If you were invited to play a somewhat unfamiliar game, for a large prize, on the invitee’s ‘turf’, viewed by a million people, and at risk of besmirching the company that provides your current lucrative living, one of two things might happen, so what would YOU say?
“Heh, thanks, but no, thanks”.
Something like that maybe. So it goes with the few NASCAR drivers who might be qualified to make Indycar’s World Challenge at the very least interesting. Some have gone so far as to make elaborate and uninformed excuses why ‘it wouldn’t be fair’. That’s simply smart business. Allow the ego to be soothed by that bed of cash you roll around in, realizing that, no matter how badly you want to accept and win that challenge, you don’t need it. Money has become to the NASCAR driver what that sweet high-school girlfriend was to the boyfriend whom with she pleaded to keep from getting into another scrap after the football game. The Id has again calmed and protected the Self from the fire of the Super-ego.
I have no doubt a few of the NASCAR drivers might be capable of fairly competing. Most of the NASCAR crowd, in my view, would be more fish out of water than in the reverse and very well know it, despite their ‘facts’ proving otherwise. Even with top-flight equipment the odds of winning the Challenge are marginal, say 10:1, at best. Probably more like 20:1 for the few NASCAR jockeys capable. I’d put Stewart at the top of the list with a second-tier of Kahne, Gordon, and the like in that 20:1 bracket. The rest, just fish in a barrel.
“You’re ON! Anytime, anyplace!”
All the sweet smell of… SUCKERRRRR! You’ve just stepped into the trap.. er, arena and now you’re about to get abused only for the gain of others. Just couldn’t keep your mouth shut could you? Now, at best, you could walk away with a $5 million prize, but odds are far more likely you’ll will be a lap down by the first pit stop. Only then will the “I should’ve listened to Mr. France and kept my mouth shut”, thought occur, realizing you now have two racing sanctions who don’t care for you. Anyone remember what happened to Rocky Balboa when Clubber Lang called him out in public? Yep, that’s right, severe ass-whuppin’ from the hungrier challenger. Rocky should’ve listened to Mickey and sailed off into the sunset.
“But I can win this thing! I can be the hero!”, you’ll say. Yes, and an Offenhauser might fly out of your lower digestive tract. Even odds favorite Tony Stewart knows better and he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer so what does that make you?
Dumb AND Stupid.
NASCAR’s revision of its points system, and the reaction to it, has returned me, like the swallows to Capistrano, to my very core base of appreciation for INDYCAR. Screaming typographics aside, the debate of on-track action between INDYCAR and NASCAR for this writer has always boiled down to one very simple inherent element – open wheels.
“…you’re out there giving it 100 percent, you’re out there to win the race
each and every week anyway, but you’re not going to
step underneath somebody if you’re loose
and you know they’re going to make you even looser.
You’re not going to try to make that pass for
a fifth place and take a chance of finishing 35th.”
Recollecting the ‘mosh-pit’ nature of action often found in a stock car race, there are some who will see it as Bowyer does, encouraging more caution and conservatism to attain the precious points for your season, seemingly reducing the impetus to race. One wonders if this also allows for backmarkers and multiple-car teams to play a more significant role in the system. I certainly don’t have any immediate suspects, but one could see how a car suffering misfortune early and dropping back to 32nd place could roll around out there until the opportunity presents to, er.. ‘assist’ a teammate by impeding or (dare I say it?) ‘chrome horn’ an opposing car out of contention (that doesn’t really happen, does it?). Tongue, meet cheek.
The ability to ‘bump and grind’ and ‘loosen-up’ and ‘slide-job’ and ‘soldier on’ after repairs (and all those other wonderful stock car colloquialisms) certainly allows for this to happen. Perhaps that IS the very nature of that form of auto-racing which makes it popular with so many. For others, this isn’t racing at all which brings me to my point (yes, finally).
INDYCAR (or Indycar as I like to call it), from it’s inception, has the simple and inherent beauty (and violent danger) of being an auto-racing form which has vehicles specifically featuring open-wheels. No fenders means no ‘grind-bump-draft-slide-job-loosen-sheet metal repairs’.
‘Open wheels’ means a pass must be judged and made skillfully or the penalty for locking wheels often takes both drivers, and even others, out of the race (or sometimes on a tragic occasion even out of this life). To this writer, this is, and has always been, the singlemost reason why I appreciate the sport of Indycar more than any other form of racing.
Formula 1, it can be argued, contains the highest level of technology in a similar open-wheel format, but due to their European origin on street and road courses, it’s oft-turned and rapidly-deccelrated wheels requires primary skill in braking and turning and never reaches the overt and thrilling speeds (or passing) found with Indycars on ovals. NASCAR had speeds sometimes approaching the relative ballpark of Indycars (albeit many years and restrictions ago) on matching ovals, but all too often relies on less-sporting driving skills and tactics, and certainly aren’t also made very well for going left AND right as Indycars will also do.
I am fully aware that success in NASCAR also requires a skillset, but in my view Indycar has always represented the apogee of where extreme speed meets sporting skillfulness. I also believe that once seen in this light, Indycar has no equal in what it provides to its audience. Only then does one begin to truly understand the heritage and legacy found in its 100 years of racing.
The latest chassis (and engine) rules for 2012 have embraced this heritage by allowing this primary element to remain, yet not allowed private technology budgets to attempt to dictate the competition. This is why INDYCAR is still my preferred form of auto racing and why so many, who’ve yet to cast an eye on it will appreciate it as we, the dedicated, do.
Nearly every year since my third Indy 500 back in 1988, I’ve brought a person who has never seen an Indycar race (or in some cases any auto-racing event) to their first Indycar race only to have them be amazed at the sounds, smells, sights, speed, and atmosphere of it all. I’m glad to have passed this along to my friends as my father and mother did for me back in 1979. I intend to do it again this year and challenge you to bring at least one ‘newbie’ to a race in 2011, as there is truly no substitute for the experience.
Random Indycar Stream-of-Consciousness-of-the-Day:
1. Sarah Fisher has officially won me over as favorite Indycar team owner. Oddly, had she not gone through all the sponsor crap and race misfortune from May 2008, I doubt she would have reached the level she is today.
2. Relatedly, I have a recurring thought/dream that keeps nagging – Tony Kanaan, sick of the Andretti Team drama leaves Andretti Racing and joins Sarah Fisher’s team. 99.875% sure this will never happen, but I get the feeling he was so sincerely sympathetic to how much he (and his spin in front of Sarah’s car causing their May ’08 Indy 500 collision) affected her entire program and life. He decides that her story and modus operandi for the fledgling Sarah Fisher Racing program is suitable to his genuine and honest hardworking personality. TK and SF, BFFs. OK, maybe too Hollywood.
3. 2012 racing machine specs – Allow alternate propulsion systems for Indycars mated to a single, approved chassis. Lead the way into the new automotive technologies instead of lagging it… ahem NASCAR.
4. Pay Shaquille O’Neal to become official SuperFan of the IZOD Indycar Series. Allow him to render any or all of his awesomeness to promoting the series.
5. Allow Danica to go to NASCAR without any fanfare either positive or negative. This league existed before her and will exist after (see Sam Hornish, Jr.).
More thoughts to come…