Drop the Box!

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There has been a new phenomenon sweeping through the NTT IndyCar Series paddock that needs to stop – now.

For years, even decades, detractors of the series have referred to IndyCar as F1 Light – in a not-so complimentary fashion. The term infers that IndyCar is noting more than a wannabe series that wants so desperately to be like Formula One, but will never be that. Personally I don’t think that’s the case, but a lot of people do – especially those that are Formula One fans that have always looked down on IndyCar with disdain.

So what has been sweeping through the paddock that makes me cringe? The use of the term box.

IndyCar was always my favorite form of motorsports, but in the early to mid-nineties – I paid a lot of attention to Formula One. I guess that was in the days before we listened in on F1 radio conversations between the pits and their driver. Somewhere along the way, I lost interest in Formula One and quit watching. It wasn’t until we binge-watched all three seasons of Drive to Survive on Netflix that I ever realized they use the term box when referring to the pits.

For decades, we have heard commands to an IndyCar driver that say “Pit this lap”. It’s almost second-nature to us as fans, so it has to be an even more familiar sound to a driver. Sometimes we hear “Pit, pit, pit!” and we all know what that means.

While watching practice from Belle Isle, I caught one of the teams telling their driver to “Box this lap”. I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention, but when I heard it I wondered who said it. I figured it must’ve been an isolated incident. The next day during qualifying for Race One, I heard it again. I thought it must be either someone for McLaren using the F1 terminology out of habit, or maybe it was someone speaking to Romain Grosjean using terms he would know. Instead, I found out it was someone in the ear of Santino Ferrucci with Rahal Letterman Lanigan.

This continued into Race One and also Race Two. That weekend, I even saw a couple of people make comments on it on social media – not only confirming what I had heard, but wondering why they were suddenly hearing it. We were at Road America and never watched the replay, so I don’t know if the term box was used as a substitute for pit or not.

I was listening for it last weekend at Mid-Ohio. I watched two of the three practice sessions, qualifying and the race. The only practice session I missed was the final practice after qualifications. I only heard one mention of the term box, and that was when Townsend Bell mentioned something about Marcus Ericsson getting into his box.

If Formula One does it, that’s fine. I guess that’s what they do over there. But we’ve got our own terminology over here, without having to resort to F1 lingo.

My father was a very genuine man. He had a sense of humor like no one I’ve ever met. He had a language that was unique to him. That’s what made him so special. But one time in the late sixties, a weak moment got to him and I heard him describe something as “groovy”.

He didn’t say it in a sarcastic way, making fun of the language of the day. He said it like he was trying to fit into the Pepsi Generation. I was only ten or eleven at the time, but I practically stopped in my tracks because it was so unlike him to use a word or phrase like that. Even at my young age, I knew that this was a foreign phrase to him and he was not able pull it off. It was a very awkward moment and I was embarrassed for him. No one around him said a word. They didn’t have to. It was out there and he couldn’t bring it back. As far as I know, my father never uttered the word “groovy” again.

The only excuse for any IndyCar crewmember to use the term box is out of ignorance. If they have just come here from a long career in Formula One, they may not know any better – but we say pit over here.

What’s next? Are IndyCar fans to start using British or European terminology on everything? Instead of using the restroom, are we going to start going to the loo? That’s a little pretentious when there are nothing but port-a-potties around. Why not refer to everything as bloody awful? Since Tony Kanaan likes to play practical jokes, maybe we should refer to him as cheeky. I’m not sure I can even imagine a time when AJ might call someone a rather cheeky fellow.

Hearing IndyCar team strategists telling a driver to “box this lap” just sounds so pretentious and phony. I would like to think it is just a coincidence that we are just now hearing it, but I’m really wondering if it’s because they watched Drive to Survive and thought it sounded more worldly, so they would start using it too. I hope not, but why else would it suddenly appear on IndyCar telecasts?

Suddenly picking up lingo from Formula One does nothing but bolster the notion that IndyCar is a wannabe series to Formula One. IndyCar has a proud heritage and they have carved out their own niche. They don’t need to resort to suddenly adopting a language they managed to go for decades without using.

George Phillips

15 Responses to “Drop the Box!”

  1. I’ve watched F1 for decades and Indycar since the late 80s. “Box” is a ridiculous term for any series. “Pit” is the correct term. Period.

  2. While F1 teams use “box” the telecast graphics still uses “pit”. I don’t care for the term box referring to pits either. I remember hearing the term “pit stall” or just pit in Indycar rather than “pit box”. Anyway, it’s a box that needs to be recycled.

  3. Bruce B Says:

    Also there’s only 1 box for 2
    Team cars. If they both come in at the same time they have to “stack” and wait to be serviced. God forbid Indycar copies this and only has 1 box per team! 🤦‍♂️

  4. Brilliant!

  5. Since we’re in full “get off my lawn” mode, here are a few other recent IndyCar vernacular imports that need to just go away as quickly as they came:

    FP1/FP2, etc: It’s just practice. It’s not “Free Practice.” Ask any IndyCar owner and I guarantee you none will say any of them are free. They are open to everyone entered in the event. “Practice 1” and “Practice 2” work just fine.

    FCY/Full Course Yellow on an oval: This is probably just a habit and consequence of the grossly unbalanced schedule, but “yellow” is plenty sufficient on an oval. Of course it’s full-course. And quite honestly, a local yellow seems to be so rare for IndyCar on a twisty that “full-course” almost seems unnecessary there as well.

    “Bar” for turbo boost: No. It always has been and always should be that turbo boost, in IndyCar, is reported in inches of mercury (inHg). For nearly the entirety of CART, bespoke engines were allowed 45 inHg boost. USAC allowed production engines 55 inHg boost. Those eventually got lowered but they were the numbers everyone knew. Nobody knows what 1.3 bar or 1.5 bar are (38.3 and 44.3 inHg if you were wondering). Just for added confusion, Marshall Pruett did a 2020 article and had the Honda guys all talking in psi. AGH!

    Shunt: It’s a crash.

    Paddock: when used to discuss a physical location where cars are being worked on and serving as a temporary home for the team to operate out of during the weekend, it’s a garage. Paddock should be reserved to refer the collective of teams participating in the series (i.e. “The gossip throughout the paddock this weekend…..”).

    • Phil Kaiser Says:

      Hey Pauly, how about remembering the FIRST F1 word nonsense to make it in IndyCar: P1, P2, P3, P4, etc.! I notice YOU use that terminology all the time. When I was a kid (same era as Georgie) WE said “First Place, Second Place, etc.! NOR did we talk about “results,” we talked about “finishes.”

      Those two were the first examples that I remember of “Formula 1 speak” creeping into IndyCar racing. Let’s get rid of ALL of it now

  6. John T. Says:

    While we’re at it, let’s also get rid of the words ‘safety car’ and ‘shunt.’

  7. Amen! F1 is Euro, so let them be Euros! IndyCar is NOT and though some may call this nitpicks, I think little stuff like that matters when it comes to maintaining a unique identity.

  8. billytheskink Says:

    While I’m not particularly opposed to its use, “livery” is the word that has become common parlance among Indycar fans that just never looks or sounds right to me. I guess I grew up seeing too many signs for livery stables in exurban Texas.

    • Chris Lukens Says:

      Actually I don’t like the term “Livery.” Probably because it reminds me of what is shoveled out of the livery stables.

  9. James T Suel Says:

    I think you make a excellent point George. The cart series did a lot to give the impression of F1 light. That and the fact that ovals are going away. Indycar is the finest racing on the planet. But hope we can save the ovals.

  10. Box This Lap.
    since the phrase is in the video games,
    infiltration into other venues is inevitable.

  11. Yannick Says:

    When watching John Watson as commentator on TV back in the mid-90s, this language student learned the word “pits”. In the German commentary, it would always be “Box”.
    When German TV station RTL expanded their F1 broadcast team back in the early 90s, they created the post of “Boxreporter”, which is basically the job that Jake Query or Jon Beekhuis would do. Only in German, “Boxreporter” is also a guy who reports from boxing matches, a whole different kind of sport. Unsurprisingly, the guy who got the job had prior experience in broadcasting of boxing, and was also used in that capacity by RTL, besides becoming their pit reporter. I thought you might find this slightly amusing.

    I guess the way the commands from the race engineer are being worded must be all about what the driver is used to. Ferruci ran in Europe for a long time. I was surprised to hear Townsend Bell say it, though.

    Oh, and you wouldn’t believe how German kids in the 90s misunderstood the concept of coolness and “being cool”: pretentious never was cool and gave the word a bad rep.
    Or is it a bad wrap? Bad wrapper? Paintjob? Is a livery good for your health? 😉

  12. I am surprised the term “box” wasn’t adopted during the 1990s, when quite a few F-One superstars migrated to F-Indy. Emmo Fittipaldi, Nigel Mansel, Nelson Piquet, and others.

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