Over the past several years, the Verizon IndyCar Series has found attendance numbers lower than they would’ve hoped, searching for ways to attract new attention. After a successful season, it appears that everything is currently up on the upswing.
“I think there’s no doubt it’s on the upswing,” Graham Rahal said. “And what I like about what we have going on here is there’s no fake news out there. There’s no — let’s just say something just to say it. Genuinely, everybody, Jay and the entire organization here, Bill, they’ve done a great job. And there’s no doubt it’s headed in the right direction.”
The signs of everything falling in place are there.
The Indianapolis 500 drew attention from all directions, with the 100th running being a sell-out crowd. Other tracks saw an increase in attendance across the schedule, especially the street circuits which have been able to draw fans in with a variety of competition through the weekend.
The racing on track was close, including Rahal just edging out James Hinchcliffe for the victory at Texas Motor Speedway. The sport was able to reach new avenues through their superstars attending other events, being victorious in events at the Race of Champions, and Hinchcliffe finishing runner-up on Dancing with the Stars.
Despite the positives, there is still work to be done, in the eyes of some.
The TV package could use some improving as it can be tough finding out what channel the race is on with the schedule split between two television stations, and not on a same constant or pattern basis.
Being able to even up the competition would help in attracting fans, knowing every driver has a shot to win. Everybody knows the talent is there as each driver within the field comes in with their set of accomplishments and reasons they can win. As Rahal put it, “this is the deepest field anywhere in motorsports.”
However, it doesn’t appear that is being shown on track right now. Team Penske dominated the schedule last year with their foursome of drivers, winning 10 of the 16 races with their drivers sweeping the top-three spots. The success could be attributed to the quality of drivers in the organization, but also Chevrolet’s dominance of winning all the races but two. It’s been clear for a couple of years that Chevrolet has an advantage over Honda.
The series has taken steps towards fixing that, set to get rid of the manufacturer based aero kits in 2018 and go back to a single aero package across the board. As a result, the success of a driver and team would come down to themselves and their manufacture’s engine package. The new car is also supposed to help competition basis, by allowing for a better close-up on the road courses to increase passing opportunities.
“I do hope that the new car has less aero wash,” Rahal said. “I do hope that the under tray is more effective and that you can actually follow closer to make the road course racing a little easier because, with these aero kits for sure, it’s more difficult. And really, you then rely more on the tires to create the falloff and then create the racing, which Firestone has done a great job of that.
“But I think the new car — you know, I haven’t seen the finished product by any means, but I think it looks pretty awesome. You know, it’s — I’m excited about it.”
Despite everything, there are reasons for why they may not be able to win everybody over, thanks to those still upset over the previous split which happened. However, the key is to look forward – not backward.
“You’ve got your just passionate haters out there that are going to continue to just do that,” Graham Rahal said. “But in general, what I really enjoy is I do see the series has so much potential and is headed, without a doubt, in the right direction.”
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