Flying cars, five-wide racing, hurt feelings, and a Rahal back in Victory Lane - All that and more highlighted this past weekend's wild 500-miler.
Surprise, anger, frustration, elation, bitterness…sounds like IndyCar to me. Fontana, with nobody watching, put on one of the best races in recent memory. Unless you think good racing is not racing at all. More on that below. Here they are, the best worthless opinions about the Verizon IndyCar Series you will find in the shrinking corner of the Internet that still cares about the endangered species known as oval racing.
Graham Rahal won a race - In a Honda - For a one car team
What’s better than those three items above is how he won it. He bullied the status quo. He chopped, shoved, bumped, and squeezed his way to the front while dragging fueling equipment with him. This was no rainy street course where a fueling or tire strategy bumped him to the front. He did it on his own. And it seems that the black hat the series so desperately needs someone to wear fits him well. It will be interesting to see if someone decides to knock it off his head.
Honda takes the fight to Chevrolet
Honda won a race that was not decided by weather and/or strategy. With Honda playing coy about a long-term contract to supply motors to the series, this is cause for corks to be popped. After the Indy 500 debacle of punishing Honda for the sins of Chevy, Honda and the series needed this to happen. Honda has leverage over the series, and everyone knows it. The best part of this story is how Honda won. They rolled up their sleeves and made the aero better. Of course, social media was abuzz with conspiracy theories about how the series jiggered the finish to ensure a Honda win. Right. It is just hard for me to imagine IndyCar race control, you know, controlling anything.
Split opinions throughout the paddock
It appears that the easy collegiality of the paddock is a little frayed right now. That’s what close racing does to people. Was it pack racing? Sure, why not. Was is simply close racing? Sure, why not. It was crazy racing, that’s for sure. It was dangerous, risky, scary, no holds barred, fish or cut bait, white knuckle stuff. It was edge of your seat drama that had people, fans and drivers both, taking sides. Will Power, Tony Kanaan, and Juan Pablo Montoya quite clearly though it was stupid and needlessly risky. Ryan Hunter-Reay thought it was worthless to do it in front of an almost non-existent crowd. Graham Rahal and Marco Andretti just consider it racing. High-flying Ryan Briscoe did not condemn the style of racing even though he went airborne at the end of the race. The most pointed comment was from Ed Carpenter, who tweeted that people should shut up or retire. Wow. Since there are no more tracks like this on the schedule, the dissent should go from a boil to a simmer. For now.
Lack of a crowd
As an oval fan, I hate to see a track like Fontana fade away. When no one attends an event that is refused not only date equity but a date that works for the promoter, the writing is on the wall. You will find no answers to this conundrum here. Oval fans want Fontana, Milwaukee, and Texas on the schedule, but if no one attends the races, there will be no races. Promoters have to eat. Whether you like it or not, the MAVTV 500 was the most exciting must-see racing of the year. A recent report by Brant James in USA Today indicate that the series is open to being “flexible with sanctioning fees and fees and offering a modest co-op fund to help promoters market.” It took the series this long to realize that these options are necessary? IndyCar has a problem on its hands. I think the series needs to print “Save the Ovals” bumper stickers. It worked for the whales.
The portal to draw in new fans
IndyCar fans are nuts. I could just stop right there and most readers would just nod their heads in agreement. Social media absolutely blew up with every possible opinion on the racing at Fontana. One side loved it. The other abhorred it. Some fans thought the celebration of Graham Rahal’s win should be muted because the racing was dangerous. How does that work? I have written before that the future of the Verizon IndyCar Series does not rest on the passionate nutjobs that currently follow the series. The future of the series is completely about people who are not currently fans. This kind of racing, as crazy and dangerous as it is, is one portal to draw in these new fans. This is not a promoter’s problem; it is a series problem. If the problem is not fixed, losing ovals will be the least of the series’ problems.
There you go. Completely worthless and totally uniformed opinions that you only find here. It was my pleasure to make them up.