"Peace On Earth" For The IndyCar World

As we inch closer to Christmas Day, one of the regular readers of this site, Mike Clossin, suggested it might be appropriate to consider some of the good things going on in the IndyCar world. I thought this was an excellent idea since there seems to be so much venom spewing right now with about every article you read regarding the Izod IndyCar Series. I’m guilty of some of it myself.

As we all spout off about things like Danica going to NASCAR, the radical concept that may be the next Indy car or the shortened schedule in May – it might be an appropriate time to drop the swords for a short time to see what good things are going on in the IICS. I broached the subject over Thanksgiving when I wrote about what the IRL has to be thankful for, but there are a few other aspects of this segment we need to discuss.

First of all, the new “Road to Indy” plan that was just unveiled by the league is a huge step forward. Before, the path to the Indy 500 for young aspiring drivers was muddled. Now that the league has added the Star Mazda Series as well as the U.S. F2000 to the Firestone Indy Lights Series as a three-step ladder program for advancement to the Izod IndyCar Series, things are at least a lot clearer. It’s not any easier but at least the path has been cleared up. In the past, there was no distinct path for young drivers. This won’t convince any young star to choose Indy over NASCAR, but for those that want to follow the open-wheel route; they have at least created a map in how to reach the top.

Speaking of NASCAR…don’t look now, but I think that they may actually be feeling the sting of this economic environment more than the IICS. The teams of the Izod IndyCar Series were more or less forced to cut back a couple of years ago. They have been down to a lean & mean state for a while now. They’re primed and ready to move forward. NASCAR is faced with higher overhead combined with dwindling crowds and TV ratings. While it’s tempting to chuckle just a bit – it doesn’t do anyone in motorsports any good for one of the major series to be hurting.

And while we’re on the subject of one series gloating over the other, that brings us to the Christmas theme that I wanted to explore.

I really enjoy reading Curt Cavin’s articles at The Indianapolis Star. But for some reason, I always feel compelled to read the comment section after his articles on IndyStar.com. Unlike the comment section of most of the IndyCar blog sites that are either well thought out points, humorous or both – the comment section on The Star web site seemed to written by the angriest of IndyCar fans.

Whether the article was about Danica’s new paint job or the Chevy Camaro that will again pace the field at Indy in 2010 – somehow the comment section will quickly devolve into a battle of wits between the lowest common denominators on the planet; with both sides playing the same tired CART Vs. IRL card. The outcomes of these encounters are always predictable and never pretty.

There have been two full racing seasons to come and go since unification between ChampCar and IndyCar took place. To be arguing about who won and who screwed whom, is pointless. In 1996, I was in CART’s corner all the way. I gave up my Indy tickets and stayed away from 1996 until I returned in 2003. Nothing gave me more pleasure than watching Juan Montoya dominate in Indy 2000 and then to watch the CART sweep of the first six positions of the 2001 Indianapolis 500. Healthy discussions and debates are good for sports. It’s when things sink to the level of when two anonymous internet strangers are hiding behind screen names, arguing about who sucks the most – that things get to a destructive stage.

The biggest reason for my joy was that I was hoping it would hasten the end of the ridiculous split in open-wheel racing. I followed most of the top teams from CART when they migrated over to the IRL in the first part of this decade. I didn’t care about the philosophy of one series over the other. I cared about the Indy 500 and followed the series I thought had the most staying power – and by 2004, that was the IRL

Both sides had their faults in the late nineties. They both made mistakes and both acted like a group of second-graders at times. Quite honestly, I didn’t care which side won so long as the Indianapolis 500 was preserved and the split finished early. Well, neither happened.

The split drug on for twelve years and the Indianapolis 500 lost a great deal of its luster, as a direct result of this split. What can I do about it? Well, if I’m a loyal reader of The Star — I can put up a daily post to slam Tony George for ruining the 500 via the split. That will certainly get others to weigh in real quickly about the varying viewpoints of the open-wheel split. Suddenly, we don’t even remember that Curt Cavin wrote an article about tires, as the comment section takes on a life of its own.

Quite honestly, I don’t know why the Champ car side is so slow to embrace the unified series. With high-dollar teams, engine leases, foreign drivers, the majority of tracks on road courses and international races; the IRL of today more closely resembles CART of the nineties than it does the IRL of the nineties.

The truth of the matter is, there is nothing I or anyone else can do about the past. We can either continue to point fingers and worry about which side won, or we can try to do what we can to support the Izod IndyCar Series. When compared to NASCAR, it is an awfully good product. My concern for the sport is for the next five years. My personal opinion is that the long-term prospects look good for the sport. If the league can survive the next five years, the groundwork that is being laid in marketing and driver/team development will pay dividends down the road.

In the meantime, I implore both sides to embrace the Christmas spirit. We need stop being so angry about something we can’t change. The only thing that can change is the future. If you want to see open-wheel racing thrive in the next decade, hop aboard the bandwagon. There’s plenty of room. If you want off, we’ll stop and let you off so you can quietly go do something else. But don’t stay on board simply to cause trouble. All that will do is create havoc and make our admittedly small fan base implode.

So in this Christmas season, let there be Peace on Earth in our IndyCar world. Like any family, we all have our differences. But also like any family, we’ll crumble if we focus too much on the transgressions of the past instead of moving forward.

George Phillips

19 Responses to “"Peace On Earth" For The IndyCar World”

  1. Here, here, George. Merry Christmas!

  2. Here, here. Great post.

    Colts & Patriots fans hate each other’s teams, they don’t hate the NFL. In the ‘old days’, Pacers & Knicks fans hated each other’s teams, they didn’t hate the NBA. The governing body is the one and only remaining AOW governing body. That’s it, that’s all we got. I certainly wish that those angry fans (on both sides) would put all of that emotion and energy into creating rivalries on the track and between teams. I would be fine w/ people rooting for ex-ChampCar teams against original IRL teams, rather than the fall of the series. That, I actually believe, would be productive.

  3. H. B. Donnelly Says:

    Cheers to that, George.

    I’d like to expound upon it (and you touched on it briefly) and include the NASCAR folks into the fold. I feel as though some IRL fans, bloggers and blog commenters would like nothing better than to see NASCAR fail. True, there are certain NASCAR races that are beyond boring, but there are others that are an absolute hoot to watch and are fantastic displays of car control. I understand that outlets such as ESPN trying their darndest to completely ignore the IRL and put NASCAR on a pedestal can get annoying, and I understand that jokers like Ed Hinton like to make wild claims about how easy it is to drive an open-wheeler even though he wouldn’t even be able to fit in the cockpit. But if you brush aside the media aspect, there is nothing but respect from both sides for the other series and you know that, were the money right from the IRL’s end of things, (which it might be in the near future once NASCAR has adjusted its finances) these NASCAR drivers would gladly point an IndyCar into Turn 1 at 230. On the flip-side, some of these IRL guys and gals would gladly like to race the pack through the tri-oval in February if given the opportunity.

    Let’s have the fans show the same mutual respect that the drivers show and have peace on Earth not just in open-wheel, but in the entire racing world.

    • Well said, sir. I’ve been a fan of open wheel racing and Nascar for over 10 years (basically, from early elementary school on) and within the last two years, have grown bored with Nascar. Honestly, I hate that. I liked arguing with my dad about which race to watch on TV when I was younger because I knew both were good races. Now, I hardly watch Nascar races, but I’ll make much effort to watch the IICS races online. Go figure. Both types of cars have their challenges and true fans will acknowledge that both cars have their merits, even if they are biased towards one series or another.

      Branching off from the comments about the open-wheel fans, I feel the fans don’t let The Split end. Because it lasted so long, it will most likely come up when discussing open-wheel racing because it dictated a lot of the events of the last 14 years. In the tribute video the IndyCar series did for Paul Newman, it makes a mention of him writing a letter with Roger Penske to the fans in which they were encouraged to put the split behind them. Those guys were examples of what a true fan of open-wheel racing does. We’re all in this together and we’ll never gain popularity until we (the fans) cease to be divided. Simple as that.

  4. Merry Christmas, everyone, and stay out of the marbles in 2010.

  5. My sentiments exactly. I too started on the other side of the split but eventually saw the writing on the wall and just wanted to see the sport survive and get its legs back. Sometimes these cc guys who refuse to let go and move on remind me of the boyfriends who murder their ex’es after a break up. “If I can’t have you then no one will”.

    One thing I differ with you a bit on. I think we are y2 into the 5 year danger zone. Once the “class of 2010” (as I referred to them acouple posts ago on my page) becomes established in their third year racing the young talent already in the league, both driving new chassis with multiple engine mfgrs the IICS will finally catch TG’s proverbial “tailwind”.

  6. Excellent post, George, and excellent comments from the readers. I totally agree. The past is over. We can learn from it, but to be truly successful, we as fans need to stop cannibalizing ourselves and come together to make the IICS the best series it can be. Sadly, I doubt this will really happen, but this is the time to think of such things.

    Happy Holidays, everyone.

  7. Well since CART morphed into the IRL… I never had a problem “coming back”. Robin Miller was right… this 12 year war was Tony’s power grab (pure & simple) 💡

    The IRL never made all ovals & American fields work… I see why people are pi$$ed 💡 How many of OW drivers were lost to NASCAR during this OW War ❓ Lets hope things get better… especially with this rumored “radical new car” in 2012 ❗ ❗ ❗ 🙂 🙂 🙂

  8. Dale Christenson Says:

    WOW, thank you George, I needed that!!!!! I have been a fan of the Indianapolis 500 since the late 50’s. I remember listening to Sid Collins on the radio with my father. He passed away without ever having the chance to see Indy. I saw my first in 1966 and truly loved the place. As a matter of fact, I told my wife that when I died, I wanted to be cremated and sprinkled into the creek in the first turn. I HATED Tony George for what he did to the race. Now, it may or may not be all of his fault, but I blamed it all on him. That is now water under the dam. George, you are right, all we can now is to support Open Wheel as much as we can. Put your support behind all of the sponsors that we have in the series and e-mail them to tell them that we appreciate their involvement. Attend as many races as you can and bring your friends, they may be the new fans that we are looking for. God Speed to all of the drivers in 2010. May it be a FAST & SAFE YEAR. Let’s go RACING.

    Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night

  9. I agree, the CART/IRL thing gets old, particularly for someone who didn’t start watching Open Wheel Racing until the very end(07) of the split. I’m thankful for the Delta Wing project, and hopeful about multiple manufacturers(Dallara, Delta Wing, Swift, mabye Penske?)

    • I’m eager to see the Delta Wing Project before I can be thankful for it 😉

      However is it just me or is that name just goofy ❓ Delta WING… when the car is rumored to be the 1st WINGLESS Indycar in years ❗ 💡 🙂

      I hope we all get a late Christmas Gift & Robin Miller’s prediction comes true. That we all see images of Ben Bowlby’s Delta concept in January 2010 ❗

  10. Huh, I have never read the comments section for Curt Cavin’s article, and I tend to read all of them! But then again, I’m fresh out of college and therefore have only every seen two years when there weren’t TWO series, so don’t understand the underlying anger of fans of racing since before that. I rooted for both Jimmy Vasser in CART and Buddy Lazier in the IRL, and while I love superspeedways above all yet enjoy road racing (heck, I record all the F1 races every year). I’m just upset that the merger didn’t result in SeaBass and Tracy against Hornish and Scheckter (grumble grumble).

    So, for the six people still arguing about CCWS vs IRL, I hope they get coal this Christmas. The rest of us will continue to enjoy a unified field of drivers and teams going at it on the streets of Long Beach and Toronto, on the high banks of Texas, and of course at Indy. And we’ll also keep on reading great websites like Cavin’s Q&A and Oilpressure!

  11. Good stuff George – wholeheartedly agree. I picked up on CART in Europe in ’96 and fell off the radar in about 2002/03 when the series started losing TV deals, but cannot fathom the anger on the Star’s messageboards – it seems such a pointless waste of energy.

    As far as I see it, we should embrace the present and future of this sport as well as the past, but what happened in years passed should be a guide as opposed to being a noose. My opinion is “…if people don’t want to come to the party, let them stay home and watch TV instead…”

  12. “Like any family, we all have our differences.”

    Well if Pressdog quit hogging the remote & drinking too much at Thanksgiving, we wouldn’t HAVE those differences.

  13. Thanks for the shout out. I think it’s 5 in Australia right now, now that you mention it …

  14. Hey hey hey. I do NOT shout Danica’s name in my sleep. I merely murmur it. I plead not guilty to all charges.

  15. i used to leve indycar racing, but now it seems that it doesn’t exist anymore, sad, so sad

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