INDIANAPOLIS — The big picture. That’s what counts and that’s what we should be looking at.
Too often in racing, however, we get caught up in the small picture and worry only about the scene closely surrounding us.
Mario Andretti recently served as the ceremonial pace car driver for the Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Prior to the race, Andretti was asked his thoughts regarding a doubleheader with NASCAR and the NTT IndyCar Series at the ROVAL and he was very much in favor of pairing two major series on one weekend.
Earlier in the weekend, IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden ran some exhibition laps on the ROVAL.
“Our sport has loyal fans for different disciplines, but there is also a lot of crossover,” Andretti told SPEED SPORT. “If a doubleheader with IndyCar puts six more butts in the seats, then that is six more seats that you’ve gained. The crossover would be healthy for everyone.
“I would encourage it, of course. Probably IndyCar would benefit more than stock cars because the audience is much greater for NASCAR. But at the same time, you’ve got to look at the big picture — motorsports. Create the interest and the fans are the most important part.”
Every racing series pursues growth and prosperity and, naturally, they tend to focus on their own agenda. That’s fine, but sometimes we forget that the health and well-being of all of motorsports is more important than any individual series.
Although most of us would say we hate politics, we tend to think politically. I don’t mean politics as in Democrat or Republican; I mean politics in terms of the type of racing or a specific series we favor.
For example, many fans of Indy car racing are loathe to support anything that would benefit NASCAR. And many NASCAR fans would hate the idea of doing something that would benefit Indy car racing.
But in terms of the big picture, it’s smarter to help each other grow because in the long run it is likely that growth benefits the entire sport.
Nowhere is this truer than trying to cultivate crossover fans. If a person is a staunch NASCAR fan and they discover IndyCar and like what they see, they might go to a race or begin following the series through the media. Ditto an IndyCar fan who begins to also follow a favorite driver in NASCAR.
The concept of a doubleheader at the Charlotte ROVAL is a positive step in that direction.
Loving one type of racing doesn’t mean you have to hate everything else. This is true from the highest levels of the sport down to the smallest short-track levels. Variety is the spice of life, you know.
Obviously, you can’t force people to change their tastes. A doubleheader with IndyCar racing on Saturday and NASCAR on Sunday would have many different faces on each successive day. But if — as Andretti astutely points out — you get even a couple of new fans out of the deal, that’s a win. And the current would flow both ways, I suspect.
What is interesting is that in recent years there seems to be more and more crossover occurring at the short-track level. It’s common to see a David Gravel or Brad Sweet shirt at a dirt late model race, and a Scott Bloomquist or Jimmy Owens shirt at a sprint car event. This didn’t used to be the case, but it’s common today.
Events such as the World Finals at The Dirt Track at Charlotte have been very successful at every level and they have introduced a lot of people to something different. There is no way that is a bad thing.
Speaking from experience, it’s a blessing to grow up with a lot of racing variety. Sprint cars on both pavement and dirt, and stock cars on both pavement and dirt, that was our world in the beginning. To a certain extent, it’s still our world.
That’s the big picture. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.