IMS road course race: The glass half-full outlook

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On the fence about how to feel regarding an IndyCar road race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway? Feeling overly positive and need a sprinkle of negativity in your coffee? Or vice versa? Here’s some potential upsides and downsides of the first race to be held next May. We’ll start with the positives first. Feel free to add more in the comments.

POSITIVE ARGUMENTS

  • A needed title sponsor that won’t affect the Indianapolis 500. The day the Indianapolis 500 adds a title sponsor, it becomes just another race. This gives Corporate America a shot to say it sponsors an IndyCar race at Indianapolis, and isn’t “the bad guy” who will forever be known as “the sponsor that took over naming rights for the ‘500.”
  • Track upgrades. The Speedway has pledged to make improvements based on the feedback of drivers Graham Rahal and Ryan Briscoe, who tested there earlier this month. If it’s a better track, even more reason this race could be great. Consider too, the Dallara DW12 chassis has spiced up races at otherwise dull road courses Barber Motorsports Park and Sonoma Raceway – why not at the Speedway?
  • Marketing bonanzas. A points and/or cash prize for a sweep of the road course race and the ‘500? All-star wild card entries for one or both events? A test on the next level of the ladder for anyone who wins a Mazda Road to Indy road race? Frankly the opportunities are endless for cross-promotion between the two events. Additionally, thinking from a corporate perspective, it’s double the chances to entertain clients in corporate suites and show the variety IndyCar has to offer.
  • A potential Mazda Road to Indy ladder weekend. For anyone who’s been to the Night Before the 500 at Lucas Oil Raceway Park with Pro Mazda and USF2000 on the docket, it feels like a night at a high school football game. It’s cozy, comfortable with intense on-field action. But it ain’t the big show. For the lower two rungs on the ladder, the cars aren’t able to run the Speedway oval because of skinny tires, not enough power and downforce. This could give them the opportunity to race at the pro-sized stadium and at speeds and a form of racing – road course racing – they are familiar with.

My take:  All I want is for the race to have a chance to be successful instead of dismissing it in advance. If it proves a bad proposition, either from an optics or business standpoint, then you dump it. But otherwise, it’s here, and ideally can grow from its inaugural running.

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.