Saturday in Fontana, California the micromanaging blind squirrels of IndyCar management found a nut and the drivers of the Verizon IndyCar Series unleashed the most edge-of-the-seat exciting race since the early 2000s. 80 lead changes among more than half the field. The start featured a long initial green period with more slicing and dicing than a culinary arts school. It was simply amazing; almost awe inspiring. Even the television staff in the booth lost all pretense of being objective announcers who just call the race and simply became high heart rate, oohing and aaahhhing, cheering fans like everyone else toward the end. Fans were absolutely mesmerized.
The bitching began before the race even concluded. Tim Cindric. Will Power. Juan Montoya. Tony Kanaan. Their common message? Decrying ‘pack racing.’ Using words like ‘crazy.’ Comparing the race to Las Vegas in 2011. Invoking the name of the late Dan Wheldon. Trying to position themselves as knowing more than IndyCar, any fan, or anyone else.
It is easy to understand a lot of their common frustration. As Dario Franchitti opined in a tweet the series won’t listen to anything any of them say so why not take complaints public. Conflict often breeds press and IndyCar can use all of that they can get. Public venting is always good for soap operas and Robin Miller columns but that may still remain unlikely to draw Captain Eyebrows off the golf course long enough to reinforce the notion that a race that great played out in front of so few people in the country’s second largest media market might be better served with a consistent fall date and actual presentation effort, something we have not seen on big ovals outside Indy for years.
What becomes offensive to 50+ year fans like myself is the tone mic spewers take. When they inevitably play the ‘were you in the cockpit/do you think you could do it’ card eyes begin to roll. My first inclination is to tell them to cram the obfuscation. If I was as talented and young as many of them are I would jump in in a millisecond and fully embrace the challenge. But I am old and have never been that talented, so essentially all they seem to be doing is waving their genitals around and positioning everyone else as ignorant. That is offensive. It gets even more disingenuous when they start tossing Dan Wheldon’s name around as a reason the kind of racing we saw yesterday is ‘bad.’
My cynical side suspects the last remnants of the series that killed itself twice makes the mistake of lumping ANY oval race into a ‘pack racing’ bucket simply because no right turns are involved. Realistically any comparison of Fontana on Saturday to Las Vegas in 2011 seem gratuitously dishonest and are spouted primarily to support a flawed agenda. That agenda that in turn leads to all sorts of chicken little hyperbole from selected participants and assorted imbeciles on the Internet about all sorts of dire possibilities such as a car into the stands, driver death or injury, waiting for the ‘big one,’ Russian roulette, etc. Fontana is an ultra-wide track with multiple grooves and more space for squawkers to dive bomb between grooves with no regard for anyone else on the track, something the chronic complainers seemed to do all day. They usually create the danger and subsequent mayhem they decry.
It is difficult to understand how a complete crap show at, say, Detroit can be viewed more favorably than Fontana on Saturday. How can you call something a race when cars are kept away from one another, especially on ovals? I am an American fan who is a big fan of American oval racing. I am sick and tired of formula trained road racers trying to steal or co-opt that legacy to pretend they are Formula 1, which has never been mainstream popular in the United States.
The Fontana race was EXACTLY the kind of show I crave. Most never want to see any accidents or injury. Technology that allows me into various cockpits complete with telemetry on large screens only enhances the total experience. We will rarely see a better oval race than this and I have high hopes for Pocono. I pray the mutineers do not screw that up in advance.