Fans Have a Right to Speak and Be Heard

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I’ve gone off on a rant about this topic before, and I will probably feel the need to write about it again before the start of the IndyCar season. As most of you know, the NTT IndyCar Series conducted its first on-track test of the new aeroscreen at IMS on Wednesday. Scott Dixon and Will Power ran for the better part of the day, conducting various tests and configurations. Overall, both drivers gave the safety device glowing reviews.

There is no denying that Wednesday was a pivotal day in safety development for IndyCar. I applaud the series for taking the necessary steps to protect the drivers that risk their lives each time they crawl into a cockpit. Some say that had this been on the car a few years ago, that Dan Wheldon and Justin Wilson would still be with us today. That may be true, but you can’t say that with certainty. Still, the series deserves praise for not only doing what is required to silence critics, but actually going a step further than any other series, by incorporating a clear windscreen along with a halo-device as seen in Formula One.

So what’s the rant going to be about? You’re about to find out.

If you are a football fan, you know that my Tennessee Vols are having a disastrous season of historic significance. Tennessee has been playing football since 1891. In that time, they had never lost more than seven games in a season until the Butch Jones-led team of 2017 that went 4-8. Most agree that this team, which is 1-3 headed into tomorrow night’s game against No. 3 ranked Georgia, is destined to lose nine or more games this season – setting a new mark for futility for this once-proud program.

While most fans are publicly criticizing the team and the coaching staff, there are those fans looking through orange-colored glasses that say that these fans who are critical of the program just need to go away. “We don’t need fans like you” and “You’re not a true fan if you criticize the Vols” are commonly seen on message boards and social media.

I highly disagree with this attitude. I think fans have every right to criticize every aspect of the team when they see something they don’t like. As a fan (and an alumnus) of the University of Tennessee, I have paid a lot of money over the decades and invested a lot of time going to games as well as watching them on television. Publicly criticizing the team doesn’t mean you want the team to lose or that you’ve turned your back on them. It just means you’re passionate about the team and you’re vocalizing your displeasure about the current situation. Fans that have truly turned their back no longer voice their displeasure. They just stop paying attention.

Remember…the opposite of love is not hate, it’s apathy.

So what does this have to do with IndyCar or Wednesday’s aeroscreen test, you ask? Again…you’re about to find out.

While I applaud IndyCar for taking that extra step in trying to protect their drivers, there is one cruel fact about the aeroscreen as it was tested yesterday – it’s ugly. And I don’t mean it’s a little ugly – it’s very ugly. See for yourself in the following pictures that I took off of either the IndyCar or the IMS Facebook pages. You can click on each photo to enlarge it.

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EF4jJwbXoAMV3mg

EF4YyCOWoAEzSQi (1)

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EF5UWs6XkAIpDU9

Apparently, I am not alone in my assessment of the aesthetics of the car with the aeroscreen on it. Fans overwhelmingly talked about how it ruined the looks of a car they had finally gotten right with the new common aero kit introduced for the 2018 season. Most fans qualified their comments the same way I have. They understood the need for safety, but it was too bad that it absolutely ruined the looks of a good looking car – which it did.

Cue the outrage!

These fans, who were simply pointing out the obvious that the aeroscreen made the car ugly, were immediately attacked and told to go away. The defenders of the safety device immediately connected their own dots and drew the incorrect conclusion that to be critical of the looks of it, meant that those doing the criticizing were against the advancement of safety and were in favor of watching drivers die. Some went so far as to say that IndyCar doesn’t need fans like them and that they should just go away. Oh, and some even recommended the ultimate punishment – that they be banned from Facebook.

Marco Andretti even got into the act. Early Wednesday afternoon, he tweeted out "To all the fans who think the @IndyCar windscreen doesn’t “look good”. Just remember…it’s not your heads headed towards the fence. We welcome your responses in any other departments, though." Seriously? Keep in mind, hardly anyone was saying they shouldn’t do this. But you’d have to be blind to say it wasn’t ugly. It should also be noted that on all forms of social media earlier in the day; IndyCar, IMS, Scott Dixon and several other interested parties including Andretti Autosport (Marco’s team) asked what fans thought about the aeroscreen. Don’t solicit opinions if you only want to hear the ones you like. Perhaps Marco wasn’t aware that his own team wanted to know what fans thought, because it doesn’t appear that he wanted to.

Since when did it become so egregious to make a comment that some may not agree with? No one was saying that this step should not be taken. But to not mention the obvious – that it was indeed very ugly – would have been disingenuous. These people were not advocating for puppies to be tortured. They were simply stating their opinion on the looks of the car. I’ve got news for you – it’s hideous!

Does that mean they should not go forward with it? No, not at all. But just because they should go through with it, doesn’t mean the looks of it are immune from criticism or fan’s comments. Fans have the right to comment and voice their opinion on things. A lot of people spend their entire vacation budget each year on attending the Indianapolis 500. They deserve the right to express their opinion, whether everyone agrees with them or not.

Longtime readers who are familiar with my term “The Legions of the Miserable” will think I’m contradicting myself by attacking those that complain about everything under the sun, and defending the fans that complained about the looks of the car. I’ll grant you that it’s a fine line. But there is a difference about simply whining about everything in general without offering any solution, and those with a specific complaint and possibly even offering an alternative. Plus, some of Wednesday’s comments about the aeroscreen were just downright funny. That may be the problem right there. Some of these zealots may lack a sense of humor. That is usually a common trait among the outraged, regarding any topic.

A decade ago, this series had a well-earned reputation for not listening to its fan base. That has changed in recent years, especially since Jay Frye came on board. The series does not always act on what they hear, but the fans are at least heard and listened to. How can Frye and the series know what fans are thinking if they are silenced by those that think we should all be in lock-step with every move the series makes?

Will complaining about the looks make the series abandon their plans on implementing the aeroscreen in 2020? No, but they may listen to fan’s suggestions on some ways to improve the aesthetics of the device without compromising the safety or the intent of the device.

Personally, I’d like to see it lowered a bit. I don’t know that anyone has made any comparisons, but at a glance – it looks much higher than the Formula One halo device. If it can offer the intended protection and it’s possible to shave off an inch or two, I think it would go very far in improving the looks of the car.

Some say that the look of the car doesn’t matter. All that should matter is that it’s safe and it can race. I disagree.

I suppose that it goes back to me being a very shallow and superficial male. This, too, will probably cause outrage; but when I was single – I didn’t just look at the inner beauty of a woman to date. Looks mattered. After I got to know someone that had outer beauty, but found out they were a horrible human being inside (like my ex-wife) – that was when the relationship ended. The key was to find someone who satisfied my superficial needs, as well as my need for a soul mate (my current wife). I realize that shallow thinking like that is worthy of scorn these days, but I’m just being truthful.

IndyCar needs a safe car to protect its drivers. Since the technology is there, to not pursue it would be neglectful. Now that they have the basic concept in place, my hope is that the next step in the evolution of this device will be to improve the looks of it without compromising safety. Looks matter. That may not come until the next generation car arrives in the next two to three seasons, when it can actually be incorporated into the integral design instead of essentially just bolting it onto the existing car.

But to those perpetually-outraged, self-righteous fans who claim that any criticism of the looks of the car we saw on Wednesday, means that we would prefer to watch drivers die than hurt the looks of the car – I find you offensive.

George Phillips

36 Responses to “Fans Have a Right to Speak and Be Heard”

  1. One secret to a happy life is to stay away from internet comment sections, rarely is there anything of value there (Oilpressure being one of the very few exceptions). I don’t need to know what other people think, nor do I care what they think. I am one who would rather look at a less-than-beautiful race car than a dead driver, but I’m not going to declare that someone with a differing opinion wishes harm upon the drivers. But I would say that both sides have the right to speak and be heard if they choose to voice their opinions.

    The previous versions they tested looked fine I thought, but this version is wider and taller and from the front it is not at all attractive. But this is a device that must put function before form and I have to presume that this less attractive version is the one that functions best, they did the tests for a reason and this is where it led them. Therefore I don’t see any value in wasting energy complaining about it, or complaining about people complaining about it. I’m still going to watch the races, I’m still going to attend races, I’m still going to enjoy the races just as much as I ever have. As long as the racing is good I’m really not bothered by anything else.

    • I will agree with what you say about internet comments in most cases. I shy away from ALL comments on political posts (and the posts themselves) regardless of which side they come from. But as a lowly IndyCar blogger, I would be remiss and neglectful if I wasn’t keeping in touch with what all parties are saying on various IndyCar topics. – GP

      • Sure, and I didn’t intend to suggest otherwise, I was just speaking for myself. Yours is pretty much the only comment section of any internet articles that I dare visit, it’s just too depressing to see what humanity is becoming and I don’t want any part of it.

  2. I don’t like when players, drivers, etc… people who signed up to play in a sport for millions of dollars, complain about the fanbase and belittle their opinion. Now, don’t get me wrong, the “customer isn’t always right”, but, it’s not a good look when drivers complain about the fanbase and the vocal fanbase bashes anyone who is not on their side. I am for safety, I am not for this. And I have been called many names this week for that opinion.

    As I said on Twitter, Marco Andretti signed up for his job, it allowed him to buy his father’s mansion at 19 years old. No one is forcing any of them to drive racecars. I want safety but nothing is 100%. The halo didn’t save the F2 driver who died and the other who is in a coma still form last month.

    • On the contrary Andrew, the halo almost certainly saved two other drivers in that crash from injury/death (including former IndyCar driver Jordan King). Of course the halo does nothing for a side-impact and would not have saved Anthoine or prevented Juan Manuel’s leg injuries so that’s not part of the conversation, but it looks like halo’s kept the incident from being worse than it already was.

      • Good point, I was more aiming that towards the types who pretend that the open cockpit is the only way a driver could perish in an open wheel car. I will check out that YouTube clip.

      • Don’t forget that exactly one week after Anthoine Hubert died at Spa, F3 driver Alex Peroni crashed literally cockpit opening first into a tire barrier at Monza…and walked away:

        There is absolutely no doubt that Peroni wouldn’t have survived this accident (the Halo likely impacted the tire barrier at well over 100 MPH, meaning that it would have been the crown of his helmet instead, had the Halo not been there). This is pretty much game, set and match to the question “does the Halo even do anything?” Answer: uh, yeah.

  3. kcindyfan Says:

    Well said George!

  4. Robert Zagorac Says:

    I’m wondering why they need the ugly slpit down the front sine the wbole windshield is mounted on the bidy itself. 🤔🤔

  5. Hopefully this is not the final version because there is still work to be done. The drivers talk about it like it is ready to go. I have not read anything about intended further development yet. This aero screen is beyond ugly. Shallowness resides in me as well and I was really disappointed when I first saw a picture of it. Unfortunately the disappointment is not going away.

  6. billytheskink Says:

    I actually think the screen looks halfway decent from the side to almost a 3/4 view, its rise is not too terribly awkward from the car’s nose section. Moving toward the front view, though, it quickly comes to looking bulky and awkward. That’s mostly because it funnels out at the top, I think. If it funneled inward like the cockpit canopy of a jet fighter, it would look a lot better… though getting in and out of the car would surely be much more difficult (and I think it is already a bit of a thing to overcome with this device).

    I believe the halo element of the aeroscreen is taller than the one used in F1 and the other FIA series, and I suspect that is to provide more visibility on banked ovals. There was much said last year about how a halo would not work well on an Indycar because it would impair the driver’s view looking up or down the banking on an oval, including statements on record by Mark Miles and Scott Dixon. It would seem that making the halo element’s top bar higher removes much of the obstruction.

    • Yeah, I agree that the “flare” at the top is the thing that makes it less than elegant, and that it’s likely for ease of driver extraction (both in the case of an accident and just generally for getting in and out). Other than that, I think it looks fine.

  7. Tony Dinelli Says:

    I would much rather they adopted the halo similar to F1. It at least has a “flow” with the design of the car. I’m not sure that the windscreen flows with the Indycar body.

  8. George, you are wrong! It’s not ugly…..it’s ugly AF!! I think it’s the times we are in really. Let’s not stop here. Let’s have speed limits at each track, day 175mph at Indy! All crew members should wear a daylong safety vest and while in the pits, safety cones should be placed around the car. Where has my sport gone? The opinions of Mario and Marco are miles apart. Sad times…

  9. …..corrections……say 175 mph, and dayglow safety vests

  10. It’s not great looking that’s for sure, but it’s needed and I’m glad they have done something to address the issue. To be honest I think at IMS in person it might not even be noticeable when the cars are at speed.

  11. W.R.Beach Says:

    George,

    You don’t grade a golf shot, You put down the score. When the rear engine cars first showed up at the Speedway, in the 60’s. Rail birds called them “funny cars’ because they were different than the Roadsters running at that time. Guess we finally got used to them. This is still a prototype, you can see Hex bolts used for mounting it, that won’t be there when they start the season next year. I may not like it.. but if it works? We will not be talking about this in a couple years from now.

  12. Dear George Phillips. I find you and this rant offensive, but it is your little blog so you have the right to throw fuel on the fire. If Will Power and Scott Dixon find the screen acceptable, that should be good enough for you-a fan with no skin in the game. Not your best effort here.

    • Ron, I’ve been coming here for years, just as you have, but I rarely comment. I thought George was spot-on with his comments and I found you just a little offensive. You also helped prove his point. Not your best effort here.

    • What are Will Power and Scott Dixon going to say Ron? They hate it and think it’s ugly? No they are towing the company line. It’s one of the ugliest things ever bolted on a race car. It’s too high and too tall. It doesn’t fit the car. Ask them what they think “off the record” and I’ll bet the answer would be different. Some of us readers here find you offensive as well so the feeling is mutual.

  13. A friend of mine sent me this quote this morning that sums this whole scenario up perfectly. When it comes to social media…

    “Life’s too short to spend even a minute mentally marinating in raw sewage.”

    • Bruce Waine Says:

      Paul – Welcome back and appreciate that you thought it important to mediate and provide additional insight.

      Thank you.

  14. And people wonder why support for and interest in auto racing is dying. Marco should be ashamed of himself. Even more than for his pathetic season.

    • Marco was spot on in his remark about the aeroscreen. Personally I think the engineers did a great job of blending function and form. I like it.

  15. Doug Benefiel Says:

    I attended the test this week. I was in the infield stands between 1-2 by the museum. My initial reaction was not good however after watching for awhile it was easier to accept. I will say that the pictures taken from the front of the car are hideous but from the side while looking at the cars on track the screen is not as bad. It will be next to impossible to identify the drivers by their helmet. I have attended every race since 1962 so have seen alot of change…some easier to accept than others. I’m all for safety improvements but one of the areas that seperated open wheel and open cockpit was the ability to see the driver. This will certainly impede that ability. I don’t think you will be able to identify drivers by their helmet. I will always be a huge fan of IndyCar. I hope the astedic of the screen can be improved. Just a side note. Will this affect the marketability of the drivers helmet advertising?

  16. James T Suel Says:

    I though it looked ok from the side view, but head on its awful. This will get me attacked but the sad part is we no longer have true open cockpit single seat race cars! In my opinion that’s a shame. Open wheel, open cockpit car are the highest from of auto racing. I am afraid we will have wheel covers next. No one wants to see a driver get hurt or killed. Yes i am an old guy I’ve been watching Indycars sprint and midgets since 1958. I have been to every 500 since 1960. I am sure it’s going to be safer now and that’s good, but I’ll miss what we have lost. I cant help but remember the words of Dennis Jenkins from the 1950s, The great god of safety will kill motor racing!

    • Much ado about nothing James IMHO. I think the engineers did a good job of blending form and function. The great god of safety was regretfully not there when Vuky, Dan Wheldon, and Justin Wilson were killed.

  17. Frankly, as tired as I have gotten of folks beating the dead horse of the looks of the thing (yeah, I agree, it doesn’t look as good as the earlier prototype that they tested last year, but that one shattered when stuff was fired at it, so…back to the drawing board), people are entitled to their opinions (I’m not as offended by the looks of it, because I absolutely love the functionality of the thing…so long as it does work as it was designed to, which I have a good feeling that it will). I have not really taken up any sort of debate with anybody about the aesthetics of the windscreen, because that’s not probably something that they’re gonna change their opinion on. Que sera sera.

    However, thee folks that I have much less patience for are the folks saying that they’re officially done with IndyCar now (and believe me, I have read several dozen of those folks on Facebook, on Twitter and in comments on Racer). To those folks, I say: “bye”. The windscreen isn’t going away, so if this is the straw that broke the camel’s back, then I wish those people luck with finding a new hobby.

  18. I’m sorta late to the party here. But I’m read a bit about the windshield and it’s lack of beauty but I’ve not read anything about how the extra 50 lbs. affected the handling or the tires. Did I not look hard enough? Did the drivers or engineers comment on that?

    • I don’t think they commented much on that yet, probably because they’re not really trying to extract the maximum out of the cars with the different weight distribution/center of gravity just yet. Obviously, it couldn’t have been that horrible, because they essentially ran speeds in the neighborhood of where race pace generally is (214-215 MPH, and they ran that all day long with only one other car to draft with), but I’m sure there’ll be quite a bit of setup tweaking to be able to get times back within a tenth of a second or two at most tracks (though it’s also possible that the lower drag of the windscreen instead of the turbulence inducing cockpit opening/driver’s helmet will offset that additional weight on the ovals).

  19. By following IndyCar, you have been lucky, George, to get to see good looking cars for much longer than a mere season at a time. Fans of other racing series weren’t so lucky as design ideas can change much more quickly. The new aeroscreen-turned-halo surely is much less of an aesthetical offense than the “stepped” noses that F1 cars used to have circa 2010, isn’t it?

    I’m glad that IndyCar is doing something about cockpit protection. F1’s halo already has effectively protected one Charles Leclerc in a crash in that year when he was still driving for Sauber. If it is effective enough to keep fence posts away at 230 miles an hour is a whole nother question, as you have said. However, it surely is a step in the right direction. And it’ll most likely look better on the next generation of cars. So there is no need to be dissatisfied. Thanks for the rant anyway, as it’s one of the easiest ways to get a discussion going like this one.

    Yet with the halo, the safety team might want to step up their game because what can they do if they encounter several burning cars that are upside down after a crash? How are the drivers going to get out? The safety team will need to hurry up.

  20. As a fan (and an alumnus) of the University of Tennessee….
    sorry about that.

  21. Bruce Waine Says:

    From driver’s perspective may possibly be appropriate with credit to Joe South:

    Walk a mile in my shoes.

    Walk a mile in my shoes.

    And before you abuse,
    criticize and accuse,
    walk a mile in my shoes.

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