A winter series for IndyCar by 2015?

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From my perspective, one of the biggest strikes against the IZOD IndyCar Series in recent times has been its unbearably long off-season period. For a series that is having to battle for fans at every turn, it makes absolutely no sense to disappear from the public eye for six months after the end of the season.

By the time the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg rolled around this past March to open the 2013 campaign, the IndyCar faithful were as restless as all get-out to see their league go back to business.

Perhaps this is why INDYCAR president of competition Derrick Walker, as part of his plan to increase the sport’s global audience, has outlined a series of off-season events that could lead to an winter championship by 2015 – or perhaps, even an overseas start to the official IndyCar Series season in January or February.

According to Autosport’s Gary Watkins, Walker’s argument for such a proposal is simple: It keeps the teams more busy outside of limited off-season test days, and it fills their coffers at a time of year where they could use some extra money.

Furthermore, a European-based group known as World Series Operations has apparently put forward a proposal for a five-race schedule known as the “IndyCar Global Challenge,” which would start at the end of 2014.

Certainly, an international winter series sounds like a nice idea. It would give the fans something to look forward to, and for the teams, it gives them something to work on – and perhaps a means to try out prospective drivers for the season to come.

And, it bears noting that perhaps it would make it easier for INDYCAR to end their official year in time to get out of the way of the all-conquering National Football League.

But one could also argue that INDYCAR’s biggest problems remain here at home and that it needs to settle those issues first before taking on other, more “global” projects.

Then there’s the obvious question of why INDYCAR just can’t find some warm-weather spots here in the States and have those go off in January as part of the official championship? No exhibitions, a full-tilt run from January to Labor Day, and then, a well-earned flop on the couch to watch some pigskin.

What do you think, readers? Do you feel that a global off-season series can be a benefit for INDYCAR? Or do you believe that they should steer clear of it until they’re on relatively better footing?

Leave your thoughts below, just keep ’em clean.

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.