epending on your vantage point or
natural disposition, the state of road
racing in North America is looking better
than ever, stuck in a period of limited
growth, or in the midst of a death spiral.
As more racing fans feel the need to wax
nostalgic about the “good old days,” there
are also plenty of reasons to be encouraged
by what’s taken place in 2013 and how
certain opportunities are shaping up for
next year and down the line. But with a soft
economy impacting every area of the sport
and a constantly evolving demographic,
it’s hard to ignore some of the pressing
issues facing the racing industry.
Looking at the positives, the quality of
drivers and overall competition within
open-wheel and sports car racing is at a
remarkably high level – possibly the best in
generations. The dilution of North American
sports car racing has come to an end with
a single, unified organization, and the
combined factory participation from ALMS
and Grand-Am will make the TUDOR United
SportsCar Championship the unrivaled
battleground for the auto industry to wage
its promotional wars. In IndyCar, the
slugfest between Chevy and Honda for the
manufacturers’ title is absolutely brutal.
Movement and evolution within the
world of cable and network television has
consolidated Formula 1, GP2, IndyCar
and Indy Lights onto the NBC Sports
Network, while the USCC has found its
own home, along with the Continental
Tire Series, on FOX Sports 1 and 2.
Live streaming video has become
commonplace, and social media has
taken decades of bench racing and
turned it into global conversations via
smartphones and tablets.
USCC and the Pirelli World Challenge
series, opening the door to European
exotics and real-world tuner cars that
cause an emotional reaction.
Road racing fans are smarter, thanks
to readily available timing and scoring
North American road racing has plenty to be optimistic about, but there are fundamental
challenges to be addressed, too, if it is to prosper once again. Here are the headlines...
A growing trend of festival-themed
events has transformed how many race
weekends are structured, adding layers of
music, food and car shows to draw in
diehards and neophytes alike.
IndyCar’s most successful experiment in
years, the double-header, has energized
many of its street races. The ongoing
IndyCar/sports car shared-bill trend is also
gaining momentum as tracks look to pack
a single weekend with fans rather than
face lesser demand for standalone events.
The future looks bright with the next
generation of champions being honed
and hardened on the Mazda Road To Indy,
and the same is true on the informal
ladder of GT and prototype training series
under the IMSA and Grand-Am banners.
Firestone Indy Lights, which has fallen
into a sad state of disrepair, was handed
over to a new and successful promoter
who quickly commissioned a new car.
The FIA’s all-electric Formula E series
had two IndyCar teams already announce
entries and will hold two rounds in America.
A wider variety of tin-top and GT3
machinery has been embraced by the
“There are plenty of reasons
to be encouraged by what’s
taken place in 2013 and how
it’s shaping up down the line”
information, telemetry, on-board
cameras, a deeper grasp of the rules,
strategies, and minutiae that was once
kept private by the teams.
But for every ray of light, a raindrop isn’t
far behind as stability and prosperity
continue to grow smaller in the rearview
mirror. Words like “contraction” and
“decline” are common when talk turns to
what’s taking place from coast to coast.
Of all the issues facing motor racing,
apathy among today’s youth must be
recognized as the greatest threat
(LEFT) A glimpse of the
the (very near) future...
In 2014, the top level of
North American sports
car racing is unified.
As an opportunity, the
clarity and focus it brings
could be the catalyst
for serious growth.