Two weeks ago at Fontana something really cool happened (other than the great IndyCar action) on the track and in the far garages. There were a bunch of meticulously restored IndyCars that covered most of the history of the sport. They had, among many others, the 7th place finishing car in the first 500 in 1911 as well as the 1961 Cooper Climax that changed everything at Indy. For history buffs these cars were gorgeous.
The most interesting single car I saw was not really anything special from a statistical standpoint. It was one of three Antares from 1972; specifically the #14 driven by Roger McCluskey. It did not set the track on fire either. It qualified 30th and finished 24th. What made it interesting was not its borderline ignominious performance, its only-a-mother-could-love looks, or its common Offy powerplant. The Antares was fascinating, at least at the time, because it was the first formula car ever designed on a computer.
My actual point is much deeper than nostalgia over an ugly Indy Car. One of the thrills experienced through the 1970s was innovation that led to higher speeds. In that single decade FORTY-FIVE different chassis hit the track in Indy Car. In most years the venues were 100% oval, and that began to change toward the end of the decade. Pole speeds increased from 170 in 1970 to 192 in 1980, and Tom Sneva officially busted through 200 late in the decade.
Many fans like to point out what they feel is missing from Indy Car today. For many it is the spirit of innovation that led to new designs and high speeds despite a tug of war with management to keep it all under control, mostly with futility.
The leadership of IndyCar today seems to have completely forgotten many of the aspects that made the sport compelling in the ‘old days.’ We appreciate Dallara in a number of ways such as building competitive, safe, fast cars and their efforts in revitalizing Speedway are commendable. It is also certain they will build a nice next generation Lights car. The problem is it is ONLY Dallara. That is a problem that can be very easily solved.