Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

October 18, 2011

The Future of Indy Car Is Threatened. Time To Get Serious About A Fight To Save It From Extinction.

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 3:44 pm

Whenever a driver dies on the track as Dan Wheldon did on Sunday, actual fans of the sport grieve. In an age of anonymity on the Internet and cluelessness in media, two other things usually accompany the mourning:



Indy Car racing is once again under siege by opportunistic meddlers sticking their noses where they do not belong. These malcontents will not be happy until there are no ovals except Indianapolis, and even then they will probably favor a shift to the road course. It is high time we declared war once and for all on each and every single one of these festering idiots. Racing is a sport where lives of drivers, crew or fans can end in a split second regardless of venue. Everyone who shows up accepts the risks, especially brave racers. Those complaining the loudest rarely show up and usually go out of their way to inform anyone who will listen that they do not watch or attend. When they seize an opportunity to latch onto an accident the hypocrisy of their words and actions remains utterly classless.

What took one hundred years to build could well be destroyed in a matter of hours simply by the jerking of knees and gnashing of teeth, mostly by stupid people hell bent on complete destruction of the sport. Randy Bernard is said to be devastated about the accident. All real racing fans are. Someone needs to find a way to shield Bernard from the hailstorm of stupidity by vermin latching onto this tragedy to force a myopic agenda.

It is time to fight and win this war once and for all.

The diversity of Indy Car is its primary strength. It takes the bravest and most talented drivers in the world to race on multiple sizes of ovals, road courses and street circuits. But make no mistake. High banked 1.5 mile ovals have just as much a place as, say, Barber. Idiots crusading for their removal are not forced to watch. I appreciate the skill and balls it takes to run on such tracks. Does anyone really believe A.J. Foyt would have ever whined about perceived danger of a track? Neither did Dan Wheldon.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway is not the problem. It is a magnificent facility that has more fan friendly amenities than most. 34 cars is not the problem. Perceived skill levels is not the problem. Not even old Dallaras are the problem. Freaky quirks in the laws of physics that happen by chance are the problem, and in any style of racing that is a variable that cannot be controlled. I remain thankful I support a series that has done more to advance the cause of safety over the years than probably all others combined.

I remain angry after reading and hearing some of the nonsense being spouted by opportunists using this death as an excuse for an anti-oval agenda. You read it all over the place. Even Jimmie Johnson is sticking his nose in. What would he say if a two-time Daytona winner met his end at Talladega in some ‘big one’ freak accident? Would restrictor plate racing seem OK in that scenario?

The foundation of the history of Indy Car racing is oval racing. It is nice that we are striving for balance, but elimination of ovals because they might be ‘too dangerous’ is one of the most ridiculous, cowardly things I have ever heard.

Auto racing is inherently dangerous anywhere a race is run. People forget that. It cannot really be sanitized.

If I want to see open wheel cars driving single file racing against a clock I will watch and be enthusiastic about Formula 1. If I want to see full bodied cars driving relatively slowly around ovals in packs I will cheer for NASCAR. There is a place for both. I love Indy Cars on small ovals, mid-sized ovals and big ovals. The variety of some road and street courses enhances the appeal. The more they race close and with aggression, the better. There is no such thing as a track that is ‘too dangerous.’ Spreading a field out for a whole race is simply not exciting to many.

Dan Wheldon spent days and countless hours getting a brand new car ready specifically designed to avoid the kinds of accidents that happened at Las Vegas. Real fans owe it to his memory to see how the new car does on great oval tracks like Texas, Iowa or Chicagoland.

The out of the box presentation of the Vegas race was just what Indy Car needed and I commend Randy Bernard. It is a genuine shame the big wreck put a damper into the end of this chapter. I hope leadership has the courage to move forward without being influenced by those STILL trying to kill Indy Car.



  1. No true Indycar fan wants to leave ovals behind. I agree with you that Johnson is a NASCAR opportunist and what he said is baloney. However, the pack style racing must go. We must return to our roots and race ovals like we race Indy.

    Editor’s Note: Passing and side by side racing has as much a place in Indy Car as any other style. Everything in moderation. And I wish they would re-add an apron at Indy.

    Comment by Bill B. — October 18, 2011 @ 4:15 pm | Reply

  2. I just about drove off the road yesterday when I heard “Mr. Five Time” saying that INDYCARS should no longer race on ovals and stick to road and street courses.

    First of all, it was an incredibly ill-timed and inconsiderate thing to say, especially since it was less than 24 hours after the accident and none of us (who follow INDYCAR) had even begun to deal with the grief yet. There might be a time for that point of view to be expressed, but NOT by someone from NASCAR and NOT at that time.

    I do not recall anyone saying that NASCAR should abandon superspeedways after Dale Earnhardt was killed. Nor did anyone say anything about the “pack racing” that caused that tragedy and still causes NASCAR drivers to fear “the Big One” every time they go to Talladega or Daytona. (All this, of course at about 40 mph SLOWER than INDYCARS run.)

    As A. J. Foyt once said, “This isn’t badminton, it’s AUTO RACING.” Tony Kanaan, one of the “old hands” among our series said yesterday that when he thinks it is too dangerous to continue, he’ll retire.

    Mario Andretti himself also said that what happened in Vegas was a “freak one-off.”

    Now I get it that there were a lot of guys driving all over the track immediately before the accident occurred, and quite likely some of them were in over their heads. That is an issue for the sanctioning body to deal with at the proper time, not a NASCAR driver and certainly not less than a day after the fact.

    And some, in the “general public” were even suggesting that “the IRL should go away,” (hmmmm I thought we did that 2-3 years ago) and “NASCAR shouod take over the Indianapolis 500.” Yes, I think ‘vermin’ is an accurate moniker.

    Look, I know we have to co-exist with NASCAR. Just don’t tell me how our series should be run.

    Comment by SkipinSC — October 18, 2011 @ 5:32 pm | Reply

    • “Mario Andretti himself also said that what happened in Vegas was a “freak one-off.””

      Kind of like that “freak one-off” at Indy last year with Conway. Faster car coming up on slower car and flying into the fence. At Indy it was caused by fuel saving, at Vegas it was caused by an accident up ahead. Neither are freakish, they happen all the time.

      Comment by Gary — October 19, 2011 @ 12:32 am | Reply

  3. Excellent point about Jimmie Johnson putting in his two cents worth when they weren’t asked for. He hasn’t been and won’t be the last. And you make some other good points that I really didn’t consider when I added MY two cents worth in the last blog. Without ovals, the series has no identity. But even you will have to admit some positive changes have to be made to see that this doesn’t happen again. Agree?

    Editor’s Note: Changes ARE being made. Wheldon has been testing them for months. IMHO they ought to continue looking at alternatives for chain link and metal poles as well outside the cars.

    Comment by DOUG — October 18, 2011 @ 5:53 pm | Reply

  4. Jimmy Johnson has lost my respect. He races in a series where wrecks are caused on purpose, and when 10 cars are in the process of wadding up at Talladega, fans stand and cheer. That is the series he races in.

    I suggest everyone send Randy your support. The ovals are not going away.

    Comment by Mike Miller — October 18, 2011 @ 8:12 pm | Reply

  5. I am disgusted that you can continue to defend pack racing on 1.5 mile ovals. Indycar had a many, many wakeup calls on the matter; Brack’s crash, the Atlanta pileup, the deaths at Charlotte, Briscoe’s fireball. Wheldon’s death should not have happened.

    Even with the changes that are being made with Indycar should not be racing on 1.5 milers, they are designed FOR Nascar, and in a number of cases BY Nascar.

    Indycars belong on flat ~1 mile tracks like Loudon, Iowa and Milwaukee and shallow banked 2-2.5 milers like Indy, Fontana and Michigan. They hark back to the history of the sport and if I had the Hulman’s fortune to play with I’d use it to buy up those tracks and preserve them for Indy racing.

    Its all very well blaming the quirky laws of physics for the crash, and its all very well for Mario to call it a freak incident, but when a car lands in the spectator area excuses ‘it was a freak accident’ and ‘it was physics fault’ isn’t going to cut it with the media and politicians. Not agreeing, not disagreeing, thats just how things are.

    Jimmie Johnson’s comments are crass, opportunistic and highly inappropriate.

    Editor’s Note: Thanks for your concern. Sincerely, Gonzalo Rodriguez and Jeff Krosnoff.

    Comment by hates crappies hates gomers — October 18, 2011 @ 9:44 pm | Reply

    • D, why use Rodriguez and Krosnoff to suit your agenda. You openly hate CART so why would you all of a sudden do you give a rats ass about them. RIP Wheldon.

      Editor’s Note: It’s called making a point with a baseball bat. The hysteria of these people over 1.5 mile ovals is irrational. Drivers can die whenever the green flag is out on any track. People forget this. I do not openly hate cart. I hate what it’s most virulent enthusiasts are trying to cram down my throat.

      Comment by Monty — October 19, 2011 @ 4:51 am | Reply

    • Your disrespectful answer tells me that you have no response to what I have said.

      I never claimed that road/street course racing were safer than oval racing, like it says on the ticket motor racing is dangerous, so why bring it up?

      To sarcastically sign that off with the name of two other racers who died doing what they loved really is low. You are a truly pathetic individual, no better than the extremists on crapwagon.com.

      Editor’s Note: I am tired of cart enthusiasts nailing themselves to crosses, and I am really tired of seeing such idiots use the Dan Wheldon accident to bolster their position. It is despicable.

      Comment by hates crappies hates gomers — October 19, 2011 @ 7:38 am | Reply

  6. It doesn’t matter what you think or who you declare war on. The drivers, track owners, and the sponsors alike aren’t going to stand around and watch people get killed racing cars in 2011. If cars flying into the catch fence is just supposed to be an accepted risk and part of racing these cars at the cookie cutters, then they aren’t going to race there anymore. It is as inevitable as the death of the board track was.

    Editor’s Note: Time to fix the fences then. Walking away from 1.5 milers would be more foolish than the fear the 1.5 mile haters believe they have.

    Comment by throw some ds on that b!tch — October 19, 2011 @ 2:22 am | Reply

    • No one is going to “fix the fences” because none of these tracks care enough about Indycar to want to invest tens of millions to support a series that will only show up there if they rent the place out. Since that business plan went over like a wet fart, it ain’t gonna happen.

      Editor’s Note: Where were you seated in Las Vegas for the race? Those of us who actually attended heard an entirely different story from officials in Las Vegas, both at the track and representing the city. The buzz was phenomenal, and that kind of presentation at all ovals would go a long way toward drawing a higher number of people. The high dollar suites were sold out, and Indy Car turned a profit. Indy Car leads the way in safety evolution, and I believe the fence issue will be addressed in a relatively short amount of time.

      Comment by throw some ds on that b!tch — October 19, 2011 @ 2:58 pm | Reply

      • I’m sure LVMS is excited to bring back the Indycars, MGM/Mirage ready to support them with ticket deals, and those companies lining up around the block to get those luxury boxes again after this weekend.

        Editor’s Note: Yep. In the adult way in which the world operates, actual grown-ups without agendas will probably be more than happy to re-boot for next year. In a few months the shock of this accident will have passed. That is how human beings operate.

        Comment by throw some ds on that bitch — October 20, 2011 @ 2:57 am

      • I would be willing to take any wager offered on this.

        Comment by throw some ds on that b!tch — October 21, 2011 @ 8:18 am

  7. I have been watching open wheel since the 70s and I’m not against ovals or in favor of killing the sport in response to Sunday’s sad turn of events; BUT, something was seriously wrong with that Las Vegas event. On lap 4, I turned to my wife and said “they better not crash or someone is going to die.”

    I’ve never watched a race where I had that feeling; but, I’m telling you Defender, the whole setup on Sunday was guaranteed to be a disaster. I’ve never raced a car in my life; but, all my experience as a fan watching allowed my to see this potential disaster quite clearly.

    And, the same thing should have been quite evident to all the “professionals” running the IRL and that’s why I consider Dan’s death the most tragic and saddest of all the racing death’s that have occurred during my life. It never should have happened because this Vegas event never should have been allowed to happen. Formula 1 called off Indy when they couldn’t stop the tires from failing. Cart cancelled Texas when drivers were experiencing blackouts. But the IRL let the show go on when disaster was evident.

    It’s almost like Mr. Bernard figured he could put on a Nascar like show, half-field crashes and all, with open wheel cars and damned be the risks to the drivers. Racing like that has no place in open wheel. Crashes like that in open wheel cars produce broken feet, broken legs, broken backs, amputations, paralizations and deaths.

    Rather than kill ovals or kill the sport, some serious examination by IRL management needs to be done about why they are racing and what they are showcasing; but, for 40 years, this sport to me has been about showcasing the extreme skill and talent of the drivers on ovals, road courses and street circuits. The atmosphere up to and during the Las Vegas event didn’t have that. I don’t want to see crashes and carnage. I want to see things like Schumacher setting up the driver in front for a pass over 3-laps, then take the breaking deep into a turn, lay down the horsepower at just the right moment, and execute. Or, Jacques Villenaeuve executing a perfect race strategy to come from 2 laps down to win the Indy 500.

    But, if the IRL is going to continue on a trend to promote and run events like Sunday at Vegas, then I would have to say Kill It because they’ll have proven that they’ve thrown away everything that makes open wheel racing appealing in favor of hosting a “show where fans come to see if the participants can cheat death.”

    Editor’s Note: Second guessing is normal. Where was the fear before the race? I like a variety of racing including the things you mentioned. Just not as a steady diet. Close racing on high speed ovals is something I WANT to see occasionally. As soon as tickets go on sale for Vegas next year I am renewing all the ones I bought this year.

    Comment by Jacob — October 19, 2011 @ 4:11 am | Reply

    • I thought the same thing. I actually rewound the race to the beginning before the crash occurred just so I could show my wife how unsafe I thought it was (she had attended her first race at Kentucky this year and is learning the ropes). I love ovals. I wish all IndyCar races were on ovals. But to have the same amount of cars (plus one) on a 1.5 mile, 20 degree banking track, three wide at full throttle just can’t be defended. Sorry. I like a lot of what you say, but along with the other posters here I tend to disagree. The whole race was a gimmick, but admittedly everyone, including the drivers, were in on it.

      I do think it is a bit disingenuous of the drivers to come out now saying, under their breath, how unsafe they thought the conditions were. Speaking your mind up front would have saved Dan’s life but now it is a bit late to blather on about how unsafe your thought it was. But that is just one of many “what if” scenarios about this whole thing.

      I understand your propensity to defend all things IndyCar and your heart is in the right place. But you can’t agree all the time or else your own points tend to lose sway and focus.

      Editor’s Note: Since 2000, 16 drivers have lost their lives in NASCAR series events. Contrast that with the 3 who have died in Indy Car.

      Comment by Sean Daly — October 19, 2011 @ 5:42 pm | Reply

      • Counting NASCAR Mexico and Modifieds to pump up the stats? LOL

        Editor’s Note: Nope.

        Comment by throw some ds on that bitch — October 20, 2011 @ 3:00 am

      • Point of clarification on that Editor’s Note (and please note that this is not meant to be a defense of NASCAR, because I find their attitude toward safety, or lack thereof, completely reprehensible): If we’re looking at the top 3 divisions of NASCAR, since 2000, they have put on something close to 1000 races (Cup does about 36 per year, Nationbusch does about 30, Trucks do about 24; add ’em up and multiply by 11 and you get 990 races in an 11 year span). IndyCar has put on, and I am totally pulling numbers out of my ass here because it’s late and I’m too lazy to look it up, somewhere around 175-180 (they do about 16 per year; multiply by 11 and you get 176). On a “races per fatality” rate, with those numbers that I made up but that I’d wager aren’t all that far off, NASCAR does roughly 62 races per fatality (990 divided by 16). IndyCar does roughly 59 races per fatality (176 divided by 3). That’s only a 5% difference, aka just about exactly the same, given the sample sizes we’re talking about here.

        All’s I’m saying is that if we’re going to throw around statistics, make it apples to apples, please.

        Comment by The Speedgeek — October 20, 2011 @ 3:29 am

      • Then there isn’t 16. There’s 4 between the 3 national touring series since 2000. Speedgeek already pointed out the difference in number of races too. NASCAR had one more death in national touring series with 3 times the races, should you include Indy Lights in the Indycar bracket.

        Editor’s Note: The primary point continues to elude your grasp.

        Comment by throw some ds on that b!tch — October 21, 2011 @ 8:21 am

  8. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but D, I agree that ovals have a lot of history in Indycar racing. Ovals like The Millwaukee Mile do have a history in Indycar racing. 100 years of history unless I’m mistaken. But speed limited, nacar pack racing on 1.5 Mile high banked cookie cutter racing have NO HISTORY what so ever other than Tony,s IRL.

    Editor’s Note: And I am perfectly OK with that. The racing that evolved from the IRL is a lot better than most of what cart offered. Not that what cart offered is bad, but evolution backward to what its fans thought they had would be foolish.

    Comment by Monty — October 19, 2011 @ 4:45 am | Reply

  9. The problem on Sunday was obvious, though only the drivers commented about it during the race delay. There are a number of drivers out there who have precious little experience on ovals. The result of ride buyers from outside the U.S. who really would prefer running in F1 if they could. The drivers talked of other drivers who were reckless, but the better term would have been inexperienced. I don’t know how you solve this problem, but I believe that was the proximate cause of what happened Sunday. Not the car, the track, or anything else being blamed.

    Comment by Bob F. — October 19, 2011 @ 1:11 pm | Reply

  10. I was really surprised by J.Johnsons remarks. I do not agree to him. And I am fearing for Indycar future. I live in NE Europe, but think ovals are a part of Indy racing. Something really went wrong in las Vegas. D.Wheldon`s death is a terrible tragedy. Why did it happen? I hope horrific wreck will be sorted out and investigated. Maybe NASCAR type of oval, too big bumber of cars must be blamed? In youtube, I just see exciting oval racing in Indycars during late eighties, nineties and nothing like that wreck can be seen.
    And some king of hysteria has begun. Sometimes even calling to shut down the series. Many European F-1 fans are commenting this like “what can you expect from death race, racers there are gladiators?”. Most people here totally refuse to understand oval racing.
    At least 1 mile ovals (like Milwaukee) are safer. Or flat 2 milers like Michigan…
    I `ve seen many oval races, they were good without any big crashing. I must admit it`s since 1998 only, when CART was still strong (I was more CART than IRL supporter). Not being a fan travelling, I visited in September of 2001 German 500 (renamed “American Memorial”), when Alex Zanardi suffered in horrific accident. Since 2004 I followed IRL more than Champcar.

    P.S. Did anyone pay attention to the fact, that participants die regularly in Rally Dakkar in recent years? And somehow I`ve never did notice such reaction to it.
    Kubica`s accident showed – rally is also dangerous.

    Comment by M.G. — October 19, 2011 @ 5:45 pm | Reply

  11. Well I knew I was right, you’re using Dan’s death as a way to galvanize support for your usual BS soap box. all your “mourn Dan” stuff was talk…Here we go again…and btw, I’ve never dogged ovals or 1.5 mile ovals. I’ve attended Kentucky, Chicagoland multiple times, and went to Vegas this year and had purchased my Fontana tickets for next year. On the flip side, I’ve only attended one RC (Sonoma this year only) and 1 SC (Long beach last 3 years). So i’m not biased, im just sick of you and the way you only want to preach for one thing and not give up. You represent the worst in the Indycar community, the type of person who only sees Indycar as one thing, and thats the way you want it to be in perpetuity and not the way it has evolved and will continue to…Stop this crap that has its origins in the era of the split. Let’s move on, and stop disrespecting a great champion by using this situation for propaganda.

    Editor’s Note: I’m not the one using Dan’s death to promote an agenda. As a matter of fact, I still grieve. I am merely pointing out how those predisposed toward elimination of all things ‘IRL’ are. If actual fans let their guard down they will lose what took 100 years to build in a matter of hours.

    Comment by tom miles — October 20, 2011 @ 6:10 am | Reply

  12. motor sport is a dangerous business but it doesnt have to be a killer , f1 went through a phase of killing at least one driver a season
    But with the drivers association , the fia and fota the last death was ayrton senna .the leggacy of his accident at imola is that f1 continue to be improving driver, spectator and track saftey

    If it is decided by the irl and the fia ( who are aiding the investigation )that speeds on oval tracks and the size and design of the track and number of competitors on track has to be alterd then it will have to be.
    becuse not one of you will look dan wheldons children and widow in the face and say its SAFE

    The greatest outcome from this tragic event is that in twenty years time that dan wheldon was the Last fatal crash and becuse of that crash we are all still here racing

    Editor’s Note: No form of auto racing is ‘safe.’ That is not what anyone is claiming. I am merely chiding the hysteria of those whose opinions are formed by a dangerous mix of ignorance and hostility.

    Comment by andy — October 20, 2011 @ 8:36 am | Reply

  13. Who are the 16 people killed in Nascar since 2000? List the division too.

    Editor’s Note: Go to Bob Jenkins’ website to satisfy that particular curiosity.

    Comment by TroyM — October 20, 2011 @ 2:37 pm | Reply

    • Featherlite Southwest Series? Western Late Models? ARCA? These aren’t even all NASCAR sanctioned races, dumbass.

      Editor’s Note: The primary point continues to elude your grasp.

      Comment by throw some ds on that b!tch — October 21, 2011 @ 8:23 am | Reply

  14. Re: Fences. As Curt Cavin noted today (Thursday, Oct. 20), IMS has investigated different options with fencing, and so far (unlike the SAFER barrier), has been able to come up with nothing that makes it safer for the drivers. There is also a problem, though not make specific by Cavin, with spectator viewing. But he does note, as drivers have told me, that the fence is there to protect the fans, not the drivers.
    As for your argument that it’s time to declare war on critics, that’s irrational. Improve safety, and the critics will have nothing to criticize.

    Editor’s Note: Valid criticism is one thing, and is rare in this case. Irrational hysteria seems to be the norm, and that is where my issues are centered.

    Comment by A fan — October 20, 2011 @ 5:53 pm | Reply

    • Well, holler all you want, but those predisposed to opinion, correct or not, without regard to facts and logic will not be swayed. What’s that old saying about ignoring the trolls?

      Comment by A fan — October 23, 2011 @ 12:11 am | Reply

  15. Simple way to fix the catch fencing issue: make the safer barrier taller in spots where there is no seating behind the fencing.

    Comment by spreadoption — October 23, 2011 @ 4:40 pm | Reply

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