Defender of IndyCar

Off The Beaten Path

Where do many really good racers come from? One of the more amusing debates among racing fans in cyberspace is the origination of great drivers. There is usually a faction convinced that short track/dirt track sprint/midget/various forms of jalopies, etc., is the way to go. This is usually accompanied by taunts toward Indy Racing because the grassroots bunch works toward driving front engined ‘stock’ cars in NASCAR.


Major open wheel owners for years have turned toward foreign road racers as the answer. American drivers at the upper levels of Indy Car are few and far between.


Where would you look if you were an owner? I have begun to think owners should give a closer look to the desert for off road racers. When you look at even a short list of those who came up that way you begin to wonder. Rick Mears. Jimmie Johnson. Robby Gordon (who knows what may have happened had he not run his mouth so much?). The entire list is impressive.


I wish there was a way to get Indy Car or NASCAR pilots into venue-appropriate equipment so they could go dirt or off road a few times a year. I remember watching various Unsers bringing their Indy Car peers to Pikes Peak for the Hill Climb every year. That event is one of the least known, underrated motorsports events of the year. Everyone should take it in before the folks commonly referred to as tree huggers screw that up for everyone else.


On a related note, a film I cannot ever stop watching when it comes on one of the cable movie channels (and I also own it) is ‘Dust To Glory.’ Awesome. Put that on your list this month.


2 replies to “Off The Beaten Path

  1. I’m still trying to figure how the theory of constantly driving sideways on dirt in a front engine car can somehow make someone a good rear engine Indy car driver. It’s the norm on dirt, but it’s the opposite in an Indy car. In the old days the championship trail consisted of front engined cars and dirt tracks along with paved ovals and road courses. That was the ONLY way to move up the ladder. Today the engines are in the back and the last thing you want to do is whip it sideways on a 230 mph oval.

  2. The only thing I can figure on why dirt guys (oval or off-road) usually manage to do well whenever they move to another type of racing is that when the grip level is much lower, you have to be much more aware of what each corner of the car is doing. Your throttle control has to be that much better, and you have to balance between throwing the car around and having a light touch to subtly adjust your line through a corner. Those are things that translate to just about any type of car. So, if you grow up only learning how to drive a relatively stuck-down, underpowered F2000 or FBMW car, you may be learning pertinent setup techniques, but you may be a tad lacking on the whole “driving the car” thing.

    Side note: probably the best $8 I’ve ever spent at a movie theater was on “Dust to Glory” at the local indie-cinema. I’m sure the sweeping helicopter shots look good on a plasma set, but they can’t be beat on a 60+ foot screen.

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