IndyCar has come up with a strategy through 2021 to make its cars faster and safer in hopes of winning back old fans and attracting new ones.
Now it’s up to team owners to sign off on the plans.
”We won’t ram it down their throat,” Derrick Walker, IndyCar president of competition, said Sunday at a news conference before the second of two Detroit Grand Prix races.
Walker outlined a year-by-year plan to introduce gradual changes and said they will be put in place only when a majority of the owners and all of the manufacturers agree with the proposals.
And if that doesn’t happen?
”We’d say, `Forget it, we’ll take it off the table,”’ Walker said.
The sanctioning body spoke with teams and manufacturers Saturday about new aerodynamic configurations known as aerokits it hopes to use during the 2015 season. It is part of a comprehensive plan to improve performance and safety into the next decade.
”In that meeting, it was constructive,” Walker said. ”I think we got general support.”
At least one team owner, Bobby Rahal, is embracing what IndyCar wants to do. Another, Dale Coyne, said IndyCar should spend its time and money on marketing.
”I do think that having some technical freedom is important and that will draw interest into the series,” Rahal said. ”I also think there’s no question that the speeds in the old days drew the crowds. That’s legitimate.”
Coyne, whose driver, Mike Conway, won the Detroit Grand Prix on Saturday, said the series is producing a good product technically, but needs a boost in popularity.
Instead of having manufacturers using their money on development and teams on testing, Coyne suggested spending it on attracting more fans.
”I think all that money and resources would be better spent on our marketing side right now,” he said. ”We need to sit down in a room with our television partners and work out something where we could get all of our races on network television.”
Walker said excitement about the sport hasn’t been lost overnight and it won’t get a major boost right away even if owners and manufacturers go along with the latest plan devised by the governing body.
”It’s not the magic bullet that’s going to fix IndyCar,” he said.
Walker, whose background is in team ownership and management, was recently hired by IndyCar.
”I don’t care who comes in and takes this job and has the challenge of moving the sport one way or another, it’s always going to take a lot of time,” he said. ”It always comes down to resources and time.”
Walker hopes the plan produces a speed record in 2016 at the 100th Indianapolis 500.
Arie Luyendyk set the mark in 1996 for Indy’s fastest four-lap qualifying average of 236.986 — more than 10 mph faster than the pole-winning speed last month.
”We’re probably going to crack the record,” Walker said. ”It’s not a must do. It would be a nice do. When you take a look at the changes in the car configuration, it’s logical to think we’re going to get a rise in speeds.”
Scott Dixon is all for allowing teams to take advantage of what their teams can do to make cars faster. Currently, he said they’re limited by IndyCar rules that restrict modifications in the hopes of fostering competition between larger- and smaller-budgeted teams.
As a driver for one of the more robust teams — Chip Ganassi Racing — he isn’t sure propping up the lesser ones is in the best interest of the sport.
”You can’t separate yourselves in any way for doing a better job,” Dixon said. ”I would like see some differences between the teams and cars. Strategy-wise, everybody is trying to do the same thing because the tires do the same thing. The only things that are a little bit different are the engines. For the smaller teams, it’s cost effective. It’s unfortunate for the bigger teams that have a lot of engineers that don’t have anything to do.
”I think next year, they’re talking about aerokits for the races at Pocono, Indy and Fontana and that would be a good start.”