No Contrived Finishes Here, Please
At times, I have found myself nervously drumming my fingers as I try to come up with a new topic to write about. Other times, my mind is on overload trying to choose between several potential storylines. This is one of those times.
The IZOD IndyCar Series is faced with its first bit of devastating news of the year, which is not even a week old. I’m talking about the potential loss of Firestone as the tire supplier to the series. This would be an unsettling development for many reasons. First and foremost, would be safety. Firestone has a keen understanding of the demands of these tire and chassis combinations. They have been successful in providing quality tires for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, short ovals and road/street courses.
I also hate to see such a storied name leave the series. Firestone won the inaugural 1911 race with Ray Harroun. Before 1967, they had won forty-three consecutive Indianapolis 500’s. After a twenty year hiatus, they returned in 1995 and promptly chased Goodyear out of both open-wheel series by 2000.
But that is not what I’m writing about. Many other IndyCar bloggers have already done a much better job than I could, articulating the harmful effects of Firestone’s departure for the last few days. Besides…what else could I write that hasn’t already been written? Instead, I’ve decided I’m going to write about something that caught my eye a few days ago.
This past Tuesday, I read a question in Curt Cavin’s Q & A that still perplexes me several days later. The reader was complaining that with all of the good things going on in the IZOD IndyCar Series, why couldn’t they do something about ending races under the yellow. The reader claims that there was a lot of momentum for this after the 2009 Texas race, but nothing had been done about it since. Fortunately, Curt quickly informed him that he knew of no momentum and he didn’t see any reason to do it.
I think I keep my ear fairly close to the ground regarding IndyCar, and I don’t recall any momentum whatsoever to do something about it following the 2009 Texas race.
Apparently, this fan has been watching just a wee bit too much NASCAR. When you look at all of the gimmicks that NASCAR has come up with in the past few years – the Chase For The Championship, double file restarts and the like – the one that I find most contrived is the green-white-checker finish. You know, where if a race finishes under a caution – they’ll extend the race to two more green flag laps to try and give the fans a finish under green.
I’m not really sure what a racing purist is, but I’m sure they are turned off by the green-white-checker concept. I consider myself a normal, everyday fan, yet I find myself very offended by such a gimmick. It insults my intelligience as a racing fan.The IZOD IndyCar Series doesn’t need a Chase to make the end of the season exciting and they don’t need a green-white-checker to make the end of a race exciting, either.
When did finishing under the yellow become so taboo? Is Dan Wheldon less of an Indianapolis 500 champion because his race finished under the yellow in 2005? What about Rick Mears? Is his 1988 Indy victory tarnished because it finished during a caution period? How about Dario Franchitti? Both of his victories finished under a yellow flag – in 2007 due to rain and 2010 for Mike Conway’s crash. Does he have an asterisk by his name? The answer to these questions are: no, no and no.
Yellow flags are as much a part of racing as speed, pit-stops and loud engines. Some were upset when they began using a pace car during the race at Indianapolis. Prior to 1979, the only time the pace car was used at Indianapolis was to start the race. If a yellow flag occurred, drivers were expected to maintain their distance from the car in front. Traditionalists were appalled when the field was allowed to pack up behind the pace car. Some considered that to be gimmicky. Imagine what they think about the green-white-checker idea.
As most know, I’m very much a traditionalist – especially when it comes to the Indianapolis 500. But the fact that the green-white-checker idea goes against tradition is not why I’m against it. It completely throws race strategy out the window. I caught flack for saying I wasn’t opposed to engine failures because it threw a wild-card into the race. But to plan on a race running for 200 miles and then suddenly find yourself having to stretch fuel for 210 miles or more, goes beyond a wild-card. Then it becomes luck of the draw.
Another factor to consider is the fact that these engines are more tempermental than NASCAR engines. NASCAR thinks nothing of shutting all of the cars down on the backstretch, while a late race crash is cleaned up. Then they fire ’em up, drive them around a couple of more laps and then let ’em go racing. It’s kind of hard to re-start twenty-six IndyCars on the backstretch when the hand-held starters are in the pits. When they do get started, it’s my understanding that an IndyCar engine requires quite a bit more warm-up time.
No, let’s leave the gimmicky finish to the racing series that thrives on gimmicks to satisfy their new-found fickle fans. I’ve always said that those new NASCAR fans that showed up ten years ago would eventually leave them as quickly as they found them. It’s coming to fruition as many of NASCAR’s fans are deserting them in droves. Let’s hope that the new momentum that is being created in the IZOD IndyCar Series will create a more loyal breed of fan.
Now, speaking of momentum and loyalty – just what is going on with Firestone, anyway?