One sport I’ve enjoyed has been ruined and I fear that another is being ruined. In the last decade or so, I’ve gone from being a NASCAR fan to almost completely losing interest. Now I’m afraid that I’m beginning to go down the same road with IndyCar. A lack of technical innovation, ridiculous rulemaking, and poor officiating are responsible in both series.
In the 80’s and 90’s I was a massive NASCAR fan but in the 2000’s, as a result of the cars, rules, and how races were officiated I began to lose interest. By now I’ve almost completely lost interest in NASCAR. Over time, NASCAR tightened rules on the cars until the series has become almost a spec series. NASCAR has restricted the cars to such a point that a crew chief or designer isn’t able to innovate. Gone are the days when someone could build a better machine in NASCAR. I miss that. Isn’t trying to build a better car than the next team part of what motor sport is all about. More recently, NASCAR decided that their racing needed to be more like stick and ball sports so they decided to create “the Chase.” The Chase, with 10 races to go, erases what a team worked all season to build – a points lead. The Chase also prevents someone from outside the top 10 or 12 from having the chance to move into the top 10 or 12 in the last 10 races. A points championship should be about a season’s worth of performance not reset and decided in the last 10 races. If that isn’t enough, NASCAR has been known to use caution periods to effect the course of a race. If a race becomes tedious or the leader has extended too much of a lead, NASCAR will throw a yellow to bunch the field back up. Using cautions to impact the course of the race can influence the outcome of a race. It indicates that NASCAR is more concerned about entertainment than sport and that is what disturbs me the most.
Almost as long as I’ve been a NASCAR fan I’ve been an IndyCar fan. One of the things that I loved about CART/ChampCar was the diversity of the series; to be successful in the series or win the championship, a team and driver had to be proficient at short ovals, long ovals, road courses, and street courses. That is one reason I never liked the IRL much – it was an oval only series; the diversity wasn’t there. When the IRL and ChampCar finally merged and began racing on a
In the last year or so, my optimism has waned. IndyCar promised new and varied cars and that has been pushed back. We were promised a spec safety cell with a variety of body kits and engines in 2012. For 2012 we get the engines, but the body kits have been pushed back to 2013 (if at all). Personally, I would have liked to have seen multiple chassis, but at least we were being offered something that teams could have shown some innovation with. Tony Cotman brought with him a ridiculous blocking rule that doesn’t penalize blocking, it penalizes defending. In the name of safety (or due to parity depending upon who you believe) the rule dictates that the leading car must leave the inside (preferred) line open into a turn. I know of no other form or road racing that uses such a rule. Poor officiating in IndyCar is what has bothered me the most. IndyCar race control has been inept, erratic, and at times has seemed to be preferential. They’ve restarted an oval race in the rain (New Hampshire), have handled similar incidents in different ways (Toronto), and have been accused of playing favorites throughout the season.
Unfortunately it seems that IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard, while acknowledging that there is unhappiness with the series is also in denial that there are actually issues that need to be taken care of. I’m afraid that much like NASCAR, he’s more interested in the entertainment and marketing aspects of the sport than in the sport aspects. It also seems that IndyCar hasn’t learned from the mistakes of CART and the IRL and is moving toward repeating some of them (particularly letting owners call the shots as in the body kit delay). I’m becoming pessimistic about the future of IndyCar racing and whether or not in a few years it will still exist in the form that I love.
I’m not going to bail on IndyCar now. I’ll certainly give them 2012 and wait to see which way the wind blows for 2013. If we’re still watching near spec cars and still encmumbered by a no-defending rule there is a distinct possibility that I’ll have lost interest in IndyCar as well as NASCAR. Hopefully sports car racing won’t shoot themselves in the foot as well.