Not All Questions Are Stupid Questions
Note from George – Susan Scruggs first posted an article here last June. Since then, I have given her the green light to post here whenever the mood strikes her. This time, the mood struck her over a post I had here last week that she didn’t completely agree with. I may have to re-think this green light thing – GP
After George wrote his post on “stupid questions” last week, there were parts that I had to disagree with. Yes, he’ll take time to explain the simplest things to any new fan that we take to Indy. He is very patient with new fans that have never been to a race before, I’ll give him that. But sometimes when I ask something about racing, he can make me feel like I’ve asked the dumbest question on earth before he even opens his mouth. The subconscious roll of just one eye tells me just how stupid the question was.
But looking past that, here are some of the questions that I’ve asked George over the years that he has answered – patiently or not. These are what I think are normal questions from anyone, male or female, that is a relative newbie to this sport. The TV people aren’t great at tipping all of us uneducated fans off at a lot of these. I compiled this list and asked him these simple questions again this weekend. What follows are his answers and a few of my comments. He reminded me that most of these; I’ve asked him more than once (sigh). Whether or not these are the right answers is anyone’s guess…
What’s a Gurney Flap? It’s a wickerbill. OK, what’s a wickerbill? (Now this is where he tried to get more technical than he really is.) A wickerbill is long interchangeable strip of assorted widths that can slide in and out of the trailing edge of a wing to add or remove downforce. (Hmm…OK, check that one off.)
When a car crashes into the wall, why do people refer to it as “sticking it into the fence”? Uhh…I don’t know (with a rather dumbfounded look on his face). They just do. Next question. (I love to watch him squirm when he says he doesn’t know something.)
What are marbles? They’re little balls of rubber that come off of the tires and make their way up to the less traveled portion of the track. When cars go over them, it’s just like trying to walk on marbles. I talked about it last week. (I guess I missed that one.)
Why can’t they make tires to last the whole race? 65-75 miles for a set of tires doesn’t sound like good advertising. They could, but they wouldn’t handle well at all. Tires are a compromise. A long-lasting tire would be very hard and therefore wouldn’t corner well. A very soft tire will handle great but wouldn’t last two laps. It’s a delicate balance and that’s why it will be bad if Firestone leaves. They have struck the perfect balance. We’ve seen how Goodyear and Michelin tires have held up at Indy in recent years. (This must have been a hot button. He said a lot more, but it got boring.)
Why can’t they put lights up at Indy? They can, they just shouldn’t and they won’t. Not ever. They put lights up at Wrigley Field and that never should have happened (I didn’t bother to ask why not to that). It would be bad to dump 300,000 people out on the streets of Speedway at midnight. (So it’s OK for people to be lining up in the dark at 5:00 am and turning them loose at 4:00 pm?)
If they run road courses in the rain, why can’t they run at Indy in the rain? (There’s that look I was talking about. This was obviously a very stupid question.) At most road courses there are giant runoff areas in the turns to help scrub off speed. At Indy there is a concrete wall. Plus, the speeds on a road course don’t come close to the speeds at Indy. It would be way too dangerous. (I guess that makes sense.)
Why does it take two days to qualify at Indy, but at other tracks it takes an hour and a half? (I can tell he’s getting irritated when he shifts around in his chair). Because it does. (Not a good answer.) It used to be four days. I don’t like it that they’ve shortened it to two and I don’t like the gimmicky process they’ve thrown in. It used to be a car could qualify one time. If it got bumped, the driver had to get another car. The previous car was ineligible. The driver didn’t qualify, the car did. (Well, that sounded dumb and didn’t answer my question. I let it go.)
Why does the winner at Indy get milk? (I knew a historical question would get him back in a good mood, even though I already knew the answer to this one). When Louis Meyer won in 1936, his favorite drink when he was hot was buttermilk (gag). An official with the dairy association saw a picture of him clutching a milk bottle in victory lane as he chugged his buttermilk and thought it would be a great marketing opportunity. Hence a tradition was born. (He’s in a better mood now.)
Instead of making those wing adjustments during pit-stops, why can’t they control the wings from inside the car? Because it’s not allowed. But why not? It just isn’t. (So much for the good mood. It’s always considered a stupid question when he doesn’t know the answer.)
Why is Firestone talking about leaving Indy Car and who will take their place? (This is where his demeanor changed from irritated to serious.) That’s a good question and one that I’m not sure anyone has a complete answer for. From what I hear, this is not a decision being made by Al Speyer or Joe Barbieri. This is coming from above their level. In fact, if it comes to pass, they may find themselves out of a job. It’s a pity. I always took pride that such a prominent partner to the series was located right here in Nashville.
As to who will take their place, you’d have to look at Goodyear as a logical replacement. They were in the sport for thirty-five years until they left after the 1999 season. Other tire companies may surface, but Michelin and Goodyear both had debacles at the Speedway in recent years with their respective Formula One and NASCAR programs.
Last question – Why do we always have to leave so stinking early to get to Indy on race day? (George has pet peeves, this is mine!) Because every year, the infield parking gets smaller and smaller. Don’t you remember 2006? Some of our group complained that they wanted to sleep in and wanted to leave the hotel at 10:00. I made the foolish mistake to compromise and leave at 7:00. They closed off the infield parking while we were sitting on 16th street. We had to make a U-turn, go back about a mile and pay $25 to park, then we got to lug all of our stuff that same mile. I wasn’t happy, and I let those in our group know it – just in case they couldn’t tell. I will never let that happen again. That’s why we are sitting at 16th street and Kessler Blvd at 5:30am every year since then waiting to hear the bomb go off.
So there you have it. There are many more questions I’ve asked over the years, but these came to mind quickly. Besides…this is now almost as long as most of George’s posts.