(during a discussion about the IRL's future and their current problems)
In engineering and mechanical design there is a belief that “form follows function.” That’s as true of the products of the IRL and NASCAR as it was of the old CART series. The problem for American motor sports at the present time is that the intended functions for the IRL’s Indycar and NASCAR’s Car of Tomorrow and Daytona Prototypes were primarily political and financial in nature.
If one looks at the late, great Champcars and the current ALMS prototypes, one sees racecars that were shaped to be the optimum design solution for their form of auto racing (open-wheel road/speedway racing and sportscar road racing respectively). By way of contrast, the racecars of the IRL and NASCAR were primarily designed to achieve political goals -- like Indycars being incompatible with Champcars in order to ensure a separation of the two rival series – or financial aims (like an attempt to out-compete rival series like CART and the ALMS with lower-cost racecars).
It is not coincidental that the ugly racecars of the IRL and NASCAR were brought into being by speedway owners; while the racecars of CART and the ALMS were created by team owners and automobile manufacturers. The former were mainly concerned with maximizing the financial returns of their speedways and the racecars in the series they established were simply one of the means toward that goal. Conversely, the latter group of race team owners and automobile manufacturers were more concerned about the actual competition (racing) and their primary goal was winning (at any cost); and the racecars they produced reflect this.
To answer your question, the people inside IMS may or may not be aware that the root of the evil that afflicts them is reflected in the ugly, poor-performing racecars that their rule book mandates but they are ill-prepared to address the issue. The IRL leadership, IMO, is made up of people who are not fans of auto racing or of interesting, high-performance racecars. The current IMS president and CEO of the IRL, Jeff Belskus, for example is unrecognized by IMS and IRL track staff and racing personnel because he has attended so few races in his 20 years at the center of decision-making for both organizations that he is a strange sight at their races. This is a clear indication of the level of his disinterest in the motor sport he now heads. I’m sure he will be attending more races now that he has been made the boss, but his promotion should do little to affect his fundamental lack of caring for auto racing.
The same is more or less true of Mari Hulman George and the George sisters and attorney Jack Snyder; who now rule over IMS and the IRL. In her day Mari liked to sleep with sprint-car drivers and party with them and she sponsored a couple of racecars for husband Elmer George but she, too, is a rare sight at the auto races under her command. The sisters also, with the possible exception of Josie, are noted for their lack of involvement with auto racing.
So, how are all these disinterested people supposed to know a good racecar from a bad racecar? For them, racecars are more about ideas and less about design ideals and they are ill-prepared to know a good idea from a bad one.
As if that weren’t bad enough, the facility and the series they head are performing poorly and paying little by way of financial returns. This circumstance limits their ability to make capital investment in the sport; and new racecars of any sort (good or bad) would certainly require a substantial capital investment.
Unless, of course, they stick with the racecars they have already subsidized and cut loose the IRL and return the Indy 500 to its former stand-alone status. Then, the event would immediately become profitable and they could start to open up the rule book in two or three years and let the innovation of the team owners and manufacturers take the sport from there.
Candidly, the foregoing is the only way I see the sport surviving past 2010 or 2011.
P.S. If anyone is interested in knowing the genesis of the fugly Indycars of today, one has but to look at the cast of characters responsible for specifying them: failed racecar driver Tony George, NASCAR agent provocateur John Cooper, USAC kingpin Richard King, banker and cousin Don Smith, college buddy Jeff Belskus, hardware co-op head Dan Cotter, clueless Mari, the hippy-dippy George sisters and something less than a legion of dumbass Hoosier Gomers. Even the old Coyote-maker A.J. Foyt deserves some blame.