Friday, March 5, 2010

It's all about the product, right?

Dallara (in maroon, yellow, and red), Swift (in #23, 32, and 33 configurations), Lola (with two body kits), and DeltaWing.  And now the BAT.  I'll bet you thought I'd join the other IndyCar bloggers in discussing the BAT.  I was going to, but while I was trying to come up with something original to say, perhaps about how the BAT chassis could encourage close racing, it hit me.  There's another chassis out there that produces amazing racing, is an open-wheel design, can be configured to run a variety of engines, and is well known to IndyCar teams.  It's the current Dallara!  Stay with me, there really is a point here, I promise.

What has the IndyCar brand been all about since about 1999?  Insanely close wheel-to-wheel and nose-to-tail racing on oval tracks.  Sure, they've added a lot of road racing, and certainly improving the road racing product should be a goal for the 2012 chassis, but I'm getting just a little sick of hearing folks complain about the current chassis and engine package.  So much of the problems seen last year had to do with aerodynamic add-ons that were implemented to control speeds.  What happened when the IRL finally admitted they had a problem and pulled the wickers off for Kentucky, giving some bodywork control back to the teams?  This.

Pretty fun, huh?  Kind of got you blood pumping for the 2010 season?  Guess what happened when they got to Chicagoland with the same loosened aero rules?  This.

I know they can't run the current chassis forever, and like any race fan I'm always interested in new and different race cars.  But lest you read a bunch of press releases from chassis designers, and think that the current Dallara is a pile of crud, just remember that those releases are all sales pitches.

Had the IRL loosened the aero rules after Kansas last year, the last ten laps at Indy would have been an amazing three-way duel between Helio, Wheldon, and Danica.  Yes, a Penske driver going for his third win, a Panther driver going for his second, and Danica in an Andretti machine going for the win that would have the 500 in the headlines for months.  Think that might have fun?  Just a little bit?  Texas would have been its usual insane self, and Iowa and Richmond would have been great bullring races.  Taken in that context, the exciting race at Toronto and Justin Wilson's popular win for Dale Coyne at the Glen would have added up to an amazing season.  If only the IRL had taken their damn hands off the cars just a little earlier.  When officials keep their hands off the chassis, and don't micro-manage, the racing can absolutely stop your breath.

There are many many reasons why a new (and cheaper) chassis would be a good thing.  I'm as excited as anyone, and love the discussions of the different options.  But I think it's worth pausing to consider what a great race car the Dallara is.  It's a strong, safe chassis that has produced close, exciting racing well beyond its intended lifespan.  It deserve a special place in Indy racing history, and Dallara should be applauded for their engineering.

So I have only one question: Who else can't wait until they get to Kansas in a little over a month?

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