Even though NASCAR's track attendance and TV ratings are down relative to their almost absurd zenith about 10 years ago, that relative lag has not created any type of genuine momentum for open wheel racing to fill in.
The IndyCar series may offer compelling racing, but in terms of mainstream appeal it has not been able to register outside of the Indianapolis 500, which much like the Kentucky Derby remains more of a cultural event than it does a sporting one.
Regardless, the IndyCar series is trying to grow and establish a wider footprint, especially in the great state a' Texas. The Shell Penzoil Grand Prix of Houston is slated to start in October of 2013.
What the IndyCar series is doing by adding this second race in Texas is a dangerous risk, and it could be a beginning of the end of this open wheel race at Texas Motor Speedway.
TMS has had the IndyCar race to itself for the entire region for more than a decade, and despite that fact interest in the event remains just OK. Despite numerous unique attempts to inject some interest in the event, most notably the twin races last year, it has never has gained any real traction. It is no secret track president Eddie Gossage's relationship with the open wheel series has been ... uneasy. Selling IndyCar to the race fans of FW/d is not an easy pitch, and IndyCar's ways of doing things aren't necessarily alligned with Gossage.
By the sounds of this article in the Houston Chronicle, Gossage and IndyCar are not on the same page in regards to market research. IndyCar believes there is enough of a market to support two races. Gossage does not agree. Read between the lines and it sounds like Gossage is saying that there isn't wide interest for this series here, and to add another event will split what is a decimal-point market.
IndyCar could be saying that the Houston event is a road course, which will draw people because it's a different racing experience.
Adding another race, even though it's months apart from the TMS June event, could finally be enough for Gossage to pull out of IndyCar.
Personally, I like the series and open wheel racing. I grew up on it. It's faster. It's exciting. But for about 10,000 reasons the sport has become niche. The rub is that both Gossage is right about potentially splitting a small audience, and IndyCar is right trying to grow it with another event.
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