see their points. They are valid. But too much has been built into next season. To delay a key component of the new car for another year would be an absolute public relations disaster. Hell, the fact that we are even talking about this when we should be talking about the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 — the centennial running of the greatest race on the planet — is a bad sign right now.

The fans want to see different-looking cars in 2012. End of story. Never mind the fact that it’s just a few aero kits and not a full-blown chassis revolution with multiple machines that are truly different. It sounds superficial, but visuals do matter.

Then there’s how the aero kits fit in with the bigger picture — the return of turbocharged engines, the addition of two iconic brands in Chevrolet and Lotus, and just the amount of hard work and effort that has been put in already by everybody in the series.

Finally, there’s the matter of perception. Just as I mentioned, I had the perception that the owners were trying to make Bernard their lapdog until Wiggins laid out the owners’ argument to the blogosphere. But I highly doubt that this perception has been eradicated for everyone. On the outside looking in, this looks like a power play, a repeat of what happened in CART/Champ Car. We know how that ended, right?

And didn’t we have an owner revolt over the new car already? This new aero kit saga just makes them look like egomaniacs, even if their intentions are indeed just. This makes them look like they’re trying to save the status quo — the status quo that, in the eyes of the casual observer, has teams racing in a nine-year-old dinosaur of a car and two of those squads beating everybody else on an almost weekly basis.

There’s simply too much on the line for Bernard and INDYCAR to turn back now. The sport must keep moving forward.