IndyCar Again Not Given Credit

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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.

George Phillips

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23 Responses to “IndyCar Again Not Given Credit”

  1. Brian McKay in Florida Says:

    I voted “other” because I didn’t hear or read bragging from NASCRAP. I don’t track their series.

    • I don’t either, but any time I can take a swipe at them, I feel compelled to do so. OK, I didn’t watch the race, but if I did, I answered what my reaction would have been, just to take a poke at them. 16 more days……

    • Same here. The only NASCAR news I get is when it appears in my twitter feed and then I try to ignore it.

  2. If IndyCar discovered the cure for cancer outside the two weeks in May, the world would not know about it until NASCAR came up with a generic version. Don’t hate NASCAR for having their promotional shit together. They invest 100x (maybe more) in promotion compared to IndyCar and get 100x ROI.

  3. I saw that as well and I agree with Pressdog, NASCAR really does have their promotions/marketing department at an enviously high level. Frankly, and as Robin Miller pointed out at racer.com the other day, I was more impressed with how the sponsors have the series and drivers activated in their marketing activities. My hat is off to them.

  4. I saw that segment during the 15 minutes or so that I watched of the prerace. I had a good laugh when I saw it. How they can tout technology that has been available in standard passenger cars for more then 15 years as an advancement is laughable. Although, when you think about it, such things as digital dashboards are probably pretty revolutionary to a fan base that’s driving a rusted out 1986 Ford F150 with a Confederate Flag on the back window. Then again, flush toilets and dental hygiene are too.

  5. They say those who win the war write the history. Nascar won the war and to the victor goes the spoils–Coca-Cola, Budweiser, etc.

  6. Bruce Waine Says:

    NASCAR does have a secret that INDY Car can not claim as their own invention. .

    Would be interesting to learn the NASCAR secret pertaining to NASCAR teams acquiring sponsorships (that is plural) …………..

    One aspect that NASCAR is the outright winner and INDY Car by example the perennial loser…… 40 ( FORTY ! ) car entries plus or minus at NASCAR events ………… 18 (Eighteen or less) car entries at non-INDY 500 events.

    As the world has observed by example, Indy Car has been traveling down the road as the dodo bird with what will be the same outcome as the dodo ……….

    Hummm, perchance a thought for a new INDY Car series logo ……… :o)

    Enjoy the 100th.

    Money is on that there will not be a 125th

    • Where’d you get that “18 or less” number? Every ICS race last year had 23-25 entries. Maybe you should check your facts before posting misinformation such as that.

    • There are 20 confirmed full time car/driver combinations already for 2016, with one more to come (Dale Coyne’s second car). Add in Spencer Pigot at some races, a second car at ECR for some races, and IndyCar is at 22-23 for a goodly number of their events this year. Not what it was last year, for sure, but IndyCar has been around this level of entries before. As Steve points out above me, “18 or less” is a complete misrepresentation on your part.

  7. Seeing as my go kart has had a digital tach for 20 years, it is pretty silly.

  8. Christopher Says:

    From the linked article — “We want to do this in a way so that eventually we can send information to the driver on caution flags, red flags, penalties,” he said. “We can’t do that with the conventional gauges. Eventually, we hope to get to a place where, when a caution flag comes out, it would light up instantaneously at the same time (on all driver dashes).”

    NASCAR is months and perhaps years from installing the at-track communications links that would be required for such a system, Stefanyshyn said.

    “We have to build that link,” he said. “But it’s the digital dash that will enable us to display that. I don’t think it will happen this season.”

    Don’t IndyCar dashes (steering wheel) currently automatically light up for a caution flag? Seems like the link is already developed. I am unsure about if IndyCar has the ability to send a penalty/notification to a specific driver’s steering wheel, but implementation of that would be pretty cool.

  9. billytheskink Says:

    Now, I have seen NASCAR (or NASCAR-focused media folks) take credit for things such as HANS and SAFER, which is irritating, but I just do not see that attitude here. Like fuel injection a few years back, the digital dashboards have been discussed as being something new to NASCAR, not heralded as a new innovation to the automotive industry.

    I’m sorry, but In this case I think you are reading something between the lines that just is not there.

  10. I am seldom irritated by the meanderings of the boogity x 3 guy, usually just amused. Nascar has its own audience, that audience is receptive to what they are told, and that is not going to change. What I do get mad about is the lack of a similar type of self-promotion on the part of IndyCar. Posting videos of Will Power’s brother doing his comedy schtick on the IndyCar website, while mildly amusing, is not going to move the needle. Robin Miller’s recent piece regarding the Daytona 500 advertising was spot on.

    I seldom watch Nascar races and only the last ten laps of restrictor plate races. I do follow it, however, to keep up with how Matt Kenseth is doing since he began racing here on the dirt and asphalt tracks of Wisconsin. Sunday he got snookered.

    • On the other hand, posting videos of Damien Power likely only cost IndyCar the price of a granola bar, a couple trash bag liners, one plain white t-shirt with an iron-on picture of Will (as seen in the Brian Barnhart episode), two used Firestones and however many man-hours it took to find footage of “my grandfather who drove through a burning wall…drunk”. I think that was $28 well spent.

    • Your point is taken on the Damien Power videos, as it probably brought in few, if any, new fans. What it did do was entertain the existing fans. Don’t we deserve something too? Personally, I found them hilarious! But I also like Airplane, Seinfeld and The Three Stooges, and I know many that find all of those to be dreadfully unfunny – so what do I know? – GP

      • Apropo of not much other than I am writing to avoid work: When I was attending Purdue University I wound up in the same dorm that housed the football team. Collectively the players never missed watching the Three Stooges each day in the dorm lounge while I was busy writing their English papers to make beer money. For hours afterward the hallways were filled with the sounds of “whoop whoop, knuk, knuk and such. I miss those daze.

  11. You know what is funny- during a practice session, Darrel Waltrip was talking about the new electronic dashes and he says “they are just like your street car.” So NASCAR is getting technology that is bleeding down from street cars lol.

  12. I’m very surprised to find out here that they didn’t have this device ages ago either, and that drivers had to cope with analogue dashboard instruments up to last year. From this perspective, it’s understandable that open wheel guys were usually having a hard time when joining NASCAR because they are versatile and a good NASCAR driver essentially needs to be a good one trick pony.

    Oh, and Max Chilton’s criticism of racetracks in the US which he made after the Sonoma test is probably also aimed at NASCAR’s track owners SMI and ISC. Luckily for IndyCar, Sonoma doesn’t appear to have safety standards as bad as Watkins Glen does.

    But the low walls lining the track with no catch fencing on top of them do look somewhat scary, especially when re-watching the scary accident which EJ Viso had in a GP2 race at Magny-Cours atop such a wall.

    But NASCAR seems to be very cost-efficient for the car and engine manufacturers because development costs are being kept down.

  13. Consider your source…the USA Today is not exactly known for hard-hitting cutting edge stories. But to your point: it’s about the show, George. NASCAR does a better job of putting on a show, and the rich just get richer. The part that galls me is that IndyCar actually bought into USA Today for marketing, and it still plays second fiddle. IndyCar last year entered into “a multi-year official marketing relationship that will make USA TODAY Sports and its affiliated properties a preferred marketing partner of INDYCAR in the United States.” So there ya go.

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