My comments regarding the series in 2012 have attracted some attention, so let me lay out what I consider to be the ideal situation. IndyCar racing needs to move forward over the next few years as a premier series. It needs to find ways to elevate its brand rather than sticking to being a spec series. Spec car racing has driven the fan base away. Fans have voted on various websites and the clear majority show they want to return to seeing innovation. I'm not an expert; I don't know how we get there. But I do know that continuing to race a new Dallara that is still a spec car is no different to what we're currently racing.
The best thing about what's happening today, whichever side you're on, is that people are talking about it. The aero kit issue just happens to be what's lit the fuse. Personally, I think we need aero kits. Some of them are thinking that spending money to create the engineering necessary for an aero kit would probably cost upward of $2m and I think that's what the owners are upside down about; that's what they see. But I don't think that's the way to skin the cat here. I think we shouldn't look at this thing with the old-school mentality of what it costs us to go racing.
So, after thinking about it, after listening to what everyone has to say, after talking to some people about it, I think the answer is to give the car manufacturing companies coming into the series a branding opportunity. They need to have an opportunity to identify their particular engine on the racetrack. They shouldn't be spending over $30m to develop a race engine that's then put into a spec car, a Dallara-bodied car! So let's say that Chip Ganassi Racing decides to become a Chevy customer, a Honda customer or a Lotus customer and we're willing to commit to one of them for three to five years. Wouldn't it be better, in our lease price, to have that body kit included, and have the payment of that car amortized over three to five years, along with replacement parts? It's a capital investment, yes, but not up front.
Why don't we change the model of what we're doing? Why don't we take that model away from the individual owners in terms of the engineering staff required to develop an aero kit, give it to the engine companies so that they can get the branding that they need, through using their aero kit. That way, we can all get what we want – innovation to intrigue the fan base and ourselves and branding for the manufacturer. Everybody wins. This isn't a revolutionary idea; I didn't just come up with this. NASCAR's doing it with a high degree of success. Their teams have banded together, based on their four manufacturers, and they share the engineering resource and the manufacturer shares it across the teams. We should be doing that in IndyCar racing.
We're told that in the first week of September we'll be given the full range of dimensions we can work within for the aero kits, so companies will have from September until May to come up with their designs. An aero kit, by definition, will be visible surfaces – which means sidepods, engine cover, wing trim and aero trim/attachment pieces. What you cannot tweak are radiator placement, and therefore inlets/exits, under wing, and front and rear main planes. That's it. So if a major manufacturing company, with the resources it has, says it cannot provide for its race teams proper aero kits in eight months, I have a tough time believing that.
So, in my opinion, IndyCar should say, “OK, kits are go,” and let it float out there and let it happen. Because, guess what: the engine manufacturers are going to get after it. And it still leaves teams with the choice: they don't have to do it. They have the default option of the Dallara. But if they're speaking to engine companies, I'm sure they're also going to be talking about aero kit supply, too! And we'll start seeing changes from race to race, too. Who knows, once we start comparing the aero map from the Dallara kit to the aero map of the kit from the engine company, we may run the manufacturer's aero kit at Indy, but then switch to the Dallara kit for the very different oval demands of, say, Milwaukee. Isn't that great? All of a sudden, the fans are saying, “Wow, Ganassi is running the Dallara kit. Why are they doing that?” and suddenly you've got those kind of discussions and talk on forums. We need to provide the avenue for to attract attention from fans who are interested in engineering as well as racing.
Last week, I fielded a phone call from one of the team owners and he said, “That Eddie Gossage took us apart,” and that's true. But it shouldn't surprise us, because we get used to hearing just the views of people who are closest to us – the ones we race with and against every weekend and who naturally share similar goals. But here is someone looking at it from a different angle altogether. Is Eddie right all the time? No. But is he wrong all the time? No. It's the perspective that counts, and the outside perception of who we are and what we're doing. That's what needs tweaking, and my response was: “We should pay attention to that guy because there's something to be learned. We sit around and bitch about certain track promoters and/or owners not doing enough to fill the grandstands. But when we go to Texas Motor Speedway, the seats are filled, so we should listen to this guy.”
OK, well thank you for listening to me! I suspect I'll have many conversations like this with fans over the course of May at Indy. See you there!