The Outrage of the Humor-Deprived

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I don’t intentionally stir the pot just to create controversy. Some people will make inflammatory comments that they don’t really believe, just to get a conversation started. But on this particular topic – I find that I am in the vast minority and am on the opposite side of most people. Heck, even the guys on Trackside last night, disagreed with my stance. But I am willing to stir the pot a little just to see if I’m the only one that feels this way.

When the iRacing phenomenon started a few weeks ago, I didn’t give it a whole lot of thought. I essentially considered it nothing more than watching grown men play video games. But when I saw that practically all of the drivers from the NTT IndyCar Series and even some part-timers were going to race, I figured I would at least check it out. I watched about ten minutes of the first race at Watkins Glen, and found myself getting very restless and bored. It was not on NBCSN, but on You Tube, so I had to take a few extra steps to get it going on my television. Even with the extra trouble I went to, I knew I had had enough after about ten minutes. I was so unimpressed; I didn’t watch a single second from the next race at Barber.

But there was so much hype about what all was going on, I decided to give it another chance when they raced at one of my favorite tracks – at Michigan. It was then that I decided that this wasn’t half bad. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was in the race and the cars looked very realistic (except when they crashed). Simon Pagenaud won the race and the strategy he followed would have probably worked in a real race. It was an enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half on a Saturday afternoon.

From that point on, they had me. I wasn’t on the edge of my seat and I really didn’t care who won. But it was good to see the drivers from the series virtually racing from their homes and having a good time. I knew enough to know that with Simon Pagenaud as the only winning driver from the series winning races in this virtual series, not much was going to translate into the real world when things finally get going. In short, I didn’t take it too seriously.

Aside from Pagenaud, your winners were Sage Karam, Scott McLaughlin (twice) Pagenaud (twice) and Lando Norris. Karam has never driven a full IndyCar season, McLaughlin has only tested an Indy car, but never raced one and as far as I know, Lando Norris has never even sat in an Indy car. When four of your six winners lack a lot of real IndyCar experience – it tells me that this is more about gaming experience than IndyCar experience.

The virtual world of racing is a strange place. In NASCAR, one driver had already lost a sponsor, while another had lost his ride – both due to their stupidity and immature behavior while playing a video game. I know race car drivers are ultra-competitive, but come on! You’re losing your livelihood over a video game? I looked at the IndyCar iRacing experiences on Saturday afternoons as nothing more than entertainment during a complete absence of any live sports. It’s sort of like comparing the NFL Pro Bowl to the Super Bowl. The Pro Bowl is shallow entertainment that none of the participants take very seriously, while the Super Bowl is very serious business.

That’s why I found the reaction to Saturday’s First Responders 175 iRacing event from the virtual Indianapolis Motor Speedway to be almost comical. In case you haven’t seen it, two IndyCar regular drivers took out their competitors seemingly on purpose, one only about a hundred feet from the checkered-flag.

Simon Pagenaud felt that he had been wronged by Lando Norris earlier in the race, when Norris virtually nudged Graham Rahal into Pagenaud, causing him to tumble wildly (and very unrealistically) out of control. On Pagenaud’s channel, he was clearly heard telling his spotter that he was going to take out Lando, after his car was miraculously repaired in the pits. Pagenaud slowed entering the main straightaway, hoping that Norris would plow into him. He did, and went into a similar tumble as all cars do when they crash in the virtual world.

At the very end of the race, just after Arrow McLaren SP driver Pato O’Ward tangled with Marcus Ericsson in Turn Four; Santino Ferrucci purposely took out Arrow McLaren SP’s rookie driver Oliver Askew just as he was about to take the checkered flag as he was going to cross the yard of bricks. As both cars tumbled, McLaughlin and Conor Daly stole first and second respectively.

For the rest of the weekend, fans were incensed with Pagenaud and Ferrucci. They were labeled as dangerous and dirty drivers, and many were clamoring for Pagenaud to be banned from iRacing and Ferrucci should be disciplined and possibly suspended by IndyCar. By Monday night, it was reported that some of the offenders in Saturday’s virtual race were actually receiving death threats. Really?

Their argument is that this event was cheapened by those who don’t take it seriously. If those stands were filled with real ticket-buying customers, OK – they might have a point. But they weren’t. Everyone who saw that virtual race did so from their den. If you tuned in to be moderately entertained, you got your wish. If you tuned in to watch grown men race virtual cars and suffer no bodily injury from their crashes, and you thought they were going to treat the outside walls and their competitors with the same fear and respect as in the real world – then that’s on you.

Ferrucci was seen laughing and saying it was for the fans, it was television – immediately after his intentional crash. He’s right. Four days after the fact, fans are still talking about it. Do you think that kind of buzz would’ve been generated had Askew crossed the line unimpeded? Not a chance. I’m very familiar with Ferrucci’s past, before he came to IndyCar. Many were more than willing to point it out after the race.

Some argue that drivers have invested thousands of dollars into their rigs in order to be competitive in the virtual world. Well guess what…Ferrucci did no damage to Askew’s gaming computer, gaming steering wheel and realistic driving seat with multiple monitors. No costly carbon fiber repairs had to be made. All Askew had to do was hit a reset button and he’s immediately racing again.

If drivers spent thousands just to win a virtual trophy from a six-race series and nothing else, well…I’d say either their priorities are out of whack or they have more money than they know what to do with. Maybe they should be more like Conor Daly. Instead of being surrounded by 34” monitors while sitting in a custom racing seat and an exact replica of an IndyCar steering wheel; Daly sat in a kitchen chair, at the kitchen table with a Logitech wheel from Best Buy while staring at one small monitor. That inexpensive setup was good for second place.

I won’t pretend to know what kind of dollars are changing hands to run a livery in the virtual world. Are companies even paying? I guess so, but is it a lot? I don’t know. But just like in the real racing world, there are no guarantees that the car carrying their logo won’t be victimized by another driver being careless or stupid on the race track. I don’t think Havoline demanded their money back after Dennis Vitolo ended Nigel Mansell’s day, by landing on top of his car in the pit entrance road.

Was there any type of agreement signed that prohibited the deliberate crashing of other cars? I don’t know that either. I don’t know if there was anything signed or have the drivers just given their free time to give the NTT IndyCar Series some exposure during this down time? I have no idea.

But on the surface, when I see everyone so upset – I have to say “lighten up people”. This is a game. It’s a video game. No one was injured. No one’s life was put in danger. This was not the real world. It was the virtual world, where nothing really matters. I consider myself a race fan, but I guess I must not be an iRacing fan – because I thought what Ferrucci did was funny…and harmless. Would I have done it? No, but I don’t condemn Ferrucci for doing it.

Now if he were to do that in a real race, I’d be the first to say he needs to be severely punished. I’ve said before how in the old days of sim racing on NASCAR 3, there would always be that guy who would start driving the wrong way at 200 mph. Yes it was irritating, but I didn’t stew about it for days.

Whenever the real IndyCar season starts, this will all be long forgotten. But for now it seems like most people are outraged by what Ferrucci did to Oliver Askew, and what Pagenaud did to Norris. Credit Askew for not joining the chorus of whiners, though Norris has been chirping a little bit afterwards. When the COVID-19 lockdown started, I said then that people need to maintain their sense of humor, because they are going to need it throughout these tough times. I think that definitely applies to the humorly challenged that are insulted by Ferrucci’s iRacing actions on Saturday. Mercifully, the organized IndyCar iRacing experiment has come to a close.

George Phillips

13 Responses to “The Outrage of the Humor-Deprived”

  1. Seppefan Says:

    People take themselves too seriously.

  2. Yeah George, I totally agree with you, or you agree with me, as this is how I wrote about it in my twice weekly Thru Kaiser’s Visor email blast yesterday:

    “Anyone watch the First Responder 175 at the virtual Indianapolis Motor Speedway this past Saturday? In case you didn’t Penske driver Scott McLaughlin won in a wild finish that had the presumed winner being taken out by Simon Pagenaud on purpose out of Turn Two on the final lap, then had cars pirouetting and barrel-rolling at the finish line, which caused all kinds of bad feelings among the hard-core fantasy fans, prompting pages of sometimes very nasty arguments on the many comment sections of sites like RACER and TrackForum. Now on the one hand I suppose I understand their anger because this “race” played out on a national scale by being televised live on NBCSN and it didn’t make Pagenaud (and others like Santino Ferrucci) look like very good sports, which could have possibly reflected poorly on the “greatest drivers in the world” and the IndyCar series as a whole because of it. On the other hand… wait for it… it’s a video game for crying out loud! Get over it you big babies! Nobody was hurt (except their wee feelings), nobody tore up their expensive cars, nobody lost any prize money, I mean come on! I even saw one commenter say they’re all done with IndyCar. Over a video game? Really? Well, don’t let the door hit you on your way out!”

    Shameless plug: if you’d like to receive my email blast just email me at pkaiser14@hotmail.com and I’ll put you on the list. It’s totally free, by the way.

    Phil Kaiser
    Thru Kaiser’s Visor
    Indianapolis

  3. Andrew Says:

    Narcissism has taken over society, which has ruined any and every little thing we do for fun, and makes it not fun. Good take George, you tend to have a lot of good takes, but if you don’t that’s ok by me too and if I don’t agree, I can start my own blog! I just wish others could be that way and move on.

  4. Tony Dinelli Says:

    It’s fun to see these drivers cut loose a little bit and enjoy themselves. I felt bad for Lando as he is such a good kid. Besides, I won that fantasy race thanks to those incidents! It’s much to do about nothing in my opinion.

  5. James T Suel Says:

    George I must say I agree with you 100%. This is a game, and anyone playing the game will do things they would never do in real life. This iracing is at the end of the day ,just a game. You dont tear up expensive race cars or get anyone hurt. I know there’s a whole generation out there that live in the gaming world. And if we dont take this seriously they will become fans. I dont think so.

  6. billytheskink Says:

    I agree with Phil. Video game or not, it is disappointing to see such poor sportsmanship on display by our favorite drivers… but it is just a game. The stakes were low, there was little more than pride on the line. While the anger in the moment is understandable, it seems a bit silly to let it linger. This was probably taken so seriously by so many at this time because we don’t have a lot of other racing-related things to talk about.

    The solution? When this social distancing is over we divide the drivers into groups of four and put them in Danny Sullivan’s Indy Heat tournament where they all have to sit in the same room to play each other. Dirty drivers would then risk controllers and fists thrown in their faces instead of just wars of words. Danny Sullivan himself would probably have to be held in police protection even though it is the video game version of him making things difficult for the racers… and Will Power would still probably hunt him down after computer-Danny inexplicably erases Power’s big lead at Long Beach with 3 turns left to nip him at the finish line.

    Or we could just race the real cars again when we no longer have to social distance… yeah, that might work even better.

  7. Jeffrey Howard Petersen Says:

    My favorite part was Graham Rahal sailing as high as the pylon in his crash. Dude got some serious altitude.

  8. It’s a video game.

  9. Nick B Says:

    I’m glad we have some outspoken people who are willing to show the other side of the coin.

    Being part of the younger generation, and someone who has grown up around the digital age though, I have to say I slightly disagree with you George. When someone puts hours of hard work into something, there is nothing worse than that one person who wants to ruin your hard work cause they think it’s funny.

    I’ll say though that many many many people are taking this too seriously, and I do agree with you on that point. At the end of the day, no one got hurt and no one lost money. Maybe some people’s reputations were hurt, but it is “just a game.”

    So while what Pagenaud and Ferucci did was pretty disrespectful, I will say that many people are taking things a bit too seriously.

  10. Yannick Says:

    The McLaren ASP dominance in the latter stages of the final 2 sim races must have been quite frightening to the members of IndyCar’s more seasoned outfits that they went as far as taking them out on purpose in the final round. That team would have completely deserved the 1-2-3 result.

    If these drivers don’t keep it clean next time around that IndyCar is officially doing virtual racing, I won’t be watching because, with all the wrecking going on at the end of the final round, the eventual results turned out being way too random.

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