IndyCar Stars – Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth

Indy 500 WhinersMy patience has all but ended and I have heard enough. ‘Leading IndyCar drivers’ (as described by Racer Magazine) really ought to try and clamp a lid on disingenuous hyperbole. If they ever wonder why there are so few fans in stands or watching in general perhaps this holdout fan can shed a little light. Those guys put on the absolute best show anywhere in years at Fontana on Saturday but did not even wait until the end of it to start ripping it to shreds.

The definition of the words ‘pack racing’ seem to have expanded to mean ‘racing on any oval except Indianapolis or Milwaukee.’ Also, any invoking of the Dan Wheldon accident in Las Vegas to decry the racing at Fontana race is sleazy, gratuitous and misleading. As a 50+ year fan that sentiment seems offensive. Dan Wheldon died after his car hit another car, went airborne and impacted a post with his head. A freak accident. Just like the one that killed Jeff Krosnoff on a street course. Similar to the one that ended Dario Franchitti’s career. In racing freak accidents happen. There were so many other tangible differences between Vegas in 2011 and Fontana in 2015 that attempting to link the two events is, at best, desperate.

IndyCar T ShirtCan you imagine the degree of underwear staining had these guys tried to race in the 50s or 60s or earlier? Based on their current level of bitching any comparison of them to legacy champions for whom the concept of accomplishment included being able to survive year to year with their lives seems utterly laughable. This situation is not Jackie Stewart-style safety advocacy. It is chicken-little agenda mongering mixed with a healthy dose of mutiny. Say what you will about Hulman-George tutelage of the sport but one thing that has never ceased under their watch is an unending quest for safer racing. Today the sport is safer than at any time in history.

Positioning subjectively judged ‘pack racing’ as the cause of most any accident is intellectually dishonest. The cause of accidents, whether in a pack or not, is usually equipment failure (very rare these days) or bad driving. It does not even take two cars to end badly. How do these ‘leading IndyCar drivers’ expect to attract new fans with such self-destructive, arrogant rhetoric, and in many cases implying fans are the problem!? I keep wondering whether my upcoming trip to Pocono will be my last oval opportunity outside Indy ever again. Oh well. That track is big enough for 23 cars to stretch out on. That track at 2.5 miles makes it possible to keep 574 feet between each car. Is that enough not to cause another Dan Wheldon, Tony?

13 replies to “IndyCar Stars – Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth

  1. I have to say if Pocono, Milwaukee and Fontana disappear from the schedule, so will I. I have no interest in F1 Lite.

    Where is Tony George when you need him?

  2. I don’t know what these drivers are bitching about either. It’s called RACING, right? That means you’re SUPPOSED to get close. They are always saying they want to put on a good show for the fans–which they did at Fontana–then they say it’s too dangerous. These guys would never stand a chance against the drivers of old, who put their lives on the line every time they climbed into a sprint, dirt, or midget car, not to mention less-than-safe Indy cars of the time. Tony Kanaan is whom I’m especially disappointed in, as I thought he was the face of the tough Indy car driver. Maybe he’s just getting a little old for this sort of thing. Or maybe it IS some sort of Dan Wheldon syndrome. Or maybe they should all just chuck it and take up golf.

  3. It appears we have reached the ultimate dilemma: We seem to have a group of drivers who have no desire to provide the kind of racing that appeals to many of the fan base who have supported this series (in various incarnations) for 50 years or more. We have a series that seems to avoid anything that resembles the dreaded “pack racing.” It occurs to me that Dario Franchitti’s career ending accident at Houston came on (gasp) a street circuit, where the racing is supposed to be safe. We seem to be getting the message that, “sure, Fontana was an incredible show for the fans, but we can’t be doing that.”

    Excuse me, all you big bold race car drivers, but without FANS, you have no RACE, no MONEY, no SPONSORS, no NOTHING! And, while there is a percentage of the fan base that would be just fine with road/street racing plus Indianapolis, most of us were brought up on USAC Championship cars on ovals and a lot of us are tired of excuses as to why we can’t at least have SOME semblance of balance between road, street, and oval racing. If you drivers put on a show like we saw at Fontana on a more consistent basis, sooner or later that word (and excitement) is going to get around. I only hope the powers that be don’t screw the pooch before Pocono.

    Does that mean we (as fans) are a bloodthirsty lot who want to see drivers die at the rate of 5 or 6 a year (as used to happen back in the 50’s and 60’s?) Hell No, but we’re not the ones driving nose first into a situation where not everyone may be under control. Plus, the cars are safer than they have ever been. We have seen several exhibitions lately of superb precision driving in close quarters where nothing disastrous happened.

    1. If your point of seeking balance between ovals and road/street courses holds merit then why have the stands been on the decline or in some cases almost empty at most ovals besides Indy? Milwaukee, Fontana, Iowa, (thunder, lightning) Texas, Im just asking? My last non-Indy oval was Kentucky in 2011 and that was the most pathetic crowd I have ever seen at a live event.
      Editor’s Note: The number one reason (based on first hand observation) is that IndyCar puts almost no effort into presentation. About the only thing they do is drive a mobile ‘fan zone’ and merchandise tents to tracks and set ’em up. At the big tracks there are rarely support events. Pre-race festivities include basically Michael Young with a microphone. There is nothing that resembles an Indy-style experience. My belief is that it is a willful attempt to kill the genre.

      The oval, USAC traditionalists and supporters keep screaming about the road course /street course heavy schedule as the oval attendance continues to decline at every track. What does that mean to me? That means to me, oval supporters are in denial about what is going on and get off your asses and get to a race and actually back up your rhetoric. I like ovals as well and believe IndyCar should be a equal mix of ovals, road courses, and street courses. That is what makes it go great.
      Editor’s Note: My party attends most of them every year. In terms of sheer honesty the road and street courses do not fare that much better, if at all. Trees and city streets are not as glaring as aluminum.

      1. Dirty little secret for you, tone: stands are almost empty at most ALL IndyCar events, not just ovals. It’s just easier to see at ovals, where stands are permanent and capacities are known. But if you believe there’s actually any more than 10-15,000 people attending St. Pete, Barber, NOLA, Detroit, Toronto, or Snore-noma, you’re deluding yourself. It’s merely the lack of verifiable grandstand seats that makes those “events” look “successful.”
        Truth is, ovals as a whole are no worse off than roads or streets.
        The one piece of empirical data we can look at is: the series that started as oval-based is still around. The series that chose to focus to roads/streets went out of business. Twice. (I may owe Defender a royalty for that one.)

      2. So, Andrew, what you’re saying is: Indycar isn’t popular ANYWHERE, outside of the 500.

        Funny how the rest of us knew that ages ago. And our comments to that effect are routinely deleted/moved.

  4. To the three of you above who commented….THANK YOU! Truer words have not been spoken. Here it is after 4 pm EST on Monday and I STILL can’t get the grin off my face from just how damned exciting that race was. Pocono last year was a snooze-fest as those cars kept huge distances between them damned near the entire race. (I’m not going back this year). Give me consistently more of what happened on Saturday and I’m everywhere, every race day! Bravo to the young Turks who entered the field of battle on Saturday and COMPETED, without complaint. YOU are the future of IndyCar!! Be safe and prosper….at 225 mph with lots of downforce!!!

  5. I agree with what you say, Skip, but with the pitiful turnout there was at ACS, regardless of the great competition we saw, I don’t know if we’re going to get another chance to see the Indy cars there. I don’t know how long they’re going to be able to keep this going with almost no ticket sales. I’m like you, I can remember the USAC races at Milwaukee, Phoenix, Michigan, Langhorne, and Trenton, among others, and almost full stands for all.

  6. “Those guys put on the absolute best show anywhere in years at Fontana on Saturday but did not even wait until the end of it to start ripping it to shreds.”

    The comments from some of the drivers were the sports equivalent of:

    Carlton Fisk saying after Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, “It is stupid to play three extra innings. We should just use softball’s international tiebreaker and put a runner on second base to start every half inning if the score is tied in the 10th inning. if we did that, then we probably would have been out of here an hour ago.”

    Or Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim saying immediately after that 6-overtime Big East tournament game against UConn, “It’s crazy that our players have to come back in less than 24 hours and play another game. We’re going back to Syracuse and resting for the NCAA tournament. It’s crazy that noboyd got hurt playing that long tonight. We don’t want to play tomorrow night because somebody could get hurt because of having to play so many minutes of basketball in 24 hours.It’s dangerous.”

    Or Pete Carroll explaining the decision to pass at the goal line in the closing seconds of last season’s Super Bowl with this: “Giving the ball to Marshawn Lynch and letting him run full speed into a pack of 300-pound players … somebody is going to get hurt if we keep doing that. Having Lynch try to leap over the pack and the goal line might be exciting for the fans, but it’s dangerous for the players. Somebody is going to be paralyzed or even die by running the ball into a pack at the goal line. Someone or multiple people need to lose their jobs over even suggesting running the ball because that is an absolute disgrace.”

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