Junior Open Wheel Talent

News and Views on Drivers Chasing Open-Wheel Stardom

It's All in the Numbers…

by Ryan Stringfield
Posted March 31, 2009 at 12:48 pm open wheel racing news

As we all know, the world economy has turned upside down since the 2008 season concluded. In fact, it started declining prior to that. People in all walks of life have been affected by this decline, and racing along with everything else…has been hit hard. Drivers have been struggling to find sponsors, teams have been struggling to find drivers, some of the venues are even battling financial woes. All of us are hoping for some good news, we want to hear that our economy is improving. If you are one of the lucky drivers to be racing in 2009, you should be proud of yourself and your sponsors. Many of today’s top prospects weren’t so lucky. As you look across the entry lists in 2009, you will see quite a few of the so-called-big-names missing from the lists. The drivers who found a way to make those lists, are most likely relying on their backers to support them throughout the season. It will be interesting to see how many of this year’s competitors are forced to end their campaign early.

With several series actually commencing their 2009 seasons, and with the rest about to… I figured I would take a look at some actual entry numbers. As you will see, some series have been affected greatly by this financial earthquake, while others seem to be untouched, for now. Read on…

Stars of Karting: ICC/KZ2
The Stars of Karting series has seen the largest drop in entries, which in reality, only makes sense. These guys are the grassroots racers of the open wheel world. Typically, the factory drivers have one big sponsor or team backing them, the rest, aka privateers, rely on support from mom and dad. Without a doubt, karting has been hit the hardest by the financial decline of the world economy and the scary thing is…. these guys are the future of open wheel racing. The comparison you see below, isn’t 100% accurate as the Stars of Karting series changed their gearbox class from ICC in 2008, to KZ2 in 2009 (hence, the comparison isn’t quite apples to apples). I’ve chosen to focus on the top-level gearbox class, because, quite frankly, this is the class that requires the largest overall budget. So, take what you will from this stat, as it’s not perfect.

Opening Round Entries

  • 2008 (ICC)- 31 entries
  • 2009 (KZ2)- 9 entries
  • That is a 71% drop in ICC/KZ2 entries at Ocala for the Stars of Karting.

Skip Barber National
The Skip Barber National hasn’t seen as much of a drop, but it’s still higher than you would like to see. These guys are also a huge part of the future of open wheel racing.

Opening Round Entries

  • 2008- 28 entries
  • 2009- 23 entries
  • That is a 17.9% drop in 2009 entries for the Skip Barber National Championship.

Formula BMW
Formula BMW has shown a small amount of growth from 2008, but is still lacking in entry numbers thus far into 2009 (see below). Hopefully, this series will rebound even more in 2010.

Opening Round Entries

  • 2008- 10
  • 2009- 13
  • The numbers above indicate a 30% growth in entries for 2009. The percentage looks much better than it really is when you take the actual number of entries into account.

F2000 Championship
The F2000 Championship hasn’t begun their 2009 season, so these numbers are liable to change. The 2009 entry #, is based on information from an inside source at the F2000 Championship. Once again, these guys haven’t had as much of a drop as the Stars of Karting series, but their drop is still much larger than you would like to see.

Opening Round Entries

  • 2008-39 entries (39 practice, 37 qualified)
  • 2009-30 entries
  • That is a 23.1% decline. That said, the series still has a tentative 30 entries for 2009 which is the largest field to date. The number of entries itself is still quite impressive.

Star Mazda
The Star Mazda Championship has actually shown growth in 2009, which, for the series, is great. The stats used here include all cars entered, meaning Championship class, Expert class, and Master class.

Opening Round Entries

  • 2008- 27 entries
  • 2009- 28 entries
  • This is a growth of .04%.

Atlantic Championship
The Atlantic Championship has allowed C2 cars to run in 2009, which sort of hides their true decline in numbers. I will provide you with both. Despite a drop in entries for 2009, the competition level still remains extremely high.

Opening Round Entries

  • 2008- 23 entries
  • 2009- 19 total (including C2)
  • 2009- 14 (excluding C2)
  • Overall, counting total entries, that is a 17.4% drop. If you exclude the C2 entries, the Atlantic Championship has seen a 39.1% drop, which is pretty significant.

Indy Lights
The Indy Lights series has perhaps the most impressive numbers in 2009. I currently have a count of 25 cars, based on reported signings, but the series has indicated that we will see a whopping 28 entries for St. Pete.

Opening Round Entries

  • 2008- 23 entries
  • 2009- 28 entries
  • That is a growth of 21.7%, which is an extremely impressive number given the current state of the U.S. economy.

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Junior Formula Entries (Total)
2008-181 entries in opening rounds
2009-(estimated)–150 entries in opening rounds

  • Looking at these numbers , we see a 17.1% drop in overall entries for 2009 in the junior formula ranks.
  • 3 out of the 7 series covered here have actually shown some growth, which is positive.

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So, in conclusion, we have seen a fairly significant drop in entries for 2009, but there doesn’t seem to be much of a trend related to the overall expense of running a series. The Stars of Karting series, as a whole, has seen the largest drop in numbers, which is truly unfortunate. Hopefully, we will see things begin to turn around in the near future and all the series will enjoy a nice influx of drivers.

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One Comment

  1. YORK Group Motorsport on March 31, 2009 2:46 pm

    Excellent post; thanks for your efforts.

    Kevin YORK

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