Happy Anniversary AOWR

Well, it's been about a year now since the shizz went down. About a year ago, it was announced the CCWS would more or less fold into the IRL and they would become one. Tony George and Kevin Kalkhoven sat down in front of 20 or 30 CCWS/IRL drivers and made the announcement live on SPEED TV (probably their last meaningful coverage of AOWR at its highest level). The mood was high that day, as enthusiasm for a new era began and things started happening very quickly. Decisions had to be made quickly in regards to the schedules, cars had to be delivered from IRL shops to CCWS shops, and personnel had to learn new cars as well as crack out some new sponsorship dollars.

Everyone seemed content to put in the extra hours between getting things organized and making things happen because it was a major step forward for the Indy Racing League and AOWR in general. Fans were getting more excited about the prospects of one series and the competition and talent in that series would be stronger then ever.

The season went off without too many issues (a couple occasions CCWS cars couldn't race due to practice/qualifying practice, or the lack of a race-worthy car). Hell, even a couple of wins by NHL showed that the CCWS teams could be competitive in this new environment, atleast on road and street circuits to begin with. Even by the end of the year, the competition had leveled out as many CCWS teams were competiting for top 10 positions at the finale.

Now with a full off-season to do some aero work and run some more oval tests, the former Champ Car teams are now in a position to compete full-time, and they will be expected to compete for the entire year. These teams have seen a lot of cars the last few years. Hell, the last three seasons have seen 3 different cars (2006 Lola, 2007 DP01, 2008 Dallara). If anything, the CC guys should be able to figure out new cars better then the IRL teams simply due to experience. This season will prove a better example of the depth of the field in the ICS with the so-called Big 3 maybe expanding to the Big 4 with NHLR looking strong in pre-season.

Even with the bad luck timing of the world-wide economic downturn, the ICS still looks like it will be in a good position this year. Indycars provide a better bang-for-your-buck then Nascrap and seem to have weathered the downturn better then the taxi's have. The IRL fields look to be a consistent 23 or 24 cars throughout the season, possibly (I doubt it, but I'm trying to be positive here) hitting 26 at certain times of the stars line up just right. We had 21 at the off-season test, and we can probably add a car for DCR. Add in what seems like a good bet of RHR at HVM and Tomas Scheckter landing somewhere since he has a bit of cash lying around and we are at 24. Now if the stars line up and Conquest manages to get 2 cars for the full season and KVRT or Vision find the money to run PT or Foyt IV then we are at 26 cars.

But what I'm really looking forward to is the second anniversary of the unifibilesbianficationmerger. Many economists are looking at the US economy rebounding in late 2009, so we will start to see more sponsorship money available for motorsports and hopefully the IRL can take advantage of that if things go well through this season and attendance numbers stay up and TV viewership grows a bit. We could use a good year out of the I500, TV-numbers wise so we could use that to sell 2010 sponsorship. Maybe get Michael Andretti back into a car again. Seeing Michael contend again might up the number of viewers up a bit. Anything to help the 2010 sponsorship season would be needed to keep the momentum going forwards.

If we can push forward, we can hopefully see some of these 1 car teams move back to 2 car teams in 2010 and make a push for more paid-drivers and hopefully see some of the old teams like Fernandez come back and RLR return. There are even some rumors of de Ferran Motorsports being interested in the IRL down the road.

Anyways, things are looking up for Open-Wheel in general and we should be happy because everyone of us are along for the ride. We all get to be a part of the growth of AOWR in North America. It will continue growing as it does, each of us will be as proud as the driver, team owners and management of the IRL.


Anonymous said...

Glad to see someone is optimistic about IndyCar's future, must be something special they have in the water up in Canada. Not too many feel the same way as you down here. This year is a real test too see if more sponsors can be brought it and tv viewership needs to go up or things are not looking too good for the series.

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