In the recent NASCAR Nationwide race at Richmond, a typically long and relatively boring race was spiced up by a post race contretemps between Brian Scott and Nelson Piquet, Jr. It was the kick felt around the racing world as Piquet, Jr. took rather low aim as he connected with Scott below the belt. The juxtaposition of Scott, your typical American stock car racer, and Piquet, Jr., a Brazilian scion of F1 champion Nelson Piquet seemed oddly familiar. Suddenly, an image from popular culture came flashing back. The fight between Piquet, Jr. and Scott was a modern version of the British conflict between the Mods and the Rockers in the early 1960′s. It certainly ramped up the media interest in the Richmond Nationwide race, just as the events in the ’60′s exploded in the British media. And truth be told, it is exactly what IndyCar needs in 2013.
IndyCar is all Mods and no Rockers. Proof? Check the scooters in the garages and pits at any IndyCar race. What message does this send? It screams effete hipster snob! Even the Penske stable uses matching scooters that are always lined up perfectly in front of their motor homes. These latter-day Mods need to have a counter-point. Where are the Rockers, IndyCar? Where is the leather? IndyCar may not need the post-race fisticuffs of NASCAR, but it certainly needs a little antipathy among the racers. Robin Miller of Speed and NBC Sports always says that hate is good. I’ll settle for a little hostility.
Fans like to know that competitors really want to beat the other guy, not just win the race. Even though IndyCar has marketable young Mods like James Hinchcliffe, Josef Newgarden, Marco Andretti, and Graham Rahal, these young guys don’t have a Rocker nemesis cast as an antithesis to their Mod coolness. The closest IndyCar comes to a Rocker is IndyCar race director Beaux Barfield, who drives a two-wheeler that is decidedly not a scooter. At least we can still have bad blood between the Mod racers and the Rocker race director. It’s something.
Bad blood is good copy and good televison. Will Power (who may be the Rocker the series needs) made news with his double finger salute to Brian Barnhart at New Hampshire as well as the same gesture to E.J. Viso at Iowa last year. Sadly, Power has not taken his Rocker role to heart. He is back in the frat house with the rest of the Mods. A.J. Foyt, the true IndyCar tough guy who may have never listened to rock and roll in his life, had his Rocker moment at Texas when he threw Arie Luyendyk to the ground in Victory Circle. Those were the days before politically correct sponsor concerns trumped human emotion. You were still allowed to publicly dislike someone.
Even though the IndyCar drivers have the occasional fit of pique over on-track indiscretions, don’t expect them to start kicking and swinging anytime soon. Unfortunately, you just don’t see much Mod on Mod violence anymore. And IndyCar is a little less fun because of it. The Vespas are winning.