There are three words most diehard IndyCar fans would probably like to forget but are actually going to play a major role on the 2014 season.
No, they’re not Indy Racing League.
It’s actually Boston Consulting Group.
You remember the BCG report, done back in March during the angst of the then-six-month offseason that ran from mid-September 2012 through to late March this year, right? And the subsequent response from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to the AP’s reporting on the report? You don’t? Oh that’s right, the suggestions offered from the 115-page document have not exactly been front page material in the wake of what’s been a dynamic season on track in the year’s first 16 races.
But, as time has passed, and planning for the 2014 IndyCar Series season has commenced, it’s become painfully apparent there’s a lot more of the BCG report that’s entering into IndyCar’s short-term strategy.
In no official order, I’ll offer these as proof:
- Condensed schedule. The BCG suggestion was for a 15-race schedule held over 19 weeks, from April to August. Based on projections and sources, the 2014 IndyCar calendar will likely be 19 or 20 races held over 23 weeks, with three or four doubleheaders (St. Petersburg is in play to become one and/or replace one of the three existing ones from 2013). St. Pete will be held March 30 and if the plan to end the season on Labor Day comes true, that will mean a season finale the weekend of August 29-31. So there’s that. And potentially, even a greater thrash during the year for all involved with the traveling circus.
- Using Indianapolis Motor Speedway more. Well, this one’s obvious. Like it or not, an IMS road course race is coming, and will thus open the floodgates to debate over whether the last bastion of IndyCar tradition at the Speedway has been dumped like yesterday’s Fried Tenderloin sandwich from Mug ‘n Bun. From a pure numbers standpoint, even if attendance is 40 or 50,000, it’s a bottom line improvement for the Speedway compared to 7,500 or 10,000, and another race for the series at the series’ greatest race course.
- Selling the pure racing. If this hasn’t been discussed publicly, it should, and frankly needs to be in the wake of NASCAR’s Chase controversy and drudgery of Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull’s dominance in Formula One. IndyCar’s product this year has been second-to-none with 10 different winners, 18 different podium finishers, a manufacturer battle that is tied after 16 races and a variety of circuits unmatched in motorsports. The product’s been too good to ignore … yet it’s ignored by almost all of mainstream America except for the 400-500,000 hardcores. I can dream about the prospect of some ambassadorial boots on the ground selling the product, right?
When the BCG report was revealed, it didn’t immediately scream that it needed to be implemented. But for Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles, the head of IndyCar’s parent company, it’s now obvious that the report is playing into the series’ future direction. Whether it can take IndyCar to the next stratosphere it so deserves remains to be seen.
INDIANAPOLIS – Teams have loaded in for this weekend’s Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, with testing set all day on Saturday and Sunday for all three rungs of the series: Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.
Some notes from the day are below.
- Pabst Racing has been busy with testing its new Tatuus PM-18 in recent weeks, to add to its trio of USF-17s. The team has two PM-18 chassis with one completed and built up, and which Calvin Ming will test this weekend. Augie Pabst’s Oconomowoc, Wis.-based team won the team championship in USF2000 this season.
- Look for Ayla Agren to test Pabst’s PM-18 next week for several days. The talented Indianapolis-based Norwegian/Swede is a past F1600 champion and has raced in parts of the last three USF2000 seasons with Team Pelfrey and John Cummiskey Racing; Agren is working on stepping up into Pro Mazda next season.
- Another intriguing Pabst USF2000 product this weekend is New Zealander Hunter McElrea, a 17-year-old go-kart veteran who completed his first season of car racing this year in Australian Formula Ford. He was unlucky to only end fourth in the year’s championship, with several poles and wins but a bit of inconsistency that cost him the title. His father, Andy McElrea, has been in the U.S. before moving back home, where he’s enjoyed success as a driver, engineer and team director. The younger McElrea said he “learned heaps” this year and is optimistic of building a budget to come Stateside in 2018, and said it was a bit surreal to have his first real run at IMS. Born in the U.S., McElrea holds both U.S. and New Zealand dual citizenship.
- Arguably the busiest driver in the month or so since the Watkins Glen season finale has been Dutchman Rinus VeeKay, who’s had several Pro Mazda tests with three different teams (Pabst, Juncos Racing and Exclusive Autosport) and will run this weekend with Belardi Auto Racing in Indy Lights, and will work with engineer Kent Boyer. VeeKay would succeed in North America for a second year, as he contemplates whether to move up from USF2000 into Pro Mazda or emulate RC Enerson in going from USF2000 straight to Indy Lights. VeeKay’s No. 4 car was Shelby Blackstock’s chassis from the 2017 season.
- Teammate Nico Jamin, who was busy with several different types of cars this year besides his primary role in Indy Lights, will test Belardi’s No. 5 car, which was Santiago Urrutia’s chassis, and work with engineer Tim Neff. Jamin got the call a couple weeks ago and has come back from his home country of France, where he’s been since shortly after the season ended.
- The third Belardi car, the No. 9 car still in the Mazda “soul red” livery for 2016 Pro Mazda champion Aaron Telitz, is on site this weekend. Telitz will test with RJB Motorsports’ USF2000 team – the car having been returned from ArmsUp Motorsports for this test – and the Birchwood, Wis. native will have the chance to work with open-wheel veterans Alex Barron and Mirl Swan as part of RJB’s crew. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Telitz also running in other cars and series this weekend.
- At least for this test, Cape Motorsports’ Pro Mazda car has a cool “magic 8 ball” livery for Oliver Askew. The primarily black with some white paint scheme probably wouldn’t stay that way provided Mazda’s scholarship comes with the switch to a “soul red” livery once the season properly commences.
- Jake Craig, who will test with Newman Wachs Racing this test, has been awarded the eKartingNews.com Karting Entry Ticket for this year’s Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 $200K Scholarship Shootout. The 19-year-old native of Mission Viejo, Calif. is the 12th driver who has a confirmed ticket so far for the shootout, which takes place in December in Arizona.
- Colton Herta is in a funny spot with regards to World Series preference depending on whether the New York Yankees or Houston Astros wins tonight’s Game 6 of the American League Championship Series, as the Yankees lead the series 3-2 heading into tonight’s game and look to advance to the World Series to face the Los Angeles Dodgers. Herta grew up a Dodgers fan but his Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing team features team principal George Michael Steinbrenner IV, son of Hank Steinbrenner, and the Steinbrenners of course are the Yankees’ principal owners. Perhaps it’s a good problem to have?
- Myles Rowe, who’s won three races in six starts in the Lucas Oil School of Racing, will be in one of John Cummiskey Racing’s Tatuus USF-17 chassis this weekend. The Smyrna, Ga. native has a good head on his shoulders and could well impress.