IndyCar: Do we need more double-headers?


After a short four days off, the cars and stars of the Verizon IndyCar Series return to competition this weekend with the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.

What makes the race in Detroit so unique is that it features two full points paying races, one on Saturday, and one on Sunday. Asking some of the best drivers in the world to race two full-length races would be a tall order on any track, but Detroit is known for having some of the roughest conditions on the calendar.

While double-header events may be a tough task for IndyCar drivers and teams, the races are often a highlight amongst fans. IndyCar first introduced the concept in the 2013 season, with double headers in Detroit, Toronto, and Houston. The events went relatively well, and didn’t receive too many complaints from drivers or teams.

However after the 2014 season, the race in Houston was scrapped altogether, and the Toronto event was moved from its annual July date to June, bringing it back to a one-race weekend.

For the past three years Detroit has remained the only double-header on the IndyCar calendar, and it looks as though it will stay that way for the time being. But, what if IndyCar were to bring the concept to other races, or perhaps shake up the format of all race weekends?

The idea of bringing double-headers to other locations is a bit more likely than officials completely re-imagining the format of race weekends. However, when last asked about the idea of bringing back double-headers, Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co (parent company of IndyCar), stated that he is comfortable with the present number of races on the calendar.

With the series looking to add new races over the next few years, it is unlikely they would be interested in adding to the total race count with double-headers at existing tracks. What may be an option for IndyCar officials, should they wish to add to overall race weekend excitement, would be to modify the format of some weekends.

There are several events each year, mainly on road and street courses, that contain few cautions and lead changes. These races often see the leader build up a nearly unassailable lead, and are only interesting during pit stops. Perhaps the series should consider splitting these events into two separate races, each with half the usual amount of points.

The series wouldn’t need to re-format each race weekend. For example, races such as Long Beach and the Indy 500 are annual traditions able to stand on their own. Races like the 500 also represent IndyCar drivers’ ability to perform in trying conditions, for hours on end.

For events like the one at Barber Motorsports Park, where passing is next to impossible, and cautions are often rare, organisers should consider tightening things up by having drivers put it all on the line in shorter, sprint-like races. Not only will this format make for great television, but it will also be more entertaining for those who attend the races in person.

While the series doesn’t need to introduce this format to all events on the calendar, bringing it to the majority of road and street courses, as well as short ovals, may bring excitement to races struggling to hold onto fans’ attention.

IndyCar officials need only look to several other major motorsports series for inspiration. The Australian V8 Supercar Championship, World Superbikes, and British Touring Car Championship are just three series with events featuring multiple races.

While it is unlikely that IndyCar officials are looking to re-format the majority of race weekends at this time, they will need to do something to improve the overall spectacle of a race weekend in order to appeal to more fans at the track, and across the world.