It’s now obvious Miles, IndyCar are utilizing Boston Consulting Group’s suggestions

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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.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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