I have always been a casual fan of the IRL – I do not follow the series very closely, but I do appreciate the exciting racing action, and of course the Indy 500. I have always thoughts that the IRL suffered for two reasons. First, the marketing arm of the IRL does not strongly promote their drivers in the way that NASCAR promotes their top guys. In my opinion, people love NASCAR because of the driver personalities – many are larger than life. Second, the IRL suffers because it is perceived by many casual fans as just another form of oval racing. Oval racing = NASCAR in much the same way that video games = PlayStation.
The reality is much different. As a racing fan I know the IRL’s top teams, top drivers, and understand how difficult it is to setup an open wheel racer to fly around an oval. It is not just driving around in circles. NASCAR is so ingrained in the casual racing community that the IRL is little more than an afterthought. Hopefully that will change. I have written about this before, but many NASCAR fans fail to realize that series has top drivers that started in the IRL.
F1 is by far my favorite form of motor racing. I love F1 because I like road courses, I love the pageantry, and I love the technology. Nothing else comes in as a close second. I follow all sorts of racing circuits – Le Mans, GT, Rally, you name it, but F1 is near and dear to me.
Of course I follow NASCAR – it is kind of hard to live in the South and not follow NASCAR, but it does not engage me in the same way that F1 manages to suck away my Sunday mornings. Except for the Indy 500, I only watch IRL races when there is nothing else on TV that I would rather watch. That is pretty much the same for all other racing except for a few Le Mans races that I always watch if I have the time. Sad and pathetic, but true.
The Indy Racing League just got more interesting. In early August the IRL announced that Infineon Raceway (California) and Watkins Glen (New York) were being added to the calendar in addition to 14 or so oval courses. Yesterday the IRL announced that addition of St. Petersburg, a street circuit race, to the 2005 schedule.
This is great news. The IRL now has ovals, two road courses, and a street circuit. Smells like roses to me. I hope that other racing fans take notice.