Chicago Preview

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It’s sometimes interesting the way some blog posts will set off a firestorm that go off in the strangest directions. On Wednesday, Susan Scruggs wrote an article that she felt strongly about – how she prefers ovals over road courses. All Susan knows of the open-wheel split is what I’ve told her or what she occasionally hears on television. Like most, she was not even aware of the sport in the nineties and knows nothing nor cares about all of the political posturing that took place fifteen years ago.

Being a longtime follower of the sport, I knew such article would create a lot of traffic. It did. The angst in the voices of both sides didn’t surprise me. But she has gotten to the point that she actually dreads watching a road course, yet she loves watching ovals. Susan knows enough about the new regime and what Randy Bernard is trying to do, that she felt it was important to lend a voice of the casual fan to this site. Hers is a fresher voice than mine because she has only been following this sport for about seven or eight years – not almost half a century, like me. I’m glad she has enough interest to take the time to voice her opinion and having the guts to take on a subject that I knew would be cheered by some and would irritate others. The traffic and amount of comments didn’t surprise me.

What did surprise me was the direction that the comments took on Wednesday afternoon. Susan and her pro-oval stance were quickly forgotten. Instead, a battle started brewing between two readers about American sports in general. One side said that today’s society places way too much emphasis on winning in sports. Huh?

Before we look at the upcoming IZOD IndyCar Series race at Chicago, I must throw in my two-cents worth. Winning is the purpose of having athletic competition. It’s that simple. Has our society now been infiltrated with the ideas from academia that says that competition is bad and our world would be much better if we could all co-exist peacefully without competing against one another? Dear God, I hope not.

To quote that immortal philosopher Herm Edwards – “You play to win the game”.

Is Vince Lombardi now considered that much of a dinosaur for uttering “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing”? How about all of the quotes on winning from AJ Foyt and Mario Andretti? Do you think winning mattered to them? Would Bobby Unser have had the same level of success if competition and winning wasn’t important to him?

The Tee-Ball mentality in today’s society dictates that we shouldn’t keep score and we should all get a trophy so we can all feel good about ourselves. Why don’t we bulldoze Victory Lane at Indianapolis, not count laps and when Brian Barnhart decides everyone has driven around enough, he’ll pull them all in and all thirty-three drivers will get their own bottle of milk? It sounds silly doesn’t it? Not to those who think we place way too much value on winning in sports.

The absolute in sports is what attracts us. We spend all week at work dealing with the bureaucracies of corporate America, that we sometimes don’t know what, if anything was accomplished. Sometimes you find yourself meeting to decide whether or not to have a meeting. It makes your head spin. Like the Monday Night Football commercials – we look forward to weekends, just to get some sanity to our lives. The beauty in sports is that there is black & white. There is very little gray. There are winners and there are losers. Winning should be celebrated, while losing should be something to learn from to prevent it from happening too often.

I don’t normally single out readers and pick on them. I appreciate the readers and their comments on this site. Without them, there wouldn’t be much of a reason to keep doing this. Unfortunately, this particular reader happened to hit one of my biggest hot buttons, and I just had to vent. I apologize for the rant.

Now, about Chicago…

The IZOD IndyCar Series returns to the ovals this weekend, which is a relief to many and drudgery to others. The next two tracks have historically played host to some of the closest finishes in IRL history – Chicago and Kentucky.

Chicagoland Speedway is located in semi-beautiful Joliet, Illinois. I’ve never been to the track, but I’ve been to Joliet. Probably the best thing I can say about Joliet, is that it is nicer than Gary, IN. I’ll leave it at that. The track itself falls into the cookie-cutter category, meaning it is a 1.5 mile tri-oval – very similar to Kansas and Kentucky – and a larger version of what Nashville once hoped it would be.

Chicagoland Speedway is not to be confused with Chip Ganassi’s ill-fated Chicago Motor Speedway, although both were built around he same time. CMS was located in Cicero, IL on the site of a horse racing track. It was a one-mile tight paperclip type track similar to Milwaukee and New Hamphire, but the track produced racing with no passing. The track ceased operations in 2002 and demolition of the track began in 2009.

Unlike recent races at Kansas, the racing at Chicagoland Speedway has been fast and furious. There is no doubt that we’ll have to endure multiple replays of Ryan Briscoe’s hideous crash there in 2005, when his Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz was ripped in half in the catch-fencing. After his recovery over the long off-season, Briscoe was told that Ganassi was scaling back to a two-car team and he was the odd man out. I would say things have worked out well to this point for him, but I hope he doesn’t squander his opportunity at Team Penske.

One thing about returning to the ovals, it brings Will Power down to the level of mere mortals. I’m not opposed to Power winning the championship I just don’t want him to run away with it, like he is currently doing. Curt Cavin predicts that Power will win one of the four remaining ovals. I’m not so sure. Although he has been close a couple of times, he has never won on an oval. I’m just not sure how hard he pushes with a fifty-nine point lead in the standings.

Power won’t win this weekend, but neither will either of the Target boys – although Dario Franchitti needs to. Since I rambled on so much in the earlier part of this post, I’ll wrap this up and make it short. The winner of this year’s race at Chicago will be…Helio Castroneves.

George Phillips

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20 Responses to “Chicago Preview”

  1. “The Tee-Ball mentality in today’s society dictates that we shouldn’t keep score and we should all get a trophy so we can all feel good about ourselves…”

    Which is why I think those that don’t finish should get points. I don’t understand someone should get points just for showing up.

    Anyhoo, I think dario will take the race, but Power will be down in…. 6th :)

    • Heck, It is why I dislike road course and oval champions! Not because I don’t want to see the best driver of a give discipline recognized, but because the winner of a race should be more important than a guy who gathers points by finishing as first loser more than everyone else.

      If you awarded championships based on number of wins with average margin of victory as a tie break I would love it.

      I never read the comments on the previous post because I felt she is entitled to prefer ovals and she had valid reasons to support her preference.

      • So, you’d rather we had a points system where Will Power could clinch the championship (and then go on to finish dead last in the last three races of this season, or just skip them all together, if Roger wanted to) by winning at Chicagoland? Frankly, I think that IndyCar has a great points system, which rewards winners a points premium over a 2nd or a 5th or whatever, though I’d actually prefer if they punished bad finishes more. Anyway, the IndyCar system is a damn sight better than the mess that they’ve got over in NASCAR.

  2. The American Mutt Says:

    My pick for the win is Briscoe, the next two races.

    George, quit dividing the fan base in two, you neglect those of us who love racing in general, and are generally sick of oval vs road course arguments when both offer excitment. Though, both typically don’t seem to offer much excitment with this car on the track.

  3. Indeed. Let’s face it, fans don’t pack the stadium to watch calisthenics. It is all about winning. As a long time, suffering Cubs fan it pisses me off to no end when the Cubs start to win and people join the bandwagon and act as if they were always there. Where were they in the early 90’s after Zimmer was fired? As for racing, well lets just say that I enjoyed each of Rick Mears 4 Indy wins as well as three of Foyt’s and all four of Al Unser’s. Also, Sam Hornish beating Marco to the finish line was thrilling.
    Go Bears!

  4. The only loser this weekend will be the Indy Car series, as it races for the last time at one of its best and most exciting venues and leaves the 3rd biggest media market in the country in the process.

    This is an important race for sponsors, potential sponsors and AOW fans.

    But its gone, because Indy Car has a warped since of its importance and value.

    The winner of the race? The same 2 teams that have won nearly every other race in the past 3 years.

    • “But its gone, because Indy Car has a warped since of its importance and value. ”

      What is that supposed to mean?

  5. “I’ve never been to the track, but I’ve been to Joliet. Probably the best thing I can say about Joliet, is that it is nicer than Gary, IN.”

    George, that’s DOWNTOWN Joliet you’re speaking of. As long as a fan heading north on IL-52 gets on I-80, they’ll be fine. I can’t argue the point about downtown though.

    And Chicagoland Speedway is LIGHT YEARS better than the long gone and justifiably forgotten Chicago Motor Speedway. No overpriced parking (when it could be found), surly staff, or smelly industrial backdrop at Chicagoland.

    And if we’re making light of cities in the states we live in, last time I looked Tennessee is home to Memphis. Off Beale St. I remember some places that made downtown Joliet look PEACEFUL.

    So there. :^P

  6. George,
    I think should athletes should win. I think athletic competition means having winners. I was commenting on the fan fascination with winning when in fact they do nothing. Sport enjoyment is down in so many sports bars because somehow we feel “our” team should win. My point was such fans need to get a life. If you are the pitcher, the driver, the QB, then you should aim to do you best and win. But I think fans need to be fans and find a better way of enjoying sports other a bizarre identity confusion that leads me to believe the Cubs losing should affect my mood. Fights between fans are up at all sports events, spending is out of control, and the expectation that Tiger Woods let his fans down is bizarre. That is the phenomena I was talking about.
    I feel like my comments have been taken pretty far out of context here.

    • How is spending out of control. Are not the athletes the people that we pay to see? Don’t they deserve the money and shouldn’t the teams try to place the best team they can on the field? Of course they should. Also, when I spend my money at a Flemings Steakhouse I expect the staff to provide the very best. I expect nothing less from professional athletes. Also, when I go to Wrigley Field I go wanting to see the Cubs win and not excersize. Same when I tune them in on the television. Claiming that fans have an identity crises because they have bonded with a team, athlete, rock band, musician or an event and need to find a better way to enjoy sports is laughable when it comes from someone who posts on sports blogs and identifies themself by an energy drink that sponsors sporting events and auto racing.

      • John,
        I think your missing the point on some of what I am saying so I am inclined to let this conversation die (especially when it gets to the point of commenting on someone’s screen name). My only point is here is that I don’t mind being taken to task by George but I want it to be for what I said. Pointing out how winning matters to people like Vince Lombard or AJ Foyt is talking about how it matters to athletes which I don’t question. To be fair he should be pointing out how it makes sense for AJ Foyt superfan to have quotes on winning. So I think its unfair to attribute a Tee ball society to me (although with fights breaking out at tee ball games often in many townships I think we might want to think through what goes on there more). My only point is that I think the nature of “fandom” being primarily about winning is category confusion and I am interested in conceiving of different ways of fandom. So I like sports, and I want to be fan, but I want to question the current nature of being one. Obviously this is a much more philosophical conversation that I should ever attempted on sports blog and for that I apologize. I am bowing out now.

      • A lot of people have quotes from winners and read their books without caring one iota about sports, but, regardless that it makes great sense, I guess that you would detect something wrong in the mental makeup of someone who was motivating himself from the wisdom of a winner. By the way, I see that you didn’t like that I pointed out your declaration of fandom to an energy drink, but it’s perfectly fine to insult me by suggesting that I live vicariously through sports teams as well as the “johnmc superfan” shot. However, go ahead and sniff at my pointing out how contrary you are with your “philosophy” by naming yourself after a racing sponsor. That, redbull, is what I say is confusing the lines.

      • Sorry if I offended you John. That wasn’t my intent.

  7. Competition is in the human spirit. I think those that say that too much emphasis is placed on winning are actually competing in their own warped competition to see if they can be the best at being “nice”. Now, I say that but I think that these people who say this may simply be confusing competing to win and poor sportsmanship but don’t make any effort to separate the two. I think today’s society perhaps talks too much trash or sometimes has too much showmanship, or a rub-it-in-your-face attitude, so to speak. But to not compete to win means you are a failure before you start. Good note, George.

  8. Timnothhelfer Says:

    I always liked the spring training test sessions at HMS. No crowds, little pressure and I get to see everything up close (including the drivers without the woman’s sunglasses on).
    I appreciate the racing so much more later…..
    I’m going to miss the IICS @ Homestead!

  9. Bob,

    Its pathetic TV ratings, lack of sponsors and lack of real money/interest in the series, does not jive with what Indy Car EXPECTS/DEMANDS for a sanctioning fee.

    I don’t blame race tracks for not ponying up for Indy Car races. Nobody cares anymore and if you don’t have freebies (like most of Mid-Ohio’s crowd) or put on a party with a race going on in the background (like the street festivals) you can’t get a crowd to show up.

    And now that we have told ISC to eff off, we are left with SMI and a few renegade ovals out there. What happens in a few years, when SMI doesn’t want to pay the big sanctioning fee for Indy Car races?

    Indy and a bunch of street festivals. That’s what.

  10. In stick in ball sports, there is a winner and a loser. Two sides, very black and white. Life is not black and white. Racing is not black and white. A second place finish isn’t a loss, it’s just not a win. GRAY! If I could be the second best at anything in this world I would be considered a success. If you consider second place a loss, you will lead a very miserable life because someone is always going to be better than you no matter what you do in life.

  11. Talking about professional sports, some of us care more about effort than about results. Let me explain the situation here in Uruguay: unlike the United States, where most big cities have just one major league team, most Uruguayan football (soccer for you) teams are from Montevideo. So Montevideans can either root for one of the big two (like me) or choose a “small team”. It’s more than rooting for the Clippers insteaad of the Lakers: there are about a dozen of teams to choose, and some fans pick teams that will never win the championship.

    So these small team fans want their team to play their their best and avoid relegating, even if they lose most matches. They want their team to push as hard as they can, even if it’s much less than the big two teams. They don’t care about winning, but about giving their best.

    In my case, I’m a Nacional fan. And unlike most Nacianal fans, who wish the worst to Peñarol, I prefer Peñarol to play well in the finals, but Nacional to win by playing even better. And I prefer Nacional to lose the championship by playing well in the finals and getting beaten by an even better playing Peñarol than by playing even worse than Peñarol.

    • That’s a great point. People used to say that Minardi was possibly the second most popular F1 team behind Ferrari for years, and it couldn’t have been because people thought they’d win a race (though they did as Toro Rosso a couple years ago), it was because it’s fun to root for the little guy to crack into the points and sometimes beat the big teams. It’s the same way in IndyCar. Sarah Fisher has quite the following, but even the most fevered fan couldn’t imagine her team winning at this point. It’s more about rooting for her to finish in the top-10, then building her team up to the point where it can win races (a years-long process). It isn’t all about winning, even if it is mostly about winning.

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