IndyCar Again Not Given Credit
If you watched Sunday’s Daytona 500, you may have seen that NASCAR introduced their new technology for 2016 – mandatory digital dashboards. Gone are the analog gauges that have adorned Sprint Cup dashboards since the beginning of time. It made me wonder if the next segment would be about NASCAR installing new fax machines in their home offices.
IndyCar fans had to chuckle when they saw this, since digital dashes have been a staple in open-wheel racing since the mid-to-late eighties. If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, it’s what many cars in CART had on their dashboard when Rick Mears was in his prime, then eventually moved to the center of the steering wheel quite a while back. If you’re using your flashy new Texas Instruments calculator, that’s about thirty years or so.
I try to avoid most NASCAR/IndyCar comparisons. It is usually a no-win discussion – sort of like talking politics. No matter which side you are on, you are entrenched and passionate – and nothing the other side says will change your mind. You usually just walk away frustrated and wondering how the other person could be so stupid.
But I had to laugh when I read this article Sunday morning in our local paper, that originated in USA Today. It bragged how technologically advanced this device was in the way it (gasp) had several different pages of data the driver could scroll through. What I found so interesting was that there was never a mention that these dashes have been standard equipment in many other forms of racing for decades. It was touted as blazing new technology spearheaded by NASCAR.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise to IndyCar fans who have already seen open-wheel developments such as the HANS device and the SAFER barrier credited to NASCAR.
If you read further down into the article, you’ll see that NASCAR will be experimenting this year with sensors to detect air-pressure in the tires. Seriously? Silly me. I assumed that this had been in NASCAR for years. I know that Team Penske developed such technology in CART about a quarter of a century ago and they quickly became standard issue shortly thereafter. I guess that explains all those Goodyear tires blowing unexpectedly in NASCAR, sending drivers head-on into the wall. And this is a series that claims to put safety first?
We’ve all known for a while that NASCAR employs caveman technology, while trying to disguise it as cutting-edge. While IndyCar pit crews make intricate and subtle changes to the front-wing, NASCAR crews take a sledge-hammer to tune the rear-spoiler of a stock car. IndyCar uses onboard air-jacks to raise the car all at once, while NASCAR has a jack-man that carries around a floor jack to raise one side of the car at a time. IndyCar uses a central locking hub to change the tire, while NASCAR teams have to change five lug nuts per tire. I mean, NASCAR was still using carburetors until the 2012 season. When was the last time you bought a street car with a carburetor?
So do I have a point, or is this just some random rant against NASCAR?
Well…it’s both. I do get frustrated any time I see NASCAR touting what they have done when it is IndyCar that did the work – be it safety or technological improvements. As they did with the digital dashboard thirty years after CART or IndyCar, NASCAR acted as if they took the lead on introducing fuel injection into motor racing.
Most anyone who knows anything, knows better – but there are a lot of mindless people out there who hear this tripe from the NASCAR publicity machine (read: Darrell Waltrip) and take it as gospel. These same mindless sheep will turn around and recite it to refute any facts that you try to use in an argument supporting IndyCar. I know from personal experience. It’s an exercise in futility.
Even though NASCAR’s TV ratings are declining and IndyCar’s are slightly rising – it’s very disconcerting to see the disparity that still exists between who’s watching NASCAR and who’s not watching IndyCar. More importantly, it’s what companies are sponsoring NASCAR and not sponsoring IndyCar.
I watched the Daytona 500 from start to finish. The last two laps were about as exciting as you will find in racing. I also thought that Laps 1-198 were a great opportunity for a nap. In fact, I did doze off from about Lap 30-60, but I don’t think I missed a whole lot. What occurred to me was how the word “parade” is always used in IndyCar, yet a lot of what I saw on Sunday was just that – a parade.
So my point is that it’s unfortunate for us IndyCar fans to admit that we follow the best kept secret in sports. Sure IndyCar management make some head-scratching decisions, but there is no denying that the on-track product is far and away better than NASCAR. As much as NASCAR fans say that Sunday’s race was one of the best ever, do you remember the last twenty laps of the past two Indianapolis 500”s? How about every lap of last year’s race at Fontana (a track IndyCar no longer goes to)?
IndyCar racing is much faster, the cars are far more advanced and the racing is more exciting. Yet, NASCAR continues to be what pops into most everyone’s mind when you mention the fact that you watched a race. It’s puzzling and very frustrating.
So excuse me as I take my semi-annual trip down this way too familiar path. As I said, I try to avoid comparing IndyCar to NASCAR because they are two very different forms of racing. But when I see NASCAR being applauded for finally adapting to something that came around a generation ago, it becomes tough to hold it in and I have to vent. Thank goodness I have this outlet to do it in.