There are three elements to a race that is necessary in order for it to be classed as good; progression, wheel-to-wheel moments, and respect amongst competitors. Saturdays IndyCar race in Fontana had all of that and some more.
Specifically it took me back to why I love this series in the first place. The concept of going 200mph+ in open cockpit cars on ovals is dangerous, but the adrenaline one gets from seeing these guys inches apart, at those speeds, with their engines buzzing like angry bees is better than any drug.
The race has been met with mixed emotions however. Whilst some drivers were as pumped as I was after the three hours of intense racing, others were quick to point out the dangers of running that close and the potential for another deadly multi-car pileup. Other responses on forums have also branded this sort of racing as “trashy” and “satisfying a blood thirst.”
This I don’t understand.
It actually wasn’t the same as Las Vegas 2011 where the drivers were racing on a banked oval designed for NASCAR, with only two real workable lanes. That was just outright dangerous and we tragically paid the price. As race winner Graham Rahal noted, this wasn’t really ‘pack’ racing as such because you had five lines you could take to get into clean air, with the cars regularly going three-wide with enough space either side between the infield and the top barrier.
In these moments respect between the drivers was key; thats why we were able to run over half the race distance under green flags. Inevitably you’re going to get a full course yellow, but it wasn’t the usual ‘cautions breed cautions’ moment we’ve saw so much this season. And despite me giving them a lot of grief on Twitter during the races, the stewards did exceptionally well not to interfere with the competition on track and deal with incidents with due diligence – which is really what they are there for.
Some may not agree with them red flagging the race and restarting it with six laps to go, but I thought it was the right decision. If you have around five cars within a shot of winning the race, you can’t really stop it prematurely if there is still something to be made of their progress. Of course if the winner/positions were going to be obvious it would’ve made sense, but again the competitive nature justified restarting. Ryan Briscoe’s crash was a product of the environment. Incredibly lucky to not be seriously hurt, but it reinforced the danger aspect of what motor racing is all about.
RACER Magazine’s Robin Miller hit the nail on the head post-race with regards to the scheduling of the IndyCar calendar ending in August and the turnout of only 3,000 people at an event that has the capacity to hold a good 20,000+ people. The teams need to unite together against series chief executive Mark Miles, otherwise it will end up in a similar state to F1 – and frankly the series deserves better.
Despite its turbulent start in St Petersburg, with eight different winners so far IndyCar has shown on more than one occasion this year that it is the most competitive, top end, open-cockpit series in the world right now.