I spent Thursday through Saturday noon at Daytona International Speedway last week, doing some final research for Avoidable Contact (aka, Kate Book 3). I came home with a ton of notes and ideas—for the book, but also about the cars, drivers, and approach of the new Tudor United Sports Car Championship.
1. Fans like TUSCC. Combining two series worked for pulling in the fans. The paddock/garage was packed even on Friday—and everyone I asked agreed they'd never seen so many people there. There were even (gasp!) quite a number of people in the stands as the green flag flew.
2. The C7.R is awesome. Corvette fans are legion, and they love their new racecar. There was always a crowd around the garage for the #3 and #4 cars. And they're pretty. To hear the drivers tell it, they're also fantastic to drive—more like a prototype in terms of stability and handling, per Ryan Briscoe.
3. Thumbs-up on the competition. On-track traffic is intense—and the competition is going to be good this season. Over and over, drivers referred to it as a "nightmare" on track, admitting with the next breath that fans seem to like it. And none of the drivers were really complaining (or complaining much), which, as a fan who does like seeing drivers have to be strategic in navigating multiple classes, I appreciate.
4. Sportscar racing has gone corporate. The ALMS was a small, grassroots, startup company. More like a family. TUSCC is definitely part of a corporation. Maybe that has to happen, at some point, for an entity to get bigger (I know that's often true in the business world). And maybe I feel that because I no longer know anyone at the Series level (most of them have scattered to teams and manufacturers).
But the vibe in the paddock was different. More removed. More professional? Maybe, maybe not. It'll be interesting to see how the paddock feels at Sebring, Long Beach, and Road America—tracks that aren't as steeped in the NASCAR corporate culture as DIS. But ultimately, some of the charm is gone.
I'll stick with the Series, because I still think the on-track racing is the best out there (sorry, all-oval NASCAR and all-dull F1). And I'll still argue that in theory, it's better for there to be only one sportscar series in the United States. I believe all that. But I think I'm going to find TUSCC a bit less fun than the ALMS was.
Change is inevitable. And hey, now I can be one of those people who wax nostalgic for the old days.