Innovation timeline will play a pivotal role in deciding IndyCar's future

IndyCar's Derrick Walker introduces a long-term development timeline at a press conference at the Detroit Grand Prix on June 3, 2013 - Chris Owens

The addition of aero kits and increased horsepower could diminish the competition enjoyed in IndyCar since the beginning of the 2012 season. Is that worth it?

The IndyCar Series will make some important decisions during the next 10 years, having announced its competition and innovation timeline over the weekend in Detroit.

If successful, the plan will see speeds increase, culminating in a new track record at Indianapolis and the addition of customizable aero kits to what has been a definition "spec series" for as long as many of us can remember.

But great change could come with a great cost -- the elimination of the close competition and parity IndyCar has experienced since adopting a new car prior to the 2012 season. Since the DW12 Dallara has been in use, IndyCar has experienced 14 different winners in 22 races, three first-time winners and nearly 100 lead changes over two Indianapolis 500s.

This will surely change once IndyCar opens up the rulebook and allows for more diversity and innovation.

"It might change the race formula," Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan said. "Once you open the Series for more competition, for different aero kits and stuff, I'm not sure how much you're going to see equal cars. You're going to see some spread-out races, I think."

Prior to the IRL-CART split in 1995, it wasn't uncommon for only two or three cars to finish on the lead lap with those teams having an obvious technological and economic advantage. In the current economic climate, it isn't clear whether that kind of gap is still achievable but it's still a concern for small-budget teams, like Dale Coyne Racing and its primary driver, Justin Wilson.

"I don't think it will be a negative," Wilson said. "Then again, I'm not paying for it. I'm looking forward to it but I also understand that smaller teams may have a problem paying for it, and if you have the wrong aero kit, you're behind and trying to play catch-up."

In a previous interview with SB Nation, Wilson explained that IndyCar has to try something different because the status quo isn't working to draw in new fans or increase television ratings.

Despite claims to the contrary from Mario Andretti that the TV contract is the main culprit, Wilson and others in the paddock believe that IndyCar was built on speed and that's where the rebuild should begin as well.

While not completely comparable, NASCAR fans are unhappy with the lack of passing and general dominance across its three touring divisions -- despite a new car that is setting speed records at almost every track it visits. IndyCar most excels as an alternative to the lethargic NASCAR product -- it's just a matter of getting fans to pay attention.

It seems that increasing the speed and innovation is how IndyCar plans to generate interest so if the great racing from over the past two seasons disappears, it will either be the greatest thing to happen to IndyCar or the worst, ushering in a new golden era or isolating what few casual fans remain elsewhere, permanently.

So while the sport ponders its next set of moves over the course of the next decade, leaders should be very careful -- because it doesn't get much better than this.

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