It is said that all good things must come to an end. After a long 3,522 mile season crisscrossing the Western Hemisphere, the 2012 Izod Indycar Season is finally over. Another championship battle came down to the wire for the seventh straight year. In the end, American Ryan Hunter-Reay emerged as champion while Will Power, for the third straight year, lost the championship after slipping in the final few races. The races were action packed and the championship leader was never safe. It seemed like once someone had a sizable lead, it would go away the very next weekend.
As with any season, Indycar had its ups and downs this season. Let's have a look at them:
Oval racing is back to where it should be. The changes that were introduced at Texas in order to reduce downforce and end pack racing worked magnificently. Passing was increased, and most importantly, it brought driving back into the drivers hands. As the runs wore on, the drivers had to lift more in the corners which also increased the overall racing. With this all in place, it should open the door for Indycar to run more ovals in the near future.
Beaux Barfield being brought into race control was one of the best moves that Indycar could do. Barfield has more experience on track than former chief steward Brian Barnhart and thus could make better judgement calls, much to the drivers and teams alike. Barfield did make a mistake at Milwaukee that led to Scott Dixon getting penalized which he graciously admitted to making a mistake.
NBC Sports Network really stepped up their coverage this year as well. They knew what battles to show, and Bob Jenkins, Wally Dallenbach, Jr., and Jon Beekhuis made a good team for the play by play. The issue still remains that NBC Sports Network is still not in a number of American households and people that limits people that do not have the channel to either listen to the races on the radio or watch them on indycar.com.
The overall talent pool is deeper and a good percentage of the field is competitive- For the first time in a while and I can honestly say that there are no drivers in the field that do not deserve a ride in Indycar. Also, not one driver dominated this season and the numbers bear that out. In 2011, series champion Dario Franchitti led the most laps with 884, Will Power led the second most laps with 518 laps, Scott Dixon led the third most laps with 190, Tony Kannan led the fourth most laps with 97, and Ryan Hunter-Reay led the fifth most laps with 74. This year Scott Dixon led the most laps with 456, Will Power led the second most laps with 294, Helio Castroneves led the third most laps with 265, Ryan Hunter-Reay led the fourth most laps with 153, and Dario Franchitti led the 5th most laps with 112. That alone proves that the season was much more competitive and many more faces ran up front as well.
Indycar also uploaded the races on Youtube the during the week after the race. This allows access to more people to be able to view the races either if they miss it or if they just want to watch the race again they can do it from the comfort of their computer.
ABC/ESPN's coverage is still lackluster- Primarily focusing on the leaders most of the time and not mentioning the other stories of the race. An example of this was at St. Petersburg, Sebastian Bourdais had come from the back while driving an underpowered Lotus and had ran as high as 6th until his engine finally blew. Sure he didn't even lead the race, but when his engine was down on power compared to the Hondas and the Chevys, he had to drive the wheels of his car to get up to the front. Also, when the races at Detroit and Milwaukee ran long due to delays, ABC switched their coverage over to ESPNNEWS. Not everyone gets this channel with their TV subscription service, so those people were left out in the cold and it really makes you think "Does ABC/ESPN even care about Indycar?" Unfortunately, races being on ABC means that the series gets to be shown on network television, so we will have to make due with what we have.
Seing Lotus struggle was painful to watch. In my earlier post previewing the Indianapolis 500, I said I was torn on how Indycar handled it, but I really think they should have given a hand to Lotus in some way, shape, or form. On both of the big ovals (Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Auto Club Speedway) They were very far off the pace and could not keep up at all. Lotus has since announced that they will not return to the Izod Indycar Series in 2013, leaving its only remaining team (HVM racing) to find another engine manufacturer.
The 10 place grid penalty for changing an engine was very unfair. It is the first year of this new engine formula, and the engine manufacturers shouldn't be penalized for the bugs in the system. The rule can be confusing to some fans, and it punishes the drivers/teams rather than the engine manufacturers.
A few owners reportedly trying to get rid of CEO Randy Bernard- Randy Bernard is not entirely to blame for Indycar's problems. As I noted in my If I Ran Indycar post, he inherited the mess that Tony George had started, and he is trying to revive a sport that has lost a ton of it's fan following since the split. Randy has his ups and downs, but he is far better than any other CEO of Indycar recent times. His promoting background has made the series able to return to tracks that are good for the series (Auto Club Speedway being an example and getting Michael Andretti to promote Milwaukee in order to save that race). His main flaw is that he is still learning all the dealings of a racing series- the issue on spare parts falls here. He just hasn't been there to really know what a fair price on parts is, but this is not the biggest issue the team owners should be worrying about. The most important issue they should be worrying about is how to further better the series, and getting rid of the CEO is not going to make everything better.
The Detroit Grand Prix was a total disaster. The track came apart and let to James Hinchcliffe crashing and subsequently a two hour delay. The track had been falling apart for quite some time and could have been repaired beforehand. On top of that, the race had no lead changes which is a common trend for the Detroit Grand Prix. On the bright side, they only visit Detroit once a year.
The 2012 Izod Indycar Series season is one to remember and was the best seasons for Indycar in a while. Here's to another great season, Indycar.