It’s Time To Fix The Record Book

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When Scott Dixon broke through for that magical twentieth IRL win on Sunday; was anyone staring at the television in near tears, wondering if they would ever see such an accomplishment take place in our lifetime? I didn’t think so. But to listen to the IndyCar propaganda machine, one would think that motorsports experienced a once-in-a-lifetime historical moment at Mid-Ohio. To listen to some IRL publicists, you would assume that there was no open-wheel racing in the US prior to 1996.

Granted, Scott Dixon’s twentieth IndyCar Series win is a nice accomplishment, but it is worth more of a footnote than a celebration. You have to pay close attention to the verbiage when this accomplishment is mentioned. Most people, like myself, tend to use the term “IndyCar” as a generic term. I suppose to be truly generic, you must separate the term and use a lower-case “c”, but I normally don’t get that technical about it. When you hear people say that Scott Dixon has the most IndyCar Series wins in history, the term “Series” must be used to qualify the statement.

I would not want to be near AJ Foyt, if he heard someone leave out the word “Series” and just say that Scott Dixon has the most wins in Indy car history. I don’t think that Scott Dixon’s twenty wins compare very favorably to Foyt’s sixty-seven wins, Mario Andretti’s fifty-two, Michael Andretti’s forty-two and…well, you get the idea.

When CART ran their first season in 1979, they didn’t purge Foyt’s slate of USAC wins. Every single one of them counted. The same with Mario Andretti, the Unser’s, Johnny Rutherford, etc. They counted them from day one. So why is the Indy Racing League so reluctant to count CART/Champ Car victories in a driver’s totals? If they were to do that, Scott Dixon would actually now have twenty-one victories to his credit, since he won at Nazareth while driving for PacWest in 2001.

This current policy means that Paul Tracy and Michael Andretti are winless Indy car drivers (notice I didn’t say IndyCar), even though they hold seventy-two Indy car wins between them. When Will Power won at Edmonton last month, it was proclaimed as his first IndyCar Series win. Pay no attention to the fact that he had two wins in Champ Car in 2007 while driving for Derrick Walker. To confuse things even further, Will Power won the Champ car finale at Long Beach in 2008. This race paid championship points in the IRL, but the league does not count it as a win. Why?

The explanation I hear coming from the league is that it is too confusing to merge the record books. Supposedly, they have someone in-house “working on it”. How difficult is it? Paul Tracy has thirty wins in CART/Champ Car. If he wins in the IRL, just say he has thirty-one Indy car, IndyCar or open-wheel wins – however you want to say it. . Standardize the wording, count the wins and move on. It’s not that difficult.

This is not the only sport that has ever had to merge record books. The NFL certainly recognizes that there was professional football played prior to 1970, when the two major professional leagues merged. The ten-year AFL records were blended in with the older NFL. There was also the All-American Football Conference that played in the late 1940’s. Three teams from that league eventually were absorbed into the NFL – the Cleveland Browns, the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Colts. Their AAFC records were also merged into the NFL record book.

Major League Baseball tried tarnishing the accomplishments of Roger Maris when he broke Babe Ruth’s record of sixty home runs in a season. Why? Because the Babe set his mark in 1927, in a 154-game season. Maris set his record in 1961, after the seasons were lengthened to 162 games. The controversy subsided and there was never an official asterisk placed by the name of Roger Maris. If any asterisk should ever be placed next to a name for that record, it should be the current record holder — Barry Bonds, who hit 73 homers in 2001 while "allegedly" using steroids, but I’ll not get off on that tangent.

Hockey and Basketball have both gone through league mergers, with the IHL and ABA respectively, yet they seem to have their record books in order. Why can the IRL not bring itself to recognize the accomplishments of drivers from yesteryear? Many of the drivers they are ignoring helped bring glory to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which essentially owns the IRL. Are they still trying to punish drivers for running in the “other” series? Most drivers cared nothing of the politics. They raced where they could. It is as if the IRL isn’t completely over the split and this current policy continues to alienate and infuriate the Champ Car die-hards.

I’m not a Champ car fanatic. I’m an open-wheel fan. But as long as the IRL keeps celebrating every new win by Scott Dixon as “record-setting”, they will continue to insult the intelligence of ALL open-wheel fans. It also cheapens Scott Dixon’s nice accomplishments. The IRL has suffered quite a few black eyes this season. This one is self-induced and is one that they certainly could have avoided.

George Phillips

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10 Responses to “It’s Time To Fix The Record Book”

  1. How incredibly low key was that?! It was almost as if it was an add-on in a kind of “oh, by the way, Scott Dixon has just…”
    I heard more excitement at the conclusion of the Richmond race that for the new record

  2. The American Mutt Says:

    I believe if they did merge the records, of the current full time drivers Helio would actually have the most wins too wouldn’t he?

    • oilpressure Says:

      Without checking, I believe you’re right. Combined, Dixon would have twenty-one and Helio would have twenty-three. I’m doing this strictly from memory and that’s a scary thing. I could be wrong.

      • Filipe Furtado Says:

        Helio , 22, both Dixon and Dario, 21. Off course Tracy would let if becomes a full time driver (and so would Bourdais if he comes back).

        One curious example of how the blindness can cost the series is that Helio is currently tied with Emmo in wins, his next win will make him the most successful brazilian driver in AOW. It’s nothing like beating AJ numbers, but given how important brazilians have been in the last two decades it’s something the series regular fans will pay attention and more important it’s a stat that would probably mean something to Helio who is one of our two drivers people actually know.

  3. How hard is it to calculate this win list? It’s already complete on Wikipedia…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_American_Championship_Car_winners

  4. Tim Nothhelfer Says:

    Let’s not forget Will Power’s 2008 Champ Car Championship in it’s final and perfect season.

  5. This really does make the IRL look stupid. It also really does make it seem like they hold a grudge from the split. They certainly keep the history of the 500 straight. CART proved you can have a great series but without the history and tradition of the 500 (and leadership) you are doomed. You would think these two factors would make it clear to the idiots in charge how important the full, combined history is. Thowing away A.J. and Mario, etc. Insulting Power and Wilson with their “1st” wins. Winless Paul Tracy. This is just stupid and yet another insult to the most hard-core, dedicate fans that IndyCar needs the most.

    • I don’t read as a grudge so much as petty-mindedness. That or simply trying to whip up any kind of publicity they can by giving people “all-time!” records.

      I have to keep reminding myself that we’re the tiny vocal minority, and I don’t have access to the collective mind of the fans as a whole, but it does seem be doing nothing but irritating people–among those who care. That seems counterproductive, particularly now.

  6. John McLallen Says:

    How can you claim the heritage of Vukovich, Shaw, Foyt, Jim Clark, Parnelli Jones and Mario Andretti without their records?

  7. The reason the IRL doesn’t count USAC/ChampCars is because
    those driver were GIANTS, not the midgets that drive now. Do
    you think a driver like Danica Patrick would ever finish in the top
    15 against those legends LOL.

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