Over in NASCAR, I feel our best days are yet to come this year. Because of how hard we've been working on the new IndyCar, I feel a bit distant from those guys, but the last few races, you can see how much better they have been, and it's great to see.
I'm not sure people from the outside appreciate that they rebuilt the race team program on Juan Montoya's side of the garage, and also changed a lot of the support staff that get Juan's and Jamie McMurray's Target and Bass Pro cars onto the racetrack. The engineering staff has changed, along with senior management staff, so there were several transitions happening simultaneously, and as anyone will tell you, it takes a little while to create consistency as the groups build their communication processes. The drivers are the same, some of the crew members are the same, but when you change the integral cultural philosophy of how you manage the race preparation and racecraft, it takes buy-in and time to get it right. Now the group is starting to prove that the team made good decisions about various roles, including people of the quality of Max Jones and John Probst. Hopefully, Talladega this weekend will provide further proof of progress…although, as we all know, that's a track where anything can happen!
On the Grand-Am side, we're looking for our first win of the season, but that second place by Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas at Homestead last weekend has pushed them into the lead of the championship. GM and Ford have raised the level of their game, so that has affected the starting grid as well as the racing. We got a little bit of a performance change for our BMW engine starting at Homestead, but we couldn't see how much difference it made because the event was wet from start to finish. We felt that the performance of the engines needed some equalization, because the Rolex 24 at Daytona showed that we were losing out markedly on the straights. Grand-Am is great like that: they will make those changes whenever necessary.
And, to come full circle, that's a very similar situation to the one we find in IndyCar at the moment, with the dispute over turbos. All IndyCar is trying to do is to equalize the competition between the teams and the engine manufacturers. And, ignoring what's been said or written, isn't that IndyCar's job? In today's world, it's the sanctioning body's job to make things as equal as possible. Go back to the 1960s and '70s, and you'll see that everyone marched to the beat of a different drummer in terms of engine and chassis combinations; then it was an individualized technical era, but now we're in a spec car era. We have one chassis! This new car is more spec and controlled than the one it just replaced. In days of yore, we didn't have 70 percent of the field on the lead lap at the end. Now, due to spec cars with equal engines, it's about racecraft and race drivers.
Our open-wheel racing mindset needs to change with the times. IndyCar has the right and responsibility to look at the data that can be supplied to them from the cars, and continue to equalize the competition. Whether you agree with how they do it, it should be their right.
As a team you dislike it if something's taken away, but it could turn to the other side if a correction is necessary. But guess what – once exposed to NASCAR racing or Grand-Am racing, you'd know that equalization means closer racing. Patience and trust in the sanctioning body to make global decisions is the key to the long-term growth of the series. They may change a little bit today, and in three or four races, they may change it the other way – it's a situation where the product is continually tweaked to where the drivers, through their prowess on the track in equal cars combined with their marketing representation off track, are the key elements to our future. The one-make chassis is now simply a tool.
That being the case, the acceptance is that our drivers have an equal chance. In that case, the IndyCar brand is positively promoted – that's what's really needed today: the promotion of the on-track product. Our athletes who represent Honda, GM, and Lotus, plus their respective sponsors are more important than public bickering over technical decisions.
Well, thank you for reading. I hope to see all of you along the way, and I hope you'll be watching IndyCar itself win at the Indianapolis 500.
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