The Deafening Silence

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It’s been over three weeks since the DeltaWing chassis concept was unveiled. Since the initial outcry, many of us have moved on to other things to discuss like driver signings, etc. I made a silent vow to myself that I would not bring it up again for quite some time. Almost everything that could be said had already been said. With the season starting in earnest next weekend, there were just too many other things that I’d prefer to talk about.

But I’m noticing a disturbing trend that has me more than just a little perplexed. For the second week in a row, Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee tried to pin down an influential member of the IndyCar community to get their honest opinion of the DeltaWing chassis that we saw displayed last month in Chicago. Both times, they were subjected to a delicate tap dance that would have made Helio proud.

Tim Cindric from Team Penske and Gil de Ferran of the newly re-named de Ferran Luczo Dragon Racing – two men that I have a tremendous amount of respect for – both had the question posed to them in the last two shows. Last week, Cindric quickly defused the explosive subject by saying that it was best to focus on the series at hand. He sited the fact that Izod had just come on board along with Randy Bernard and it was best to focus on promoting the racing we have currently. He then stressed that the worst thing we can have is a lot of owners disagreeing on something after finally getting all the teams and owners in to one series – a stance I totally agree with.

Last night, Gil de Ferran was the guest who received the same question. de Ferran was always one of my all-time favorite drivers. I liked the way he carried himself on and off the track. His short time in the ABC booth was a little shaky, but he certainly had his moments. What I always liked about him was his candor. Although he was always very tactful, you always knew what Gil de Ferran was thinking…until last night. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone ramble through an answer like de Ferran did last night.

He droned on and on about how IndyCar needs to get back to what made it great and repeated variations of that theme for what seemed like an eternity – yet he never really confirmed what it was that MADE it great. Throughout all of that, he never once said whether he liked or hated the DeltaWing.

So here we have two men, both of whom I respect and admire and neither will say a disparaging word against the project. Coincidentally, they are both connected to Roger Penske who has also been curiously quiet on the entire DeltaWing matter. My question is…why?

While so many team owners were so quick to jump in line behind the DeltaWing concept, why are others so careful not to criticize it? You can understand Chip Ganassi’s zeal for the project since he has funded either all, or a large portion of it. John Barnes has already gotten the approval of every ten year-old boy he has come across, which is enough to explain his enthusiasm. Kevin Kalkhoven has made it quite clear that he is solidly behind the hideous project. If all of these owners are so free with their opinions of the DeltaWing, what about those that are not in favor of it? You know there are some owners who hate it – where are they?

Has anyone gotten a peep out of AJ Foyt on the DeltaWing? I haven’t heard his opinion of it, but I have an idea he has one. I also have a pretty good idea what it is. Why have we not heard from him? Foyt is always more than willing to let everyone know exactly what is on his mind. I’m sure he’s not ambivalent on this subject. What does Carl Haas think about it? Robbie Buhl is both a car owner and broadcaster. Surely he has some thoughts he is allowed to share.

Why is it that the blogosphere is the only place that you will see it in print that some people hate this concept? If owners or drivers dislike it, they’re not talking. Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee admit they’re not crazy about the looks of it, but they also try to appear to tread very lightly on the subject.

It’s almost as if anyone who comes out and speaks against the DeltaWing, is as dishonorable as someone saying they hate puppies and are in favor of cancer. They are immediately vilified and portrayed as treasonous.

I realize that Dallara has stuck it to the owners over the last few years by charging full price for an ancient chassis design, but does that mean they shouldn’t listen to Swift or Lola? What is it about this topic that is so sensitive that even the most influential people in racing have to carefully guard their every word?

Before we saw the DeltaWing concept, it was already becoming apparent that this was going to be a polarizing issue. I jokingly offered that a conspiracy theorist would have a field day trying to figure out the real reason behind the DeltaWing concept. Well, now the joke doesn’t seem so funny. When AJ Foyt doesn’t ring in with his opinion on such a volatile subject, it tells me that something is brewing. The trouble is, I don’t know what that ”something” is.

Opinionated, millionaire owners are used to going against the grain to get what they want. It’s in their nature. There was never a shortage of opinions or quotes fifteen years ago, in the days leading up to the split – and many of these are the same owners as then. So, what gives? Can anyone explain their silence?

This should be a joyous time of the year as the green flag is about to be waved on the 2010 season. Optimism and excitement is usually in the air at this time. It still is, but the uneasy silence among some of the owners is adding some trepidation to the air. The DeltaWing has created a buzz, but it is also creating a great divide. Tim Cindric is right…that’s the last thing we need.

George Phillips

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23 Responses to “The Deafening Silence”

  1. Now that you say it, I think you are right. It seems that it was the whipping boy of the blogosphere, but nobody “official” has given their negative views of the thing. The only person attached to the IndyCar community in any official sense that derided the project that I can think of is Roy at the Silent Pagoda and we all know what happened there. Hmmm.

  2. At work–when asked for my input–I always assume the real decision has already been made.

  3. I have to believe there is some sort of gag order in place.

    Or, maybe the real reason is that after Hobbson’s post comparing the Delta Wing to “liittle Chipper” they were all left speechless?

    • WHO would be imposing this “gag order” :?: This is a Chip Ganassi project NOT an IMS/ Brian Barnhart sanctioned one :idea: The gag order would only come after ALL these owners agreed they LOVED IT & are moving forward.

      • I do think that the league has asked them not to comment on ANY of the design proposals. It’s not just the Delta Wing that they have been dancing around. It’s the whole chassis mfg. question.

        The only owners that have spoken at all, are the ones most closely involved with DW.

        I don’t suggest this as any “conspiracy theory”. I just think the League has made a reasonable request to the team owners that the refrain from commentary for or against a design, until a selection has been made. Kind of like I ask my wife not to get excited at the Car Dealership when we are shopping for a new car. I think the league doesn’t want to give any of the potential suppliers leverage in a negotiation.

    • I don’t think the league gives a damn if they comment on ANY of the designs (especially if they support the Dallara) :idea: The IRL would LOVE negative comments of the DW (or the other 2012 concepts) as IMO they want to keep cozy with Dallara… the owners obviously do NOT :!:

      Davey Hamilton didn’t have an issue giving his opinions on the 2012 designs on the Trackside radip show (available on i-Tunes)

  4. Randy Bernard probably is busy reading all of the cards. letters, and e-mails and is getting used to the old vegas boys in the back room. The politics of bullying is one thing, making a new trend popular is something else. Making this new D.W. trend acceptable is like jamming down the new healthcare bill by reconcilliation.

    What is the remedy for bullies on the playground…safety in numbers.

    Randy Bernard was a great choice for a leader because he is used to Bulls, I’m sure he is not intimidated…Silence is good.

    If the Team Owners cry because they didn’t get their way( and go home with their ball and glove,) Sarah Fisher might actually have a chance to win a race….

  5. There’s a reason Carl hasn’t talked … same reason he’s barely ever at the races…

  6. I don’t think anyone wants to publicly contradict Chippy if they think that there’s a reasonable chance the thing will be killed by other means, such as fan outrage. Sad, really. But The Big Three are so super powerful in the league, it may be suicidal to go up against them.

  7. Mike Miller Says:

    This silence is because they all know in reality that the vehicle displayed at the Chicago auto show will not see the track. Now that the feedback is comming in like artillary fire, most of it from fans, it’s not as much as being intimidated by Chip as it is being embarassed they were behind it.

    Secondly, I think the team owners like the concept, but not the car. Logic has set in about the display model. Every car that all drivers have driven in ladder series, going to work, going to school, going anywhere, had four wheels equally spaced. How can you expect an F2000 friver, FILS or any other driver who their whole life has honed their skill with 4 wheels equally spaced jump into this design and go?? You can’t, it would be a disatster.

    The fans spoke, the owners woke up. Will the say, “oops, we goofed.”? No! Instead, the just get quiet.

  8. I know for a fact that the paddock bar two team owners are in lock step on the Delta Wing. Even Tony George is on board with the concept as he finally realizes that costs need to be contained and the game needs to be changed.

    Dale Coyne and AJ Foyt are not behind it and yet they have said nothing negative either.

    The positioning of this as Chip Ganassi versus everyone else in a battle of wills and influence is pretty misguided.

    Sometimes one can read way too much into what is and what is not being said.

    Dex

  9. Meanwhile, on the same program Gil appeared on, Davey Hamilton raised some serious questions about the DW, said he had asked them, and indicated hearing crickets for answers…

  10. Dreyer & Reinbold issued a statement on their website, so it would appear Buhl is in favor of it. I’m assuming he’s trying to keep his team interests & broadcast lives separate, much like he does when announcing one of his cars being stuck in the fence.

    As for AJ, he’s probably herding bees on the ranch.

  11. Savage Henry Says:

    I think the owners are legitimately ambivalent. They love the concept and the opportunity to draw more attention, sponsors, and money to the series. They know they need a game changer – evolution is just going to force them to fight over NASCAR’s table scraps for many more years. From an engineering and cost standpoint they know it is terriffic.

    Unfortunately, they don’t like the car itself. Its ugly and they fear that the public won’t like it and it will become a punch line rather than a marketing tool. I believe that they are working behind the scenes to try to make the car more attractive and marketable.

    If they crush the concept now it is dead and they’ll be stuck in evolution mode again. If they keep their mouths shut while the redesign is going on then there’s a chance they can get the good parts without suffering the bad parts.

  12. Chris Lukens Says:

    Here is my take on the Delta Wing. I have listed in no particular order the things I like and then listed in no particular order the things I don’t like.

    Things I like:
    1/ lower cost
    2/ multiple engines(maybe)
    3/ no wings

    Things I don’t like:
    1/ it’s ugly
    2/ it’s really ugly
    3/ it’s really friggen ugly
    4/ I don’t think the coefficient of traction on the front wheels will turn the car.

    So there you have it. The dis-likes clearly out number the likes. It is also clear that this a purely a visceral reaction.

    One more take. I have to laugh when people ( and I have read this multiple places ) that drivers coming from an under powered over stuck feeder series won’t be able to transition. Now you know how the drivers coming from an OVER powered UNDER stuck ( i.e. USAC sprintcars ) series feel about it.

  13. I’m assuming that guys like Foyt and Penske are ready for whatever, but don’t want to choose sides so early in a potentially ugly conflict, in case they favor what the IRL proposes.

    Hopefully, a reasonable, Indianapolis-built chassis will be selected from Lola, Swift or Dallara and all will be happy with it. If it’s cheap enough I doubt they’ll care much.

  14. Can anyone please translate the “gag order” thing to plain English?

    My view is that everybody is fearing (or scared to s… of) yet another split. It’s the worst time such thing could happen. No matter how ugly, slow or archaic the chosen car is, everybody knows that everyone must support the change or open-wheel racing disappears completely from America.

  15. DemondSanders Says:

    Yup. I think the consensus is it will never see the track and thus there is no reason for the dissenters to pile on with criticism.

    The DW team started designing it a year too late it would seem. The other cars are much more conventional so they don’t need to be proven. The DW should already be on a track somewhere testing. It isn’t and therefore it really isn’t a threat for 2012.

    (For the record I love the DW talking points, but am unsure about the car itself. I’d really like to see it in action before deciding if it is horribly ugly.)

  16. @DemondSanders

    You couldn’t be more wrong about the DW compared to the other cars in terms of development.

    Swift told me last week, that they wouldn’t have a car ready to test until the Summer of 2011. ALL they have produced are rather terrific drawings. DW stated that they will have a prototype testing by August of 2010.

    Dallara, Lola and BAT are nothing more than ideas right now too. Lovely drawings that are part design study and only, at best, part CFD led engineering.

    The real problem is why Indy STILL haven’t issued a tight specification as opposed to a rough set of guidelines or goals? Nobody seems to be asking that question. 2012 is not that far away when you are starting from a blank sheet of paper and you may need to design, test and build 24-40 cars plus extras and spares. The reason the DW exists is because nothing concrete was coming from Indy on this subject and that is hardly the way to run and control your series.

    I might be missing something but I have not seen any blogging about the World Class dragging of feet and silence about any concrete specifications coming out of Indy in the last couple of years (if there has been any, then I apologise for missing it). They have already missed the 2011 anniversary deadline and it will now be celebrated with a 33-car field of spec open wheelers that are one year away from officially qualifying for historic racing. And sadly the stock cars will cut through the air more efficiently than them, later in the season.

    Dex

    • Andy Bernstein Says:

      Hey Dex,

      A little institutional memory:

      Andrew Bernstein Says:

      January 22, 2010 at 7:16 am
      There are so many troublesome aspects to these developments, and the rancor you suspect might be the worst of the lot. I also agree with your opinion about a single chassis series: it becomes a different thing, only kinda the same.

      Here are some other points to mention for consideration:

      The Chicago auto show may provide a first glimpse, but every description of the Delta alludes to its vast difference from the current IndyCar.

      There seems little likelyhood that Dallaras could compete along side an evolutionary design. Different performance characteristics would make that impractical, differences in vehicle dimensions would make it unwise.

      So adoption of a completely new specification brings with it some added cost. New setup and maintenance equipment will be required. And the Dallara chassis will immediately be devalued to nil when the orders are placed for its successor.

      Lacking an engine supplier, or even the specs to define its configuration, many essential design elements of the Delta cannot procede. Stressed engine installation or not? V6 or I4? Where is that darn center of gravity?

      A sense of continuity in the look of an IndyCar is important to me, but selling the new fan is what closes the deal. Who’s in charge of that market research is another mystery from the Delta.

      I’ll stop the list for now, but it all points to my preference for an evolutionary replacement. The fragile finances of many of the teams makes my best argument for a gradual transition: perhaps an equivalancy regulation will be required, but the mandated purchase of new equpment should not be.

      This course enables the Dallara to run, until all competitors have the means to replace it.

      It’s a vote I will lose.

      Andy Bernstein

  17. I think Lola has the best car and concept combo. If we want to have high car counts, more americans and competition, Lola’s concept works best. A few changes to a Firestone Indy Lights Car and it can race in the Izod IndyCar race the next day. Lola’s car should offer more IndyCar experience to a Indy Lights driver helping them move up the latter at a faster rate. If some owners want Delta Wing then they should start a Delta Wing series and leave IndyCar alone so we can all decide what we want to watch and support.

  18. Yes, it is odd that AJ Foyt hasn’t weighed in on the DW topic.

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