No More Room For Haters
If you listened to Trackside last night, you heard yours truly and a host of other IndyCar bloggers plugging our respective sites and discussing topics that tend to be our hot buttons. If you’ve been a longtime follower of this site, you know that one of my hot buttons is the group I refer to as “The Legions of the Miserable”.
If you recall, back in December I posted an article based on an e-mail sent to me by a reader who asked me “Why do people hate IndyCar?” It was a legitimate question and it’s even more relevant now. As IndyCar has experienced a PR nightmare with the Sarah Fisher engine situation, the haters are coming out of the woodwork. The problem is, they don’t necessarily seem genuinely concerned whether or not Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing can secure an engine quickly. Instead, they are seizing on the opportunity to further ridicule the powers-that-be in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
Keep in mind, there is a difference between a hater and a realist. Haters carry as little credibility as someone on the other end of the spectrum who proclaims “all is well” and buries their head in the sand. A realist looks at the overall picture and uses reasoning to decide if something is working or not. The haters have caused a lot of dissension in our sport over the years.
I don’t know of this type of dissension among fans in any other sport. This whining is not limited to present day race fans, either. Remember, I was following this sport in the sixties as the rear-engine revolution was engulfing the Indianapolis 500. As Jim Clark was winning the first Indianapolis 500 that I attended, there was definite fan resentment – even within my own family. Being a six year-old, I thought the new cars were sleek and sexy. My older brothers and my father considered them blasphemous. They were not alone. Devotees of the roadsters thought rear-engine cars were for drivers that liked to “be pushed around”. In other words – for men that weren’t very manly. Of course, by the time I got there in 1965 – AJ Foyt had made the switch to a rear-engine Lotus and that saying quickly disappeared.
In 1992, I returned to the track as an adult. When they drove Parnelli Jones’ Ol’ Calhoun around the track that cold race morning, I remember hearing someone grumble, “That’s the way a race car is supposed to look – with the engine in the front.” Granted, Parnelli’s 1963 winner has always been one of my favorite all-time cars; but I’ve never let it keep me from embracing newer cars.
The late seventies had its own version of the miserable. When CART was formed at the expense of USAC, you would have thought the sky was falling. No matter which side you were on, battle lines were drawn and things got ugly – really ugly. Battles on the track were eclipsed by battles in the courtroom.
Even when CART was in its heyday in the early to mid-nineties, things weren’t as rosy as conveniently remembered now. There was a great deal of dissension in the ranks. Foreign drivers were becoming more frequent and were deemed by some as the certain ruination of the sport. I remember the outcry in 1993, when only eighteen drivers on the starting grid for the Indianapolis 500 were Americans. An unimaginable fifteen foreign drivers were in the starting field that year. Of course, twenty-two foreign drivers started the race in 2011 leaving only eleven American drivers – and that was after Bruno Junqueira was dumped in favor of American driver Ryan Hunter-Reay.
As road racing became more prevalent, oval fans squawked but to no avail. Once again looking at the 1993 season, there were sixteen races scheduled – of which, only six were ovals. Sound familiar? The hard-core road racing fans considered racing at Indianapolis a necessary evil and basically checked out and put up with the “circus” during the Month of May until road racing returned.
The Legions of the Miserable at this time is partly what prompted Tony George to develop the ultimate device of hatred. They convinced him that true racing fans wanted American drivers racing on ovals. Thus the IRL was born along with a level of dissension, the likes of which I have never seen.
I will admit to siding with CART during the mid-to-late-nineties. I watched the mostly no-name drivers of the IRL but more out of curiosity than anything else. I still followed CART religiously. I gave up my tickets to the Indianapolis 500. I had no interest in traveling to watch Tyce Carlson battle it out with Racin Gardner and Dr. Jack Miller. But watching that dreadful US 500 in 1996 was no fun either. When Juan Montoya won the 2000 Indianapolis 500 for Chip Ganassi, it was a sign of a thaw in the open-wheel cold war. The following year, I was thrilled when regular CART teams swept the top-six positions in the 2001 Indianapolis 500. I wasn’t thrilled that CART had embarrassed the IRL, I took it as a giant step towards returning the Indianapolis 500 to its rightful place.
By 2003, Team Penske had already made the switch to what was then called the IndyCar Series. The newly re-named Andretti-Green followed along with Target Chip Ganassi and Team Rahal, who all made the switch in 2003. Fernandez and Patrick Racing came over in 2004. I’ll admit, my allegiance switched from CART to IndyCar in 2003. That was also the year I started going back to the Indianapolis 500.
As CART shriveled up and morphed into Champ Car, their followers dug in. Their series continued to run Milwaukee, but beyond that – they ran road courses exclusively, much to the pleasure of their fans. But from a business perspective, it became obvious that an open-wheel series could not sustain itself without having the Indianapolis 500 on its schedule. Much to the chagrin of the Champ Car faithful, Champ Car quietly went away for good, prior to the 2008 season.
There have been four seasons run under a unified open-wheel banner, yet the Champ Car fans continue to gripe and moan as they swear their type of racing and their series was far superior. What I don’t understand is, why are they so unhappy? They have everything and more than what they had their last year in Champ Car. There is a new car. They had the DP-01, while IndyCar has the DW-12. There are three engines instead of one, and engine leases are now the norm – just like in CART. Ovals are outnumbered two to one on the schedule and most seats are filled with foreign “world-class” drivers. Is that not pretty much what they had in the waning days of their beloved Champ Car?
So, what’s the beef?
Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series has a fully-committed title-sponsor – not co-sponsors that were already the tire and engine supplier like Champ Car had. They have a decent TV package with six races on network television and the remainder on an up and coming subsidiary of NBC – not Spike TV. Car counts are on the rise – even with new equipment for 2012. Oh, and there is also a race in May that the series can totally build itself around.
Instead of a revolving door of leaders like Joe Heitzler and Chris Pook, the IZOD IndyCar Series has been blessed with a man like Randy Bernard who has a long-term vision for where this series needs to be. At the dismay of the haters, he has things headed in the right direction. Yes, there have been stumbles – the SFHR engine deal come to mind – but his overall plan is sound. Most of all, he has built a consensus within the participants in the series as well as the fans. Except for the moronic haters out there, he has everyone on board.
Do the Legions of the Miserable not have anything better to do with their lives? I really don’t care for the NBA. I really don’t. But I don’t spend my time lurking around NBA blog sites to spew my bile everywhere on them to let their fans know how much I dislike their sport. Instead, I choose to ignore them. I have better things to do with my time. Life is simply too short.
So if you were once a hater, but find yourself secretly intrigued with all the good things going on in this sport – hop on board. This train still has room and it hasn’t left the station. But if you are intent on dragging this sport down just to satisfy the dead Champ Car crusade – There’s no more room for you here. I suggest you get a life.