Leading team owners Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi believe the IZOD nIndyCar Series is growing in strength, but is at a potentially decisive moment in its history as it prepares to choose its next generation rules package.
After falling a long way behind NASCAR in terms of profile and exposure during the IndyCar/Champ Car split, American single-seater racing has regained a little momentum this year, with larger fields in the IndyCar Series, the arrival of a proactive title sponsor in IZOD, and a positive response to new series boss Randy Bernard's first few months in charge.
Ganassi believes the future of the championship currently looks brighter than it has for some time.
"There are dormant things but this is like it's a step thing, it's one step at a time," he said. "I think we're making steps, management's in place to make those steps and given the edict to do that and I think it's moving along at the right pace."
Five car builders have put forward concepts for the 2012 chassis, and a committee of experts has been formed to debate the rules package. Penske thinks that the possibility of returning to multiple engine and chassis suppliers after several years of a Dallara-Honda spec formula could be a very good thing for IndyCar. The mockup of one of them – the DeltaWing – has been prominently displayed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this month.
"I think the fact that the committee is looking today at an engine formula that will hopefully attract multiple suppliers, will be good for the sport," he said. "We've got to be sure that the specifications on whatever it is are realistic because we can't get into all fancy metals and things and I think that's got to be important or we get the cost out of sight on the chassis side.
"If there's the ability to have one chassis supplier, I'd like to see multiple. But again, we've got to be sure that the price of the race vehicles us at a level that everybody can afford them. I think that's got to be the ceiling. If someone wants to buy one and subsidise it, fine, but it costs the same whether Chip buys it or I buy it or someone wants to get in the series."
Penske said he was enthusiastic about the possibility of incorporating a radical concept like the DeltaWing chassis proposal and the 'world engine' idea being debated across international motorsport at present.
"I think that change is always good. It's going to shake up the field. One thing we want to do is look at cost," he said. "I've followed the Delta Wing project from the beginning; I'm a supporter. I want to see a car built, and we've got to get the funding to build that car, get it on the racetrack, let people see it.
"There's an interest on four-cylinder versus six-cylinder engines. They want to have potentially a formula where you could have one or the other, which I think is good. There's a lot of interest internationally on four-cylinder engines which will be run in Formula 1 and DTM and rallying and maybe we have to have a derivative of that over there.
"I think this is all good. Under the current process we're taking our time, everybody can be heard, we're just not making a bunch of rules in the back room because at the end of the day the car owners are the ones who have to pay for it. If we're going to make a change, let's make one that shows the fans we have something different and we have something economically and commercially that's beneficial for the teams. So to me I'm all in favour of it."
He believes it is crucial that the right decision is made as IndyCar is currently regaining momentum in spite of the difficult economic environment.
"I think this is a watershed time for us," Penske said. "The fact we have so many cars in this field in a time when the economy and the world is where it is, I think shows that there's some strength here."