As the Verizon IndyCar Series heads north of the border for another doubleheader weekend an age old argument stills rears its ugly head. Instead of enjoying a really fun city and an interesting long term IndyCar event some ‘fans’ feel obligated to publicly piss and moan about how nothing is as good as it was before 1996. I do not get that. The world is twenty years beyond that point. The sport remains great despite its warts.
On one Internet forum, for example, one contributor named Dave took on one or more of the continually defensive, often arrogant, always myopic ‘cart-back-in-the-day’ enthusiasts who seem to live to squat on the Internet and spout off about the perceived superiority they believe it had over everything else no matter what.
Dave opined: ‘I’m not allowed to directly talk about my admiration for Tony George’s vision and how he tried to save a sport that was already in long term trouble (despite this alleged ‘golden era of the 1990s’) but if others are going to make subtle insinuations that the split caused the decline rather than street courses, foreign drivers and the greed of the cart teams, I’ll make my insinuations too.’
Sure enough, one of those overly defensive cart enthusiasts chimed right in. Oddly, it was another guy named Dave: ‘And what those who supported TG’s vision fail to realize is, it was nothing but a power grab by IMS that failed miserably and scorched the earth for open wheel racing in this country. If Tony George’s intentions truly was to make American open wheel short trackers relevant at IMS again, the formula would have been front engine tube framed race cars similar to a gold crown or silver crown race car. There would have been dirt tracks on the original IRL schedule as well. I’m sorry, but the cries that Tony was just trying to save the Indianapolis 500 from these horrible foreigners and road racers are ludicrous. There were other intentions there, just accept it.’
Here is what I find amusing about what has become sort of a standard response from that bunch. They automatically believe the ‘vision’ of Tony George was primarily to make short track drivers relevant at Indy again. As is the case nearly 100% of the time these people say anything, they are completely misguided and have usually deluded themselves into believing clumsily crafted stereotypes. In reality the ‘vision’ was simply to make IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500 more inclusive to a wider variety of drivers from many disciplines at lower cost. It is fun when a Tony Stewart moves from short tracks to Indy cars and does well. Problem is most of that type are not in cars long before they meet the wall. Conversely there are many talented road racing drivers like Mike Conway who also fail on ovals. The key challenge is finding a diverse field from multiple disciplines who can take on a variety of circuits (while they last).
These types also like variations of the gut busting phrase ‘nothing but a power grab by IMS that failed miserably and scorched the earth for open wheel racing in this country.’ Delusional fiction aside, it was not all about a power grab although that was an element. Then youthful Anton was most interested in preserving the family farm and in particular the 500. Describing the effort as ‘failed miserably’ is subjective at best but generally completely delusional to lunatic levels. After all which series actually failed (and by failed I mean ceased to exist in bankruptcy), twice, and which one has been around for twenty years? Tony and his minions were not responsible for the majority of scorched earth. That happened when the egos of those running cart perceived the IRL as a threat rather than a companion and changed not only their spec but their schedule to be in direct conflict. If they wanted it dead all they had to do was show up en masse for the first three events in equipment they already had on conflicting dates that they made necessary and that would have been that.
Dave continued the party line by throwing in tube frame car and dirt track references. Evidently this is one of their quaint little tenets. As a lifelong IndyCar fan I love the modern-era rear engine machines, and appreciate all the evolution that has led to where we are. If I want to watch tube framed cars on dirt tracks I will go to Paragon or Eldora or someplace like that. I do not want IndyCar engines in the front, and I don’t want them on dirt.
Inevitably contributors such as Dave continue the stereotype they have concocted with phrases like ‘the cries that Tony was just trying to save the Indianapolis 500 from these horrible foreigners and road racers…’ The nonsense these folks foist gets funnier with each passing decade. Foreigners and road racers in and of themselves are not bad things. Definitely not ‘horrible.’ Never have been. But too many of them competing in a series based in America will never hold any interest to a mass audience domestically. Diversity is great but must expand.
Memo to those stuck in a 90’s time warp. Do you know what made cart great while it lasted? Two things: A) The Indianapolis 500 and B) Tobacco money. When they walked away from one and had the other legislated away the end result was predictable. Failure. Twice. Do you know why IndyCar is still around today? The Indianapolis 500. Do you know why IndyCar does not meet the utopian fantasy you believed you had in the early 90s? No tobacco money. It is basically that simple.
So where are we today? Racing on an increasing number of non-ovals with a field heavily populated by foreign road racers. Future success will involve the inclusion Tony George desired, a truly BALANCED slate of venues with renewed emphasis and presentation of oval racing, a strong Indianapolis 500 and meaningful sponsorship that leads to meaningful promotion.
So now it’s off to a street circuit. The doubleheaders are great ideas and this weekend will be lots of fun. If you’re going have fun and we’ll see you there!