52 FALL 2013
north AmericAn roAd rAcing
simply write a check in exchange for the
promotional value that IndyCar or sports
car racing can return via TV ratings is a ship
that’s already sailed. With hundreds of
thousands of fans tuning in for most live
broadcasts, rather than the million or more
that’s needed, it’s hard to sell a company on
anything other than associate sponsorships.
With the lack of meaningful TV ratings to
offer sponsors, race teams – especially in
IndyCar – are relying on funded drivers
more than ever before. Once considered
the domain of playboys and journeymen,
some well-known, race-winning drivers
are now responsible for bringing anywhere
from 50 to 100 percent of the annual
budget. Even reigning Indy 500 winner
Tony Kanaan was hunting for sponsors to
maintain his place on the grid, which was
unimaginable 12 months ago.
New team owners within the major and
minor road racing series have all but
disappeared. Angel investors – wealthy
patrons who like to be associated with
Despite 130,000-plus race fans
descending on its downtown for
each of the past three Labor Day
weekends, Baltimore has parted
ways with IndyCar for at least the
next two years, thanks to a college
football game and an American
Legion convention taking
precedence. Go figure...
Series is holding strong at 24 entries per
race (and still finding 33 for Indy).
ALMS, even with its limited car count in
P1 and P2, has seen its Pro-Am classes
swell and its GT category continue to
attract and retain manufacturer interest.
Grand-Am saw an increase in Daytona
Prototype entries in 2013 after hovering
near single digits. Its Rolex GT class was a
vision of stability that also included an
increased presence from Audi and Ferrari,
while the Continental Tire Series held its
position as the most popular and overly
subscribed tin-top series in America,
Quality USF2000 and Pro Mazda fields
produced fraught racing, and even
Firestone Indy Lights, with seven- and
eight-car grids, served up intense
competition among a handful of drivers
who deserve a shot in IndyCar. Road
racing’s farm system is working, in spite
of all the aforementioned challenges.
Racing, on the domestic front,
continues to persevere. Is it strong? If you
ignore the changes going on outside our
insular world, the answer is a qualified
yes. From the outside looking in, it clearly
needs help. The sport is resilient and has
history on its side, but is still in the early
stages of a long rebuilding process.
If the ongoing effort to modernize – to
make connections with America’s youth
– can make noticeable progress, next
year’s “State of Road Racing” address
could be a lighter read.
racing teams – have dried up. And with
fewer opportunities and openings, young
mechanics and engineers are entering road
racing at a reduced rate, driving up the
median age of those who work on pit lane.
Street races have taken a hit, with
IndyCar’s lone overseas trip to Brazil
looking unlikely to continue and Baltimore,
which drew considerable support for its
IndyCar/ALMS double-bill, off the calendar
for at least the next two years. On the road
course side, the sports car merger left
popular events at Lime Rock and Mid-Ohio
off the inaugural 2014 USCC calendar.
And yet, despite all of the reasons to
question the health and vitality of road
racing in North America, the IndyCar
were up in 2013.
(LEFT) It might have
struggled to reach
double-digit fields, but
Indy Lights is still a
hotbed of fresh talent.
“The sport is resilient and
has history on its side, but
is still in the early stages of
a long rebuilding process”