Why Do People Hate IndyCar?

About two weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a longtime reader who will remain anonymous. It began with this question: Why do people hate IndyCar?

When I saw the question, my first thought was “I didn’t know that they do”. As I read on however, I understood his angst. The bulk of his e-mail is pasted, without editing, as follows:

Why do people hate Indycar?

Okay, I know I probably shouldn’t read Miller’s Mailbox.  Or the comments sections in any Indycar blog for that matter.  But I’ve been wondering why there’s so many people who don’t just hate Indycar, but actively and consistently campaign against it.  Are there really that many disgruntled CART fans who want to see the "IRL" fail too?  Tony George haters?  Nascar supporters who hate open- wheel?  Roadster fans?  Ovals only fanatics?  F1 snobs?  I don’t know.

I enjoy Indycar.  I think it will be around for a long time.  It may change (as it has changed in the past and is changing now) but I’ll follow it in whatever incarnation it takes.  I think Randy Bernard has had to deal with a extraordinary amount of difficulties since he took over but is doing a pretty decent job.  But I’m amazed at the number of people who actively follow it, yet claim it’s bad racing by bad drivers in bad cars under bad management in a bad series. 

I thought that his was an interesting set of questions. I’d think–logically–that if I suddenly disliked Indycar, I would just stop watching it, reading about it or following the blogs.  I would just ignore it.   That’s all. I wouldn’t go on a campaign against it, but that’s just me.

I am a fan of Robin Miller. I can remember while growing up, my father would subscribe to The Indianapolis Star each May. I can recall reading Miller’s work in the late sixties and early seventies. When I finally got a computer in the nineties, one of the first things I found online was Robin Miller’s Q&A at IndyStar.com. I have always appreciated his sense of humor, his writing style, his candor and his ability to get to the truth. Some may disagree with me on that point, but Miller has shown an uncanny ability to put some seemingly outlandish theories out there, only to see them become fact a few months later.

But I agree with the reader about Miller’s Mailbag, a weekly feature on SpeedTV.com. Miller still has his sense of humor, but those that write in seem to be filled with anger and hatred towards open-wheel racing. There is a segment of fans out there who sided with CART the moment the idea of the IRL was first announced at Phoenix in March of 1994. You know what? I was one of them.

Throughout the early days of the split, I was angered by Tony George’s creation. I watched few IRL races in the early days, and always winced when I watched the Indianapolis 500 in the late nineties. To me, it was the Indianapolis 500 in name only. Jim Nabors still sang, they still launched balloons before the start and they always awarded the Borg-Warner trophy to whoever was drinking milk in Victory Lane. But it wasn’t the Indianapolis 500 that I had been following since the mid-sixties.

By the turn of the millennium, it had become obvious that the IRL could outlive CART as long as they could still race at 16th and Georgetown. CART suffered many self-inflicted wounds of their own. It became readily apparent that one of the series needed to go. At that point I didn’t really care which one went away, so long as one did. After Marlboro Team Penske migrated full-time to the IRL in 2002 and Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti-Green came over in 2003, it was clear which series needed to go. My allegiance had completely shifted.

Call me a fair-weather fan or spineless or whatever, but my main hope was that the Indianapolis 500 would regain some of its lost stature – no matter who won or lost. Now that that has happened to some extent, I’ve done my best to forget about the split. Apparently, some have not.

The haters are not starving for energy, no matter how negative it is. I don’t know whether or not I agree with the reader who says that it seems like some not only hate IndyCar, but actively campaign against it. If you read Track Forum at all, it may seem that way. But I’m convinced that most people over at Track Forum probably hate just about everything in their lives anyway. That’s why I stay away from there for the most part. I come across many members of the “Legions of the Miserable” in my daily life, why would I want to seek them out while trying to escape into my hobby.

One thing that has always baffled me however, is the phenomenon that causes people to constantly peruse IndyCar sites and continue to comment about how terrible things are and how the sport is headed to certain demise. If you don’t like it, why even bother to follow it? I don’t care for the NBA at all. If it went away for good, I wouldn’t miss it a bit. But I don’t surf NBA sites and continue to blast those that are passionate about it. I just choose to ignore it. Life is too short to be that bitter about something as trivial as a sport you don’t like.

So to the reader that sent me this, I can certainly relate to your frustration. You need to be thick-skinned and sometimes put blinders on in order to be a fan of the IZOD IndyCar Series. Fortunately, he shares my optimism about the leadership that Randy Bernard is providing. It was easy to buy into all the garbage that was in the mainstream media this past October regarding Randy Bernard and the series. Predictably, most of the negative press disappeared as quickly as it showed up. They moved on to the next bit of sensationalistic gossip.

And to those that sometimes get caught up in discussions about the split (as we all do), just look forward. At this point, it does no good to keep harping on what happened and who was at fault. I fully believe there are much better days ahead for our sport – and much sooner than later.

George Phillips


34 Responses to “Why Do People Hate IndyCar?”

  1. Bent Wickerbill Says:

    I have noticed that nearly anywhere online that there is a means for some miscreant to voice an opinion, whether that opinion be based in fact or not, they will take the opportunity. It happens on You Tube, Facebook, Twitter and every blog et-al… Lets face it, there are a lot of miserable / hateful people with access to a computer living in their mom’s basement with a lot of time on their hands.

  2. It’s understandable if people think Indycar is boring or technically inferior or a bad product in comparison to the past or in comparison to F1 or Nascar or hate twisties or hate ovals or who just have no interest in watching it. But I don’t get the people who seem to follow Indycar just so they can “actively campaign” against it.

  3. As mom always said, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

    People really need to focus on the positive things in their lives, and if there aren’t any, they need to make some.

  4. Robin Miller is not a journalist. He is a personality that has made his career for the last 15 years scavenging people’s CART vs IRL fueds for his “mailbag”.

    • Bent Wickerbill Says:

      Actually Miller has been writing about, reporting on and breaking stories for and about open wheel racing et-al for more than 40 years… The real truth is, Miller has been fired from more jobs than most, simply because he had the balls to write what about what was actually going on rather than write fluff pieces like many of his contemporaries… Yes actually reporting the real news, what was really going on in the sport which has frequently lead to his dismissal. So, Miller perhaps more than most, truly deserves the title of journalist… Robin Miller has forgotten more about open wheel racing than most other so called journalists and yourself Mike Lis..

      • Miller is a good source of information, but Mike is exactly right.

      • Problem is Miller is ethically challenged. Anyone who receives a salary from one series and then goes out to bash it;s competitor is ethically challenge. Doesn’t even have the guts to admit to the people he was a paid employee of CART. He is a bitter ole man who signed on to the losing side and to this day still refuses to act in a professional way when discussing the series. His comments have done more damage to open wheel racing than any split. Many do not know his association with CART and think he was objective and didn’t have an agenda. He didn’t get fired because he refused to print fluff pieces. He got fired because he used his articles as propaganda pieces. Of coourse sending pornography through the company email didn’t help. He is a person who believes he is bigger than the sport.

    • I read Miller and I don’t see that he is a hater. I know that he hated what happened to the sport and I can’t say that I wouldn’t write something negative as well if I were in his position. The split disgusted me, too.

  5. Brian from NY Says:

    People express their displeasure all the time in order to draw exposure or to lament what they see is wrong. We have the year of the “protestor.” Most American’s complain about their government, taxes, housing, jobs, etc. These are things that effect our everyday lives. We then look to recreational activities to derive enjoyment in an otherwise frustrating real world were we have no say. Indycar has a history that has left bad blood to many fans of open wheel racing. I don’t think it’s a question of hating Indycar, but more of frustration by fans that hate the direction the sport has taken in the last 17 years.

    In the USA when people dislike the direction of the country, we vote them out. In countries that have a despot ruling them, change only comes by way of a revoltion or a coup. In 1979, Indycar had a coup by the owners that toppled the ruling family. What followed was 15 years of growrth by a democratic board. They may not have been perfect and some had more power than others, but that is the nature of a democracy. Then in a bid to regain their rule Tony George started a civil war. What resulted was a torched earth that led to no winners and the destruction of AOWR. The Hulman George family may have regained control, but much like war torn countries in Africa their victory left a swath of destruction. The despot may have won, but the people still long for a better time.

    I think untill the Hulman George family gives up it’s rule of Indycar there never will be a end to the conflict. As much as I like Randy, he is really nothing more then a Prime Minister appointed by the ruling family. He has no real power that is not signed off first by the family.

    The political process of picking Dallara to build the new car only gives evidence to the protesters to the charge of graft and insider deal making. What could have been an olive branch to a disgruntled fan base has turned into an object of scorn. The new car is a reminder of everything that is wrong with Indycar.

    The point I’m trying to make is much like the protesters in the middle east hate their rulers, they love their country. I think the people that complain and show hate really love Indycar, but hate the rulers and want to see another revoltion.

    • I think you make some good points in your recap of the series over the past 30+ years. I would like to think that Bernard is not a puppet of the George family. I think much of what he has either attempted to accomplish or has accomplished is for the good of the series and not just the 500.

    • I understood your point already after the first paragraph. After that, perhaps a bit over the top. “Torched earth”, “swath of destruction” ? Sheesh!

      I don’t agree with your last paragraph at all, however. I believe that many of the people who consistantly put up the same rants about the current series are just grumpy people who are living in the past and have nothing positive to offer. They are the folks that you move to the other end of the bar to get away from.

      Pick just about any story that Curt Cavin puts up on IndyStar.com, for example. There is a hard core group of commenters that never have anything positive to offer.

      And to say that Randy is “nothing more than a prime minister appointed by the ruling family” is not only untrue but really demeaning to a very capable man. If you really like Randy as you say, why would you make a comment like that?

      “Another revolution”? Oh yeah…….that would be helpful.

    • I disagree, but appreciate your honesty Brian. As long as TG & family run Indycar, some people will want it to fail.

      While criticism is to be not only expected, but often times deserved, I think Brian’s problem (like others) with Indycar has nothing to do with cars or tracks or drivers or consistancy–all things that could be fairly criticized–but Tony George and family.

    • There is no unity among Indy fans. Many of us believe Tony George tried to save Indy Car from the owners who were ruining it, by doing pretty much what they are doing today. Tony failed but his biggest mistake was briing the Cart people back after they drove their series into bankruptcy. Unification has turned out to be a double edged sword.

      One could argue, and I will, that the civil war started in 1979. The owners are back on top, selling rides to F1 rejects who have no experience on ovals, hence the decline of ovals. They also have a very short frame of reference, causing them to go for the easy money (municipal street parades) rather than taking a long term approach that may not be profitable initially. I think Randy Bernard went for that long term approach, but he has been overwhelmed by the owners just as much as Tony George was.

      Brian, you were actually fairly polite. Most of the CARTcentric folks can be downright insulting. I am sure the same can be said for some of those I support. The split may be over legally , but in the eyes of the fans, it still goes on. I think that is the “hate” that people see.

      • You can see the influence of the CARTanestas in the series already. Penske is using his power to eliminate the competition. As owner of Ilmor he controls who gets the Chevy engines. He tried to stonewall agreed upon allowable changes for the Honda but Honda was too powerful. Then when Lotus turned up being too slow, politics made sure they would not get any assistance at Indy even thought it was agreed by all three engine builders that in season changes could be made to equalize competition. This will not be the last time this happens either.

    • You are spot on.

      I am a hater of the Indy Car series. For all the reasons you state. I’ve loved OW racing since the dirt track days growing up in central NY. Loved going to F1 at The Glen, moved to Ohio and going to Indy. Followed CART until they were no more.

      CART was challenging F1 until the grandson came along. Pushing 240 mph speeds at Indy was part of the draw. Now look at it. Now I hear excuses why 210 18 years later is OK.

      I still hope that Indy Car fails so that the Hulman family will be forced to open up the rule book and allow innovation and different sounds to come from IMS.

      • CART in it’s hey day was only a clique sport. Mostly followed OUTSIDE the US. US tv numbers were lower than the Trucks get today. People want to remember it as something it never was. Outside of Indy it was a minor sport. drawing high 2s and maybe a few low 3s except for maybe LB which would on occasions reach the low 4.s. NASCAR had already over taken all of open wheel except Indy in the mid 80s. Then the Daytona 500 over took Indy in the early 90’s.

  6. H.B. Donnelly Says:

    I think my experience with Indiana Basketball fans has enlightened me to the way some folks think. As IU was in basketball, the 500 was once THE event in auto racing, and when older fans think of it they are nostalgic about the “good old days”. Every time they watch IndyCar (or IU basketball), they like to hope it will look exactly how their memories tell them it should look. When it doesn’t, they complain incessantly. They’ll still continue to watch because of the nostalgic expectations, but they’ll always end up mad “because it’s different”.

    One neat upside to my analogy: IU Basketball finally has the fans pumped up for the first time in years. Maybe IndyCar isn’t too far behind!

  7. Perhaps the reason people are critical is because there’s a lot of things wrong??? Like say, an unannouced schedule that could have as few as 14 (or less if Texas and Baltimore fall through) races with only 3 or 4 ovals…

  8. james t suel Says:

    I belive its the fact open wheel racing has lost so mush respect. I still love Indy an support Indycar. But as long as we are a spect seris we will have haters. Yes there are a lot of bitter cart fans,TG haters .Most i belive are computer geets that have never seen a race. I think a lot of guys like me who have been around the sport since late 50s ,the currant state of the sport pales in comparison. My
    first love is and will always be IMS and the 500.ive been to them all since 1960 . Yes i perfer ovals ,so iam not real happy!

  9. It’s called schadenfruede in German, skadegaldje in Swedish and has other names in other Germanic laguages but it boils down to people taking pleasure from others pain. Why only Germanic languages have a single word description for this is beyond me, when this practice is common the world around, just look at the internet. 😉

  10. Where would INDYCAR Racing be without the Hulman-George Family? Tony Hulman saved the Speedway in 1946. Sure decisions made have been wrong, but you do not build history/tradition..etc without making some correct decisions also. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the “most hallowed ground in motor racing”.

    The computer/internet is a sensational way of communications, worldwide. There used to be great writers in many newspapers across this great country. Unfortunately, the papers are disappearing, so have the grear writers, but the “wanna be” people who like to spread the doom and gloom are coming out of the woodwork.

    Relax and enjoy what you have people, “The World’s Greatest Race Course” held in conjuction with the “World’s Largest Single Day Sporting Event”, The Indianapolis 500.

    Thank You Hulman-George Family for carrying on the tradition.

  11. a recovering ex-blogger Says:

    I like tacos. They are delicious. Sometimes, they are filled with ground beef, while at other times, you may find chicken or steak. Carnitas is pork and can be a wonderful surprise in a taco. Once, I even had beef tongue. You’d think it was weird, but in fact, it was quite delicious.

    In terms of toppings, I don’t particularly care for cilantro, so pico de gallo is eliminated in terms at about 85% (i’d estimate) of taco joints. Actually, some of the best tacos i’ve ever had came from a taco joint that was in a gas station. Guacamole is always a treat, as is cheese. I rarely use sour cream, however. I prefer a warmed, soft corn tortilla. I’d say a hard corn tortilla would be better than a soft flour in most situations. I’m not picky on the outer shell, though.

    This is not a metaphor for the IndyCar fanbase. I just really like tacos.

  12. Phil Leshioh Says:

    You are right about track forum. Most of the members are nothing but arrogant “place fans” who nothing about racing outside of Indy.
    The owner uses two usernames to make sure his agenda is followed.
    He will ban for minor things while letting back in others that are nothing but trouble makers. Those two must have pictures of the owner or something.

  13. In my decades of being an IndyCar fan, I don’t believe anybody who argues and posts hates the sport.

    IndyCar is a mix of two very different cultures. And there are those within those cultures who are polarized, to the point of hating the other culture. The other form of racing. And that is what we see. The series themselves were very polarized. And polarizing.

    They don’t understand that the sport needs both cultures to survive, let alone become as big as it once was during the brief time both cultures watched.

    Hopefully there are enough people who aren’t polarized who can see through them, and continue to enjoy the sport for its diversity.

  14. I pay no attention to the hate. However, I do pay attention to thoughtful analysis that may not jibe with my opinion.

  15. I hated what the sport based on the 500 became at the split.

    Today I hate what the sport has become again. There was a period in between where I felt otherwise. Things could have been better but the future was not grim like it is today.

    Misplaced priorities and bad business are killing the sport and are cancerous to the 500. The long term business plan is based on the hope and Prayer. That is fine if you rely on the sport for entertainment. Not if your friends and. Neighbors rely on the sport to provide for their families.

  16. Funny, that George. You and I took the exact same paths during the split. The early IRL Indianapolis 500’s felt like pale shadows of races past, and I *still* can’t think about the “Mickyard” without shuddering in embarrassment.


    That said, I think we need to distinguish between noise/displayed anger on internet forums and actual opinion across the ranks of all fans. If you look at *ANY* forum – any sports team, politics, or heck, even non-controversial ones like home appliances (seriously! I’ve been shopping for a new fridge) – you WILL see a level of division and opinion that simply does not exist in the real world. Internet forums have that effect. They tend to condense and distill opinions down to potent levels that aren’t seen offline.

    I recall the Indiana University blogger and beat reporter a couple of years back discussing the differences between what he was reading online from Hoosier fans and what he heared in person when he went to the games or was just out and about discussing things with people on the street. He was struck by not just the differences, but the extreme characteristics of what he saw online. I need to dig that column up sometime, but the point is that this is a real-world example outside of racing (it was Indiana University football) where this effect was very pronounced and discusses by a reporter/columnist.

    You’ll see people vent disdain at length online at any given sports team, you’ll see people online take political stances that you never see in real life, you’ll see people online say things about movies, TV shows, musicals, etc. that don’t reflect what people you talk to in the office or meet at the mall say, and you’ll even see garbage thrown about online for products and services that have little to no reflection upon what you would personally experience with those items yourself had you purchased/patronized them. It is the nature of the internet to be a free venting board for the disaffected. It was never intended to be that way, but the nature of it being free, easily accessible, and utterly unchecked as far as authority approving content lent itself to being the natural destination for any and all grievences and complaints.

    Internet forums are considered by many to be the equivalent of the public poster kiosk or wall in the city: It’s a place for them to hang their fliers and get their word out.

    So are there people who truly hate Indycar? Of course. But does that reflect the majority opinion? Given my experience to such behavior on the internet – experience exacerbated (heh) by my profession, which is information technology – I’d say not even close. The internet is well able to magnify the voice of a small handful of the malcontents and agitation-minded people. And the very small number that take joy in finding forums to vent on their favorite topics is small, but they are able to make their impact seem far more impressive than it really is simply because we don’t expect such malcontents to cross forums so easily. Yet, we do it ourselves, so little wonder that they can too. At any rate: Sure, such malcontents exist. They’ll post at forums where their voices will be heard and not suppressed. And they’ll give voice on other forums until they’re shouted down or outright ignored. But this doesn’t mean they’re anything other than insignificant. If they were truly numerous, you wouldn’t be seeing them comment. You’d be seeing stories reporting on the wave of discontent. They would BE the story, not the hangers on throwing their opinions on the coattails of the stories. While they exist and can have detrimental effects on the forums they frequent, they’re pretty much a bunch of nothings in the end. They’ve simply found a way to not be ignored.

  17. I think that your poll needs a fourth choice. “No. Most in the sports world, and racing world in particular, don’t care about Indy Car at all, one way or another.” People have conflicting ideas about how to grow the sport, but I think most critics think they have a vision that if followed will lead Indy Car back to the promised land.

  18. I can sum up why Americans Hate IndyCar: It hasn’t been “American” since at least the late ’60s. The ever-increasing pernicious influence of European motorsport has led to a point where no American can get a job as an OWR without racing in Europe; while the Americans who stay here and develop a fan following are treated as bastard offspring by the almighty European overlords. You want to bring OWR back from its grave? If I may be permitted a small amount of irony, two words: Auslander Raus!

  19. Let’s not take the 0.0000003% of “people” who get into Miller’s mail bag or read, write or comment on blogs and extrapolate that into to the entire nation, or even all race fans. The sample is NOT indicative of the general population. I would guess fans either like IndyCar, or ignore it. Actively hate? Very rare, statistically speaking. I stopped reading the Miller Mail Bag long ago because it’s soul crushing. I am a happier person for having done so.

  20. I had an e-mail included in Miller’s Mailbag that was positive and defended Randy Bernard and Wheldon’s presence at Vegas quite nicely after the tragedy, but most of what he picks is negative to be sure.

    The main reason I can think of for the “hate” we perceive is that, generally speaking, only the people on the extreme ends of an issue tend to post online or try to shout loudly enough to be heard. Right now Indycar has more people at the negative end than at the positive. The maintstream media relies on what it reads on message boards and forums and uses that to form the basis of their coverage. This is because they are lazy and willing to view what they read online as representing the “pulse” of things. The result is that they pile on struggling entities and pump up others without having a clue as to what is actually going on. Their overly positive preception and presentation of NASCAR is a result of the same phenomenon. It’s both a self-fulfilling prophecy and a viscous circle. It’s also very unfortunate.

    IndyCar needs a shot in the arm and certainly could use a run of good luck, but I don’t see it as all gloom and doom and I have good freinds and relatives who work in the series and feel the same way.

  21. Why do people hate open wheel racing. It is a simple answer yet no one accepts it. First off let’s clear one thing up open wheels problems began way before there was an IRL or a split. Until you are ready to accept this fact you will never be able to understand why people hate open wheel. We must go back 40 years to know the truth. For decades on Saturday night you could not attend a weekly local race without seeing shirt and hats of all the major racing stars in the US. Most were open wheel drivers. You even could see these major stars as they barnstormed across the US. People associated with the open wheel stars. This was standard practice until the 70’s. When American open wheel made a change and began moving away from the weekly racing fan toward a more European form of racing. When the roadster faded away in favor of rear engine cars. The local fans could no longer associate with what they were seeing. No longer could you see the stars of open wheel barnstorm and show up at many local events. Even events such as the Indy 500 couldn’t avoid the back lash as it’s TV ratings began to suffer. Going from a rating of 17.9 in 1976 to 9.7 less than 10 years later. There was a bump back up to 11.0 in 1986 for the first live ran not delayed by weather. But it fell back to single digits the next year and has remained in single digits ever since. American open wheel began to change the focus of their promotion. They began going after corporate American and less and less grass roots America. The local racing community became disenchanted with open wheel racing. Even open wheel organizations such as USAC began to plow the fertile ground of stock car racing. Going head to head with NASCAR for the grass roots racing fan. Events such as the formation of CART and the plane crash that killed several USAC officials weakened their position in the war with NASCAR. By the time the USAC stock car series folded in 1984 the sport of stock car racing had gained the attention of the fans which felt abandoned by open wheel racing. NASCAR had moved from a regional sport to a national sport. By the early 90s stock car racing had surpassed all of open wheel racing in the US except for the Indy 500. By the mid 90s the Daytona 500 had even surpassed the Indy 500. The issue that many think was a cause of open wheel’s problem was actually a symptom of open wheel’s problems. The split. The split in reality would have had little effect on open wheel if not for certain in the media taking sides in the battle. People like Miller did more to damage open wheel than the actual split. To those on the outside his scorched earth policy left a bitter taste in their mouth. When a person paid by one of the parties in a dispute uses his position to damage the competition it always end up hurting everyone. Miller lost all credibility due to his actions. The fact he to this day still uses his position to bash the IRL imposing his commentary in the place of actual reporting. It is no big surprise that open wheel has not started to regain it’s place in American racing. Will open wheel regain it’s position on the top of the heap? NO, that ship has sailed and will never dock again. sprint Cup racing is and for the foreseeable future will be the big dog. The best open wheel can expect is to try and regain superiority over the Nationwide Series. Reality is that in the US the France family holds all the cards. Not even the FIA would want to have a head to head dispute in the US with the France family. The three most historical racing venues in the US are Indy, Daytona and Watkins Glen. The France family owns two of the three and own the only series that race at all three venues. I do not think that even Brian France can screw things up badly enough for open wheel to reach the top of the mountain again.

  22. What CARTanestas cannot answer and refuse to discuss is why is it the Indy 500 went from over 17 million households in the mid 70’s to less than 9 million in the early 90s.

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