IMS road course race: The glass half-empty 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 touched on the positives, but if you’re hankering for some pessimism, look below. Feel free to add more in the comments.

NEGATIVE ARGUMENTS

  • Tradition. To many, this is the last erosion of tradition being wiped from the Speedway. “The Indianapolis 500 is the only thing IndyCar should do at the Speedway!” they say. There are others who argue “tradition” went out the window the second NASCAR raced at the track. Times are changing and IndyCar needs to change and make big moves to stay relevant.
  • Attendance. This is a toughie, because for the Speedway bottom line, any crowd the road course race gets will blow the usual number for a practice or Opening Day in modern terms out of the window – think 7,500 to 10,000 now and likely 50,000 or more for a road course race. But it will pale greatly in comparison to the 250,000-plus on race day for the ‘500. What the Speedway will need to do is isolate the fans for this race into fewer sections to at least give the feel there’s still a decent crowd, and potentially sell banners that can be draped over the aluminum seats. It’s not going to look pretty, but if it can look fuller than the Nationwide races at IMS, it will have done its job.
  • It’s IMS, and not another track we’re clamoring for. I’m not going to argue that this doesn’t suck, at least a little bit. Right now it does give off, in part, a bit of desperation from the series standpoint that it is using its own backyard as a stop-gap while other races in other parts of this country or other countries meet their demise. Yes, it’s not Road America or Circuit of the Americas, or another oft-remembered track from the past (Portland, Cleveland, Phoenix or Michigan, anyone?). But I fail to see how another IndyCar race is a bad thing? And the potential drama of it carrying over into the ‘500 a bad thing?

My (hoping for the best) 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.

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Here’s who were picking to win the Indy 500 — who are YOU picking?

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Several members of the NBC Sports motorsports staff have made their predictions on who will win Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Of the six voters, two are going with 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champ Josef Newgarden, while two others are going with Helio Castroneves to win a fourth 500, which would tie him with A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.

Here’s our picks. Who are YOU picking?

Leigh Diffey: Helio Castroneves — He drives the place better than anyone else. For me (for what its worth) he deserves a fourth 500 ring for the frustration he went through never getting the IndyCar title!

Townsend Bell: Josef Newgarden

Nate Ryan: Simon Pagenaud — All of his 2018 misfortune on the track has disappeared in May, and it culminates in the biggest victory of his career.

Jerry Bonkowski: Helio Castroneves – There’s no pressure as he pursues his fourth Indy 500 win. All Helio has to do, as late NFL owner Al Davis would say, is “Just win, baby!” (But if Helio falls short, watch for Marco Andretti)

Kyle Lavigne: Josef Newgarden — I think he has everything he needs to get it done this year.

Dan Beaver: Robert Wickens – Has driven like anything except a rookie and his second-place finish at Phoenix proves he’s just as good on an oval as the road courses.

Follow: Jerry Bonkowski