Getting The Facts Straight
For the entire time I have had this site, I’ve always maintained that I am not a journalist. There’s a reason for that. I’m not. I am a blogger, in probably the truest sense of the word. My definition of a blogger is someone who feels like they have a lot to say about a particular subject; so they go out and start their own website and post regularly about the subject for little or no money (for me, it’s the latter). That’s what I do – nothing more.
Over time, I’ve seen many of my fellow IndyCar bloggers completely disappear; while others have moved forward from regular bloggers like me, to blurring the lines between bloggers and actual journalists with what have become very sophisticated sites that rival traditional mainstream news sources. Our good friends over at More Front Wing have created a very good example of what I’m talking about. They do an excellent job, and if you haven’t checked them out – do so.
I have a great deal of respect for many of today’s motorsports journalists; such as Curt Cavin, Robin Miller and Marshall Pruett. They do an excellent job and probably don’t get enough credit for the job that they do. But this past weekend, I took exception to some of the mainstream reporting done by TV and print journalists; when Jeff Gordon tied Formula One driver Michael Schumacher with five wins at Indianapolis Motor Speedway by winning Sunday’s Brickyard 400.
Many reported this weekend that Gordon and Schumacher were the all-time leaders in wins at IMS with five wins apiece. That would come as a surprise to the real all-time leader in wins – Johnny Aitken.
Does the name not ring a bell? It should. Altogether, Johnny Aitken won fifteen races at IMS between 1909 and 1916. In that time, he earned one pole position; started in two Indianapolis 500’s and drove relief for two drivers in another. He also has the distinction of leading the first lap of the very first Indianapolis 500.
It will come as a surprise to some that Aitken’s forty-one starts at IMS is also a record. AJ Foyt is second with thirty-six; thirty-five consecutive starts in the Indianapolis 500 and one in the Inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994. I can assure you – Johnny Aitken deserves to be named among the greats at IMS. Gordon and Schumacher’s five wins don’t even rank second in all-time IMS wins. That honor goes to Ray Harroun, who had eight wins – including the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911.
Keep in mind, there were many races held at 16th and Georgetown in 1909 and 1910, before there ever was an Indianapolis 500. There was also a series of fall races at IMS in 1916. I’ve read where some claim that those wins shouldn’t count because those races were shorter in distance or were not considered major races. My question is – where do you draw the line?
The Formula One races held from 2000 to 2007 weren’t even 200 miles. One of Johnny Rutherford’s Indianapolis 500 victories was only 255 miles. All of those races seem to count in the eyes of many.
In the past three months, how many different winners have been crowned at IMS? Does anyone really know? Let’s see, Simon Pagenaud won the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, but how many ladder series ran that weekend. Quite honestly, I don’t know – but there were several drivers that weekend that became winners at Indianapolis. Then you had the Freedom 100 along with the Indianapolis 500. That was just in May alone.
In June, there was the Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational. How many winners were crowned that weekend? Your guess is as good as mine. This past weekend, there were many different classes of sports cars running on Friday. They each had winners crowned, along with the winner of the Nationwide race as well as Gordon’s win on Sunday. That’s all before Moto GP shows up in less than a couple of weeks.
I can’t even begin to count how many winners that is – and that’s for this year only. Are you going to tell Ty Dillon that his IMS win last Saturday doesn’t count, simply because it was too short or wasn’t a top series? Probably not. Try telling Simon Pagenaud his victory in early May didn’t matter.
This rant does not originate from a disgruntled IndyCar fan that hates to see the hallowed ground of IMS desecrated by taxi-cabs from NASCAR. This is all about being fair to the history of IMS and simply getting the facts right. It makes for good hype to say that Jeff Gordon and Michael Schumacher are the all-time leaders – mainly because everyone knows who they are and their wins all came in our generation. It’s not sexy to say that Gordon is now only ten wins behind someone who won his races a century ago and most have not heard of. It may not be sexy, but it’s true – and factual.
Nor am I upset that AJ Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears are being overlooked by winning only four Indianapolis 500’s each. Each event should stand alone. That’s why I was also perturbed by the hype-seeking statement by those that claimed that Kevin Harvick set a track-record on Saturday when he qualified at 188.470 mph. I’m sorry, but unless he topped 238 mph – Harvick did not set a track-record; he set an event record.
Is any of this stuff important? Most will say no, or that it’s just another angry IndyCar fan claiming that the pro-NASCAR media is trying to re-write history. To me, neither is correct.
I just want facts presented correctly, whether it be from a lowly IndyCar blogger in Nashville, Tennessee or a major worldwide news outlet – they need to get it right. Unless you are talking about the Brickyard 400 specifically, this was not a record-setting weekend. Kevin Harvick set a NASCAR record at Indianapolis, as did Jeff Gordon. But neither set or tied IMS records.