Doubling the IndyCar fun

DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:49 PM ET

TORONTO - It looks like the IZOD IndyCar series has found a winner — actually three winners — in an effort to add more excitement to the 2010 season championship.

The parent Indy Racing League bosses announced Tuesday that it will split the IndyCar season in two — one half for races on oval tracks and the other for road/street courses — with a champion being crowned in both.

And at the final event on the 2010 IZOD IndyCar calendar — at Homestead-Miami Speedway — the overall points leader will be determined.

For Canadian IndyCar fans it adds weight to the proceedings when the series drops in for the Honda Indy Toronto and the Honda Indy Edmonton in July.

When all is said and done, however, it’s really about bringing some good news to a young lady from Roscoe, Il., who happens to do well on ovals but sucks fumes on most road and street courses. We’re talking, of course, about Danica Patrick — IndyCar’s MVA (most valuable asset).

With almost all of her toes in the NASCAR pool this season, Patrick needed convincing she can stay in open- wheels racing and still be a major star.

After all, most of those Fortune 500 companies who have been lining up for endorsement deals with Patrick, could lose interest quickly if she can’t deliver on the track.

And if her early results in NASCAR — finishes of 35th, 36th and 36th — continue when she gets back in the

No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet this summer Patrick will need something to fall back on. A fight for a championship in IndyCar would do that for her — even if it’s only for the oval crown.

It would also give a similar, to a lesser degree, boost to drivers like Canada’s Alex Tagliani who has spent the majority of his career turning both left and right.

The whole deal also offers the IndyCar series a chance to showcase it’s strengths — racing on ovals, temporary street courses and permanent road courses.

“The IZOD IndyCar Series offers one of the most challenging and diverse schedules in all of motorsports,” Randy Bernard, chief executive officer of the Indy Racing League, said Tuesday. “We want to recognize the drivers that master the disciplines that make up this sport as they pursue the ultimate prize — the IZOD IndyCar Series championship.

“We feel this platform will give added value to events on our schedule and creates more momentum behind the drivers and teams that excel at ovals and road races.”

Races already competed — Sao Paulo, St. Petersburg, Barber Park and Long Beach — will be counted retroactively.

The oval championship kicks off Saturday with the Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway.

The two discipline championships will each be named to honour an IndyCar legend that will be voted on by fans.

“The sport of Indy car racing has such a long and storied legacy of so many accomplished legends that we feel this is a great way to honour their accomplishments,” Bernard said. “Many of our current drivers admire these legends, so why not have them vie for a trophy named in honour of the drivers they strive to emulate.”

Finish lines

Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage told ESPN this past week that NASCAR start-and-park teams are “stealing money” and steps should be taken to stop them. Gossage said it’s so blatant that some of those teams don’t even have a pit crew or extra tires. They qualify for the race, run a few laps and park the car to collect the large purse money. “Last place (at Texas) pays about $85,000,” Gossage said. “That should be $10,000 and the rest of that money should go to the top finishers.” ... Talladega winner Kevin Harvick blew a gasket about newspapers (including this one) that reported there was a rift in the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing team. Harvick is in the final year of his contract with RCR and earlier this month his primary sponsor — Shell Oil — said it will not be back with the team.

dean.mcnulty@sunmedia.ca


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