This is What Indy Means

Living in Europe, I never grew up with the Indianapolis 500, my world has always been centred around Formula 1. I’m British so the big event was the British Grand Prix, then the Monaco Grand Prix. The 24 Hours of Le Mans is up amongst them but while it has a huge crowd it doesn’t always have a ton of media interest.

American racing doesn’t really enter into it unless you are already a fan of racing and you go on to learn about Indianapolis and Daytona. Sure most people have heard of those names in relation to speed, and most racing fans know these are historic locations but perhaps don’t know any more than that. Many follow US-based racing reasonably well and are very knowledgeable about the acheivements of drivers, and enjoy some very good racing. But even these most ardent racing fans in Europe don’t always really get Indy, or Daytona for that matter. Accusations of ‘talentless left-turn-only’ are rampant.

In America this is not so. Perhaps it is among the non-fan, perhaps the non-fan in America thinks the same, associates them with speed but doesn’t really know the history. That’s fine, they aren’t fans, we don’t expect them to know. But for the racing fans? My impression is it is totally different. For them, Indianapolis is like a European F1 fan’s Monza – but more so. If speed is our religion, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is one of our most holy temples, and it has taken me a while to realise this.

I’ve known for a while that Indianapolis has a lot of racing history. I wasn’t aware of just how ingrained in the psyche of the US open wheel fan it is, until this year. The IndyCar blogging community has been coming up with some truly fantastic writing over the last month and on the eve of the 500 I feel the need to share some of them. Whether you are a fan of IndyCar racing or not, I urge you to read these pieces.

People think as an oval, Indy is easy. It is not. Most ovals now are high-banked and essentially two turns, one at each end. Indy is not. Indy has four distinct corners which are each to be approached in a different way. This is what Indy means.

Indianapolis is dangerous.  Its narrow road and concrete walls tear at man and machine.  A skillful drive can turn to disaster without warning, but the quickest times are found just inches from the walls.  It is there the bold must rise.  Searching for the fastest lap, even the bravest are not without fear.

To drive Indy requires skill.  To race at the front: dedication.  To win: courage.  A champion must push beyond fear.  The four corners at Indianapolis draw out a special significance.

from Paul Page’s opening to the broadcast of the 1992 Indy 500, as shared by Will of Is It May Yet? (Tw @IsItMayYet)

As an experience it is like no other in racing. To an outsider such as myself, IMS’s self-styled phrase “The Greatest Spectacle In Racing” sounds obnoxious or pretensious. Surely a Formula 1 grid is louder, more energetic, and faster on a non-oval? Surely 55 Le Mans cars heading down the Mulsanne as one is the greatest spectacle of all? Perhaps not. Perhaps the following perspective has made me rethink that view. This is what Indy means.

Then, at the end of the final pace lap, you look into turn three and see the cars arranging themselves into eleven rows of three. And that’s when the chills start racing up your spine. You can’t help it. The pace car flashes past and dives for pit road, and the cars are alone on the track. As they go by the engine pitch starts to rise, but it is quickly lost in the loudest cheering you’ve ever heard in your life. 300,000 people are screaming at the top of their lungs and, you discover, so are you. Screaming to tear out your throat, in fact, because on the screen you see the green flags waving and you know that the race is underway.

by Tony of Pop Off Valve (Tw @SBPopOffValve)

There’s the effect on lifelong fans. This is what Indy means.

The first car race I ever heard about in my house was the Indy 500. Memorial weekend, my Dad would lug the cooler outside loaded with his favorite beverage, some sandwiches, and other snacks. He would turn up the radio so loud I’m sure the neighbors would hear it. I don’t think he cared. It was the Indy 500 he was listening to for crying out loud. My Mom would tell all of us, “Don’t be bothering your Dad, the race is on.” That was a time he was the happiest I’ve ever seen him. He would jump out of his lawn chair and yell at the top of his lungs at the radio. Then he would do it all over again when they would show the replay hours later on TV.

by Matt from Planet-IRL (tw @Indy44)

Then there is what the place can do to people. How it creates new fans. This is what Indy means, and this really is worth reading.

We sat there in the grandstands hardly saying anything – with him intently watching the cars, and me intently watching him. And while that sounds a bit more melodramatic than I’d like, it’s the truth. We were both entirely fascinated, but for entirely different reasons.

by Roy of Versus.com

Finally, I can’t pick a quote but this post from the_race-gIRL (Tw @the_race_gIRL) is also worth a read as she introduces the sport to her brother. A new fan, right there. Perhaps you haven’t read everything I’ve linked. That’s fine, there are a lot of words. I do urge you to at least read the Pop Off Valve and Versus articles.

I’m sure I’ve barely scratched the surface of what the community has produced this Month of May (shortened or not). I can’t speak for how many people feel this way, the IndyCar viewership figures would tend to suggest not many yet IMS is packed most years and the 500 is the most-watched IndyCar race by far, often by an order of magnitude.

This is more than any old oval race run for spec cars. This is different. This has 101 years of history, countless traditions large and small, and is still one of the fastest tracks in the world – faster than most other ovals on the schedule save Texas I believe – while remaining a tricky test of nerve, skill and patience.

This is what Indy means.

Start Times – 30 May

I forgot. I can only find times for TV coverage of the two NASCAR races rather than the actual race start time, so those are marked with *.

UK Time Duration Series Venue Event
GMT+1
Sat 7pm* 300 miles Nationwide Series Charlotte Motor Speedway Tech-Net Auto
Service 300
(200 laps)
8.25am 15 laps GP3 Istanbul Park Race 2
9.35am 23 laps GP2 Istanbul Park Race 2
1pm 58 laps Formula 1 Istanbul Park Turkish Grand Prix
(TV 12.10)
6pm 500 miles IZOD IndyCar Indianapolis Motor Speedway Indianapolis 500
(TV 5pm) (200 laps)
10.45pm* 600 miles Sprint Cup Charlotte Motor Speedway Coca-Cola 600
(400 laps)
Monday
7pm 2hr 30m GrandAm Rolex Lime Rock Park Memorial Day Classic

Sunday will be fun – enjoy!

Vote for the IndyCar Road/Oval Trophy

IZOD IndyCar Series (4C) 5in 300dpiFor the 2010 season, and counting retrospectively back to the start of the year, the IZOD IndyCar Series will be awarding a trophy to the driver who scores the most points on road and street courses, and the driver who scores the most points on ovals.

I think this is a fantastic idea. This is something no other major series can legitimately offer, the NASCAR Sprint Cup could do it but it only has two road course races. It doesn’t detract from the main championship and gives teams and drivers another means of generating publicity and sponsorship, something this series has been doing (or not) woefully inadequately in the past.

It also gives us fans (and bloggers) something else to talk about, and that’s never a bad thing. Fans of all sorts of sports love talking about different strengths and weaknesses and slicing up wins/points in different ways, and racing fans are no different. Now we can talk about drivers doing well in the oval points year after year and struggling on road courses, or vice versa – just as we always did of course, but this time we have a barometer to measure it with. Fairly arbitrary of course because it depends on the points weightings, but what sports ranking isn’t arbitrary, really?

Perhaps the only other type of racing the concept could apply to is rallying, they could offer a gravel trophy and an asphalt trophy. I wonder if that is something the WRC should consider? That’s potentially a whole other blog post.

The interesting twist to these two trophies is the fan interaction. The trophies themselves will be named for famous and/or notable drivers from the over-100 year history of Indy racing. The IndyCar media whittled down a large number of names to a choice of 5 in each category, and now it is our job to vote. Here are the choices:

Oval Trophy:

  • Mario Andretti
  • Rick Mears
  • AJ Foyt Jr
  • Ted Horn
  • Bill Vukovich

Road Trophy:

  • Alex Zanardi
  • Mark Donahue
  • Dan Gurney
  • Al Unser Jr
  • Mario Andetti

Such a selection encompassing drivers from most eras, and a broad smile crossed my face at the inclusion of Zanardi. I’m not sure he’s right for the trophy but it was right that he was nominated. Mario is rightfully included on both lists, the only driver with that honour.

My picks? I reckon the Bill Vukovich Trophy and the Mario Andretti Trophy sound pretty damned good.

HERE is the voting page. Two polls on the page, and you can vote once per day in each poll.

The winner of the vote for the oval trophy will be named next weekend during the Texas weekend, and the road trophy will be named over the Watkins Glen round on the first weekend in July.

Interestingly while these will be named and of course the Indy 500 victor wins the Borg Warner Trophy (or a replica of it), the main series championship doesn’t have a name. Will that be next?

We are at the rebirth of Indy racing after many years of division and distrust. Now everyone is positive and looking forward and coming up with all these creative ideas, and it is such a delight and pleasure to behold. I’m really enjoying it.

Quote of the Day

Shamelessly ripping off Jeff’s long-running series of posts featuring quotes from IndyCar personalities (and sometimes others), I bring some interesting words from Martin Whitmarsh, CEO of McLaren and Chairman of the Formula One Teams Association, who was talking about the future of F1 to Autosport.com’s Dieter Rencken in a paywall article published Thursday. (While it may be from an F1 guy it touches on GP2 and NASCAR so that fits my vague cross-motorsport remit).

There’s this continual balance about it. If you’ve got the best drivers and best cars on the circuits that we’ve got, it’s going to be difficult to overtake. You can see it in GP2, you can see it in lots of formulae. If you’re a bunch of hooligans, and bad teams and hooligan drivers, then you get a lot of mistakes, overtaking and crashes and incidents.

With all due respect, it’s easy to say, ‘Right, where’s the spectacle?’ or whatever. Is the sport right at the end of the day? No, it can be better, yes, and we’ve just got to fine-tune it.

So, do we want to create NASCAR? NASCAR is a good product for that market, they do it well, [but] we ain’t NASCAR. Maybe I shouldn’t say it: NASCAR doesn’t do it for me in that there are three box cars overtaking. You talk about it, and say how many changes [of position] there are, but maybe there are, but an overtake takes three-and-a-half laps to pull off. It doesn’t have me holding my breath.

But they do many things [right], they are marketed much smarter than we are. I think they do the TV show better than we do, they’re commercially and in business better than we are. We can learn lots of things, and what they do is appealing to a certain demographics and a certain market. But that’s not where we are.

Martin Whitmarsh of Mclaren, in his role as Chairman of FOTA, talking to Dieter Rencken

The boss of one of the biggest F1 teams reckons GP2 drivers are hooligans. In fairness he’s quite right, many in the midfield are.. I just thought it odd he’d come out and say it, normally the F1 bosses are quite PC about GP2 as it is one of Bernie’s babies.

He does make some valid points about what F1 should be – I agree that it can and should learn from NASCAR’s marketing, to an extent (without going completely overboard).

If you subscribe to Autosport you should read the rest of the feature, there’s a lot more in there, and part 2 of the interview goes up next Thursday.

**

I might continue with more in this series in future, not specifically on F1, whatever I stumble across really. Primarily because it is an easy way to get content out without writing a ton of words and I am inherently lazy.

TMR Game – Week 18

Welcome to Week 18 of the Too Much Racing Game!

I wasn’t able to watch either of this week’s eligible races as the ALMS went on until 4am and the DTM was on at the same time as the MotoGP. The GP was moderately good – the first half featured a great battle between Rossi and Lorenzo but after halfway or thereabouts when it had been settled, I lost interest in the whole thing. I spent much of the weekend watching qualifying from Indy which was fun especially in the closing stages of each day, and I plan to write about that later in the week.

[Photo: American Le Mans Series at Laguna Seca; via Picapp]

Quick-Start

Racing this week:

IndyCar – Indianapolis 500;

F1 – Turkish GP;

WRC – Rally Portugal;

NASCAR Sprint Cup – Coca-Cola 600, Charlotte;

Usual restrictions apply, pick up to 10 drivers, no more than 7 from one race.

The cutoff is Saturday 29th May at 4.59am BST (British Summer Time = GMT+1), that’s 11.59pm Friday night US EDT.

For the full results from Week 17, read on.

Continue reading

Start Times: 22-23 May

Here are some selected start times for races happening this weekend, as well as qualifying at Indy. I hope I’ve got the timezone adjustments right. This week I’ve added Saturday events, though note the two NASCAR races which start on Saturday in the US are actually happening in the early hours of Sunday for us in the UK.

I have purposely left out some junior series and less popular GT events.

Saturday 22 May 2010
UK Time Duration Series Venue Event
GMT+1



10.15am Formula 2 Monza Race 1
4.15pm 1 hour FIA GT1 World Brno Qual race
5pm 7 hours IndyCar Indianapolis Motor Speedway Pole Day
10pm 6 hours ALMS Laguna Seca Race
Sunday 23 May 2010
UK Time Duration Series Venue Event
GMT+1



12.30am Sprint Cup Charlotte Showdown
2am Sprint Cup Charlotte All Star Race
10am 45 minutes Superleague Magny-Cours Race 1
12.05pm 9 laps WTCC Monza Race 1
1pm 28 laps MotoGP Le Mans (Bugatti) Race
1pm 45 laps DTM Valencia Race
1pm 1 hour FIA GT1 World Brno Champ race
1pm 45 minutes Superleague Magny-Cours Race 2
1pm Formula 2 Monza Race 2
2pm 15 minutes Superleague Magny-Cours Superfinal
2.20pm 9 laps WTCC Monza Race 2
6pm 6 hours IndyCar Indianapolis Motor Speedway Bump Day

Enjoy the racing!

TMR Game – Week 17

Welcome to Week 17 of the Too Much Racing Game!

It was an enjoyable Monaco GP, with early action and the interesting strategy of bringing Alonso in early. As usual things calmed down in the second half and it was just a run for home, until the controversial pass at the end. I don’t have an opinion on it, I’m burned out from it and just don’t care any more so let’s move on. It was a good win by Mark Webber and for the team to prove it has a car suitable for everywhere, something to worry the opposition who thought Monaco would be the RBR weak point. [Photo: Mark Webber, Red Bull Racing, Monaco GP;  via Picapp]

Quick-Start

Racing this week:

DTM – Ricardo Tormo Circuit, Valencia;

ALMS – Laguna Seca (6 hours);

Note the NASCAR Sprint Cup guys are taking a break from their relentless grind this week.

Usual restrictions apply, pick up to 10 drivers, no more than 7 from one race.

The cutoff is Saturday 22nd May at 4.59am BST (British Summer Time = GMT+1), that’s 11.59pm Friday night US EDT.

For the full results from Week 16, read on.

Continue reading