Why I’m Happy Being an IndyCar Fan

I have been an IndyCar fan since I went to my first race – the 1965 Indianapolis 500. I was already hooked as a fan before I actually arrived at IMS that weekend, but my experience that day just confirmed what I was already expecting and I was hooked for life. I don’t really need any reaffirmation or reminders about why I love the NTT IndyCar Series, but if I did – I got it this past weekend.

I don’t watch a lot of NASCAR these days, not that I was ever a die-hard fan. But in the 90s and early 2000s, I caught myself paying more attention to it than I cared to admit. The fact that I lived in Charlotte, NC for three and a half years during that time period; may have had something to do with it. Charlotte is to NASCAR what Indianapolis is to IndyCar – sort of. Most of the NASCAR teams are based out of the Charlotte area, but the NASCAR corporate offices are in Daytona. IndyCar, as well as most of the teams, are all based in Indianapolis.

When NASCAR instituted the Chase for the Championship, that began my lack of interest in NASCAR. Adding Green-White-Checker (GWC) and the Lucky Dog to the mix only added to my waning interest. When they changed the name of the Chase to “Playoffs” and GWC to “Overtime”, I was pretty much done as a fan. When they added Stage Racing as a component to every race – that was what put it over the top. I pretty well checked out as a NASCAR fan after that.

For the last five or six years, I have dwindled my NASCAR viewing down to one NASCAR race per year – the Daytona 500. If nothing else, I was happy to see any kind of racing in mid-February. After this weekend, I may even drop it from my personal viewing schedule.

For one thing, the rules are ever-changing and it’s too hard tp keep up with. They now have knockout style qualifying that works well for IndyCar on road and street courses, but IndyCar does not use it for ovals – and for good reason, it’s hard to follow. Daytona 500 qualifying has always been pointless and convoluted, because it only locks in the front row. Everyone, including the already qualified front-row starters race in the Duels, now just one night later. The duels determine starting position for the majority of the field behind the front row, but you also factor in provisionals. Champion provisionals and then anyone else who squeezes in on their qualifying speed, if they do poorly in the duels. I’m still not real sure how Conor Day managed to start thirty-fourth in a forty car field.

I know that FOX has a lengthy pre-race show for the Daytona 500, but somewhere I read where the green-flag would wave at 1:30 CST. We had a warm and pretty day on Sunday, and I was out doing yard work. But I kept an eye on the time, because I wanted to see the start. The engines didn’t fire up until about 2:10, so I got to see plenty of the pre-race. The thing is, I know coverage had been on for hours before I came in. What was all that, other than an opportunity for Michael Waltrip to annoy the heck out of everyone watching?

As I watched driver introductions, it occurred to me how long it had been since I paid close attention to NASCAR. There were so many young drivers that I had never heard of, and they all looked like they were about twelve years-old.

Maybe the worst thing I saw in the forty-five minutes of the pre-race show that I saw was a computer-generated simulation of vintage cars from different NASCAR eras, racing each other on the track. They used actual announcer calls from old races to re-create this so-called race. The graphics were very bad, the announcing sync-up was worse and the whole thing was a case-study in technology falling flat. It goes back to the old saying “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”. I was embarrassed for them.

Then the race started. I will admit that I do love the sound of all forty engines droning in unison as the large stock cars rumble down the backstretch at near 200 mph. It’s very intoxicating, for a few laps anyway.

By about Lap 15, I had seen enough of cars running in a pack, in pretty much the same order when they took the green flag. I went back outside to take advantage of the nice weather for my many outdoor chores. As the sun was beginning to go down, so did the temperature. I decided I had had enough of the outdoors for mid-February. I came in and took a shower.

When I was done showering and dressing, I plopped down in my TV chair with thirteen laps to go. It didn’t really appear that I had missed a whole lot since I left the race on Lap 15. As usual, there was a lot of desperate jockeying for position in the closing moments and there was a crash. The announcers seemed overjoyed that we were getting overtime. There was a cleanup and a re-start, followed by an immediate crash. That’s where racer-turned owner-turned broadcaster Tony Stewart uttered those words of wisdom “Cautions breed cautions”.

Somewhere in that second cleanup, I dozed off. It was just too repetitious and boring. I woke up as the cars were about to take the white flag. I don’t know if I missed more than one re-start in there or not. I didn’t really care. I just wanted this thing to reach a merciful conclusion. Of course, on the final lap, there was another crash that sent Kyle Larson head-on into the wall. Larson’s crash got my attention, but apparently not the announcers. It looked eerily similar to the Daytona incident, also on the last lap, that resulted in Dale Earnhardt being fatally injured in 2001. I never heard a word about Larson, so I came away thinking he must be OK.

Once again, it was a random winner that came away as a Daytona 500 winner – Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. – who had not won a race since 2017, when he won two other restrictor-plate races for his only two career wins, before Sunday. He joins the ranks of Jamie McMurray, Trevor Bane, Michael McDowell and Derrick Cope as drivers linked with immortality because they were in the right place at the right time in a restrictor-plate race. The fact that Michael Waltrip has twice as many Daytona 500 wins as Dale Earnhardt, demonstrates how random the Daytona 500 is.

As I mentioned earlier, I fell asleep during one of the “overtime” clean-ups” and I really have no idea if I slept through more than one re-start. But after the race was over, FOX announcer, Mike Joy (who I think is excellent, by the way). Pointed out that it was the longest Daytona 500 in history – a total of 530 miles. If your team had calculated on exactly 500 miles on your last pit stop, you would’ve been out of luck. To me, that is all you need to argue against such a gimmick.

All in all, I was happy I didn’t waste my entire Sunday watching such a boring and random event. I am guessing that coverage started at 11:00 am CST, but ended well after dark. As best I can count, I watched a total of 43 laps including the “overtime”. That was really too much, as I could not stay awake through the “overtime”.

I can see how my local friends think racing is exceedingly boring, if the Daytona 500 is the only race they watch each year. That’s why I have trouble convincing them to watch the Indianapolis 500 or any IndyCar race. They are judging the sport we love by what they saw this past Sunday. If I thought that was truly representative of what racing was, I wouldn’t watch either.

Watching the Daytona 500 on Sunday, reminded me of why I love IndyCar. It is such a superior product compared to NASCAR, yet no one seems to know about it. It also made me even more grateful that the 2023 IndyCar season starts in just a week and a half. Now, that’s something to be truly happy about.

George Phillips

15 Responses to “Why I’m Happy Being an IndyCar Fan”

  1. I love the original idea of NASCAR, big American V8 cars racing against each other but I never watched more than 5 min of any race. It is awfully boring.

  2. George, your comments on the 2023 Daytona 500 race and broadcast are spot-on. Michael Waltrips awkward mindless babbling alone was enough to make you slip into a coma. That was 5 wasted minutes we will never get back. He just doesn’t have what it takes to make what he’s trying to do entertaining.

    • billytheskink Says:

      I like NASCAR more than most who comment here… but Michael Waltrip’s shtick has never worked and I’m surprised Fox continues to keep him on the air. Darrell Waltrip’s shtick had a pretty limited range, but it worked at times, and he had a fanbase that his younger brother never really had.

      Fox needs to bring back Hermie Sadler as a pit reporter. He was always a plus on the Truck series broadcasts.

  3. The ONLY reason I watch the Daytona 500 is as a warmup for the IndyCar season. This year we had the added bonus though of Conor Daly racing a less than stellar stock car. I stayed awake for most of it, and was actually impressed that Conor stayed with it the entire race avoiding contact. All I can say is IsItMarchYet?

  4. billytheskink Says:

    There is a sort of duelist mentality and an understanding of the draft that lends itself to doing well at NASCAR’s “restrictor plate” races, a mentality that is getting harder and harder to showcase as the cars seem run on a narrower line around the track with each new generation of car. “The big one” was always a risk years ago, but running in two and three lines with more space and more movement was common. It seems easier than ever to get caught in someone else’s mistake. Ever since the end of the hated COT and the tandem drafting that everyone seemed to get tired of a lot quicker than I did, NASCAR has not seemed to quite know what they want these cars to do on plate tracks.

    Daly started 34th in the race because he finished 17th in his Duel race, that was the easy part. The hard part was understanding that he not only had to beat the “open” car of Austin Hill who had a faster qualifying time than he did, he also had to beat Travis Pastrana even though Pastrana was “locked in” based on his Wednesday night qualifying time (this is never well-explained and the rule confused Ty Dillon’s 26 fans back in 2021). Daly was very fortunate that both were caught in a late wreck as he was a lap down to them at the time. It is easy to see why Helio Castroneves turned down a chance to run in the car Daly drove, it was garbage. Daly was doing well to keep it off the wall both in the duel and in the race.

  5. Joel Goldfarb Says:

    The on track product is unwatchable and the Fox TV production makes it even worse.

  6. Most of the day was spent watching the Daytona 500 and I am not proud to admit it. The weather in our area was windy all day holding me captive inside. When the race finally ended I looked at the clock and couldn’t believe I wasted most of the day watching this race. I will not do that again. This race is the only one I watch all year due to motorsports starvation. IndyCar is so much better in so many ways. It’s unfortunate its image is antiquated currently.

  7. Davis Brewer Says:

    I am glad I reread the article because at the first speed read I thought you took a two-hour shower starting at lap 15. Then on the second read, I see you have done some yard work. Have a great day George.

  8. I agree with everything George wrote and the worst was they didn’t allow any practice before qualifying or the Duels. They started this a couple years ago because of Covid but I don’t see any reason for it now. Everyone was already there anyway so how is running a practice session going to spread Covid? Conor Daly did pretty well considering his circumstances.

  9. There was a time when NASCAR racing was legitimately exciting. Now, the excitement is artificial, and engineered for people with a short attention span (the “Dorys”). Your description of watching the finish on Sunday (a race I deliberately did not watch; I don’t need my intelligence insulted by thinking of that show as racing) is pretty much how I felt about the 2017 Brickyard 400. I tuned out after what ended up being the final wreck that decided the race because I was too embarrassed to keep watching. Thank God we can see some REAL racing at St. Pete in just a week & ½.

    I understand your point about some random winners at Daytona, but I must point out that both years he won, Michael Waltrip had a good car (especially in 2003). He didn’t back into his 500 wins. He was often an outside contender at Daytona and Talladega before signing with DEI.

  10. Good off-season blogging, George.
    I commented here years ago that I’d never viewed a whole NASCAR race in-person or on television. That’s still true.
    I was nonetheless enjoying your post.
    And then I read you bring it around to IndyCar racing: “I can see how my local friends think racing is exceedingly boring, … That’s why I have trouble convincing them to watch the Indianapolis 500 or any IndyCar race.”
    I can relate. (sigh)

  11. My history with Nascar is so similar. I was a fan in the ’90s. The gimmicks drove me away. And as for last Sunday’s race….I watched the first 20 laps and the last 10. Quite frankly, I saw too much. Bring on IndyCar please!

    • NASCAR in the 90’s -00’s actually had the audience they wanted. That was before it turned into whatever XFL/WWE/(insert trash sport here):trying to generate excitement. As each new gimmick is announced you can hear more and more channels being changed via remotes everywhere.

      Truth is, NASCAR and Daytona hit their peak in the late 90’s. They’ve been trying since the Earnhardt tragedy to replace the more popular drivers as they have retired, much the same as Indy had to do with the retirements of Foyt, Andretti, Mears, three Unsers, and a few others too numerous to mention.

      While a lot of the “stars” of Indy car are now on the sidelines, the series has not resorted to becoming a clown show as Daytona has.

  12. I still watch a small handful of NASCAR races – mostly the road courses and rovals, they can be mildly entertaining, But the restrictor plate races are always absolute trash. They absolutely cannot “race” so they just ride around for 190 laps and crash for 10. Plus there are the “overtime” crashes. I used to love watching races at Daytona and Talladega, especially in person in the ’70s and ’80s. The FOX coverage certainly doesn’t help. I actually tried to watch some of the pre race show but had to stop. I thought their NFL pre game shows were bad but their NASCAR show takes it to a whole new level of putrid. Clint Boyer’s good ole boy, country as cow#hit schtick is very tired too. Bring on INDYCAR!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: