It Matters To Me

I’m not sure what it is about IndyCar racing that brings out my inner detail-nerd. Female co-workers can completely change their hair style and color, and I don’t notice it. Susan can wear a new outfit and I never comment on it because it looks like all the others to me. A couple of years ago, a male co-worker commented on a shirt I was wearing and remarked that I wore it about three weeks earlier. I found the comment sort of strange on several levels, but one was that I don’t even remember what I wore yesterday – much less three weeks ago.

But when it comes to IndyCar racing, I seem to observe the most minute details. This past May, Paul Dalbey and I went to the IMS Museum one afternoon during qualifying. We spent about thirty minutes in front of the car presented as the 1992 winning car of Al Unser, Jr., pointing out the differences between the car in front of us and the car in the winning photos. From the incorrect rear wing that had come off of a Lola instead of a Galmer, to the 1993 style wheels all the way to incorrect placement of decals – we proceeded to pick it apart for things we were both noticing.

When our wives joined us at dinner at Dawson’s that night, I thought Susan might get up and leave the table as Paul and I described the nuances between the 1991 and 1992 Lola as well as the differences between a 1994 and 1995 Reynard. It’s hard to believe the massive eye-rolls that such a conversation generates, because I find it so fascinating. I think one reason why Paul and I get along so well is because we both have a keen eye for small details and we both enjoy totally useless trivia, when it comes to IndyCar racing and the Indianapolis 500 in particular.

Last week I noticed another interesting piece of what some will consider worthless minutiae. During the Firestone test at IMS last Wednesday, it was the first chance for cars to run on the new sealer that has been put down on the track surface. I believe the official term for it is an RPE penetrant, which is mainly to waterproof the surface somewhat and seal some of the existing cracks.

If you listened to Trackside last week, you heard Curt Cavin discussing it. He had mentioned that the track looked darker, but it was expected to lighten up some by May. That didn’t really bother me because the surface had lightened up considerably since it was put down prior to the 2005 race.

I watched some videos of the test where they tested, not only for a new tire compound for next May but new aero pieces to try and improve the oval racing next season. Six cars took part in the test. Former winners Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Will Power and Alexander Rossi were joined by Ed Carpenter and Graham Rahal. They spent a good portion of the day running in a string of six, because the trailing car in a pack really suffered last year on ovals. Reportedly, the tweaks worked well in combination with the tire and the reconditioned track surface.

So what does the test have to do with IndyCar details and minutiae? While I watched the videos and took note of the darker track surface, it dawned on me that the annoying Formula One grid marks just south of the yard of bricks was no longer visible.

To me, this was a huge deal. For decades, camera shots looking down the main straightaway brought your focus strictly to the cars on the track. Since the first US Grand Prix at IMS in 2000, alternating side-to-side grid marks have been painted on the southern part of the main straightaway to mark where the F1 cars should line up for their standing starts. From 2000 until a few weeks ago, these grid marks have been there. Now they are gone.

Many of you will now be convinced that I’m neurotic, but those things have really bothered me. Some of you reading this have probably been oblivious to the fact that they were even there for eighteen years. You might even have to go back and look at photos from this century to even know what I’m talking about. Others probably knew they were there, but it didn’t really matter to them if they were there or not. But it matters to me.

There will be a very small minority of people out there that are in full agreement with me on this – but not many. Still, I always cringed just a little bit when I looked at any photo or video and saw the cars going over those marks. I found them irritating, annoying and very distracting.

If you are watching the Super Bowl, would you really want to see the lines of a soccer field drawn over the gridiron? It bothers me to watch a college basketball game on a floor that is also marked for volleyball. I’m normally not obsessive compulsive about most things, but when it comes to bigtime sports – I want them to have a bigtime look.

In my mind, you don’t get any bigger than the Indianapolis 500. I want the track to look like it did prior to 1994 when it was used for only one event per year. I don’t want to see faded paint from an event two weeks ago or twelve years ago. Whatever is in the sealant has done something where those lines are no longer visible. If the track lightens up by next May as Curt Cavin predicts, I hope those grid marks don’t come back.

Now that I’ve convinced you that my obsession with the Indianapolis 500 has gone from quirky to borderline psychotic, you may think I’ve lost my mind. The thing is – this is nothing recent. I’ve always been this way when it comes to IndyCar. These things matter to me. Now…just what did I wear yesterday?

George Phillips

11 Responses to “It Matters To Me”

  1. I can’t believe it took this long to get rid of those marks. I hope they’re gone for good.

  2. They bothered me at first. I just stopped paying attention to them. I didn’t like seeing the marks on the track. I’m glad they’re gone.

  3. Yes, George, I had lunch Friday with Jeff Boles (Doug’s father) and he related that they also got all of the donut rubber the idiot NAPCRAP drivers left on the track and bricks after the Brickyard thing cleaned off! Doug was NOT HAPPY about them doing that.

    And they are very careful NOT to call it a sealer, for it does actually penetrate the asphalt and does its job under the surface so they won’t have to use actual sealant in the future. They also took rear Firestone tires from last May’s race and dragged them around the track for a couple of days to lay some rubber back down into it. THEN they had the test Wednesday to lay more rubber down while they were looking at new compounds and wing angles. Oh, and it looks fantastic in person, and the cars really “pop” on that darkened surface!

    • M.Lawrenson Says:

      I remember saying at the time that IMS management should have made clear to NASCAR how this worked – “Wanna do donuts on the bricks after your race wins, dude? Sure! Just remember to come back tomorrow with a bucket of soapy water and a scrubbing brush.”

  4. BrandonWright77 Says:

    Technically, they weren’t for Formula 1. I believe the most recent marks you saw there were from MotoGP which still raced here up until a couple years ago, and MotoGP starting blocks are different from F1 (smaller and usually three across, staggered). During one of the live streams from IMS a year or two ago I asked Kevin Lee why those lines were still there since MotoGP doesn’t race here anymore, he found out they were last used for the Formula 4 race in 2017. So while they may have been bothersome to some the lines were there for a purpose and not just leftover from the old F1 races. Not sure there’s any plans for F4 to come back so they probably finally did away with them.

    • billytheskink Says:

      MotoGP ran the Indy road course counterclockwise and did not use the Formula 1 marks. MotoGP’s marks were placed north of the yard of bricks, the F1 boxes were south of the yard of bricks because they ran the track clockwise. George is correct that those F1 marks were still there until this sealer was put down. The MotoGP marks seem to have disappeared prior to the 2016 500.

      The track does look much better without all these marks. I guess the F1 marks were retained for as long as they were for use in the SCCA runoffs and other potential standing start events on the road course.

      • BrandonWright77 Says:

        Regardless, the marks were used as recent as last year for the Formula 4 race, so despite some people with kids in their yards being bothered by them they were still of some use. 🙂 SCCA Runoffs were all rolling starts as far as I can recall so I don’t think they were used for that. I was never bothered by them, but then my yard is devoid of kids to yell at. 🙂

  5. Regular readers here are familiar with your obsessions. As for me, I would not be happy to see a Tennessee Tartan logo at Lambeau Field.

  6. James T Suel Says:

    Yes I catch some of changes on cars in the museum.Another car that is not like it was is the 1960 winning car, the KenPual special. I am glad the standing starting lines are gone!

  7. billytheskink Says:

    One of the little details that matters to me are the Cummins Diesel decals on Al Unser’s 1987 winner. The car’s right sidepod said “CUMMINS” in all capitals during the race, allegedly due to a decal shortage/issue in the Penske shop preventing them from displaying the late-arriving sponsor properly as “Cummins” on both sidepods. The car has since been “corrected” and continues to be displayed that way, unfortunately.

  8. Mark J Wick Says:

    In the video I saw from the test, I could still see the Formula positioning box lines. They were not as noticeable, but I also have a very sharp eye for detail about Indy and Indy cars.
    The #20 STP Johncock winning Eagle in the museum is also quite different from the winning car. The rear wing is wrong as well as the style of the numbers.

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