The Good, The Bad, The Ugly of Indy

by Jim on July 27, 2009 · 8 comments

As I pondering the just concluded Brickyard 400, I am reminded of the Super Bowl “back in the day.” Like the year the 49ers beat the Broncos 55-10, or when the Bears lambasted the Patriots 46-10. For years, we had great hype and build up, only to be disappointed with the product on the field.

Thank God those times have changed to the point where, using the last two NFL championship games for example, we’ve had some downright exciting games worthy of being called “super!”

What a concept! The interesting part here is that the NFL didn’t turn the game upside down. The ball is the same, the rules aren’t radically different. To some extent, free agency helped, but mainly, the competition got better. In NASCAR’s case, the competition is as tight as it gets. Factors beyond the drivers may be another story.

I think about that as I reflect on the race at Indianapolis. I’d tend to agree with Ed Hinton in his ESPN column (click t0 read): “The Allstate 87.5 at the Brickyard was a pretty good race Sunday–a dogfight Jimmie Johnson won over teammate Mark Martin.” Of course, the scribe goes on to mention the first 312.5 mile show of dominance by Juan Pablo Montoya was pretty boring.

Actually, when I think about it, the race was a mix of the good, the bad and the ugly….

The Good

Now come on, gang, there was some good in this race.

1) Thank goodness they got the tires right. There were a few tire related incidents out there, most notably the brush of Busch (Kyle, that is) against the wall, but there were no more than a typical race. I think I’m not alone in saying the hard work is appreciated. Another tire-splitting crashfest would have killed this event for good.

2)  As Mark Martin attempted to reel in Jimmie Johnson in those closing laps, my heart was pounding! It was a classic battle of a wily veteran using every trick he knew trying to catch the young champion, with said young champion pulling every rabbit out of the hat trying to hold him off. A classic Petty-Pearson pass would have added to the drama, but what could Martin do? It was Jimmie being Jimmie- a stellar display of a champion doing the things that winners do.

3)  Kyle Busch passed an important “attitude check.” I don’t think anyone who either loves or loathes him really wants Busch to be anything other than he is, but I appreciate he sucked it up and answered the questions posed to him. You know he hated it (who wouldn’t?), but he pulled it off. I’ve given him criticism for his stonewalling, now I give him  credit for backing his words with, well in this case, words.

The Bad

The fans aren’t happy with this race at all. Consider these two messages I received:

“Today, I watched the finish of an absolutely GREAT race. It had everything you could ask for: drama, a popular repeat winner, a wildly popular veteran falling just short, and a knowledgeable and entertaining broadcast crew at one of the most historic and hallowed locations in all of sport. Yes, this race had it all. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I can hardly wait until next year, but enough about the Tour De France…..I also watched the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard…the Brickyard was a race that even the new restart procedure couldn’t breathe any life into.”

That was my guest contributor John “Dawg” Chapman. He said that the “live chat” site he was on discussed some rather strange things after 40 laps, but the race wasn’t one of them. He goes on to say that, like many other fans, he’s blown away by the historical significance of Indianapolis, but it’s not a track conducive to racing this car.

Not to be outdone, within the same hour, I received this message from another one of my contributors, Jeremy T. Sellers, who places the blame squarely on the car…..

“Just last week, Rusty Wallace finally broke his silence (which normally isn’t difficult for him) and said  it’s ‘not what NASCAR needs right now’….no passing, and whoever gets the clean air wins. Granted, it has always been extremely difficult to pass at IMS, but today’s event fell into the comedic stereotype of NASCAR watching 43 cars drive around in circles.”

To read all of Jeremy’s post, visit Jerm’s Joint Racing Pub. Just click on this link.

It was a relief not to watch the mess we witnessed last year, but it would be hard to argue that this race just didn’t live up to the hype. This is an opinion site, not a news site. I just call ‘em like I see ‘em.

The Ugly

The continual rumors of a pro-HMS, anti- JPM conspiracy, though baseless in my mind, are nonetheless out there. Look around, and the black helicopter crowd agrees with Montoya’s assertion “Thanks NASCAR for screwing my day.”

I believe the charge is baseless if for no other reason than a Juan Pablo Montoya would be a P.R. boon for a governing body desperately wanting to score points with new potential audiences. Can you imagine the effect a winning run by Montoya would have on drawing in Latino fans? It would be a hit!

What would help here is if there was a way for the fan to see what NASCAR sees. We’re talking nothing more than good, old-fashioned transparency. Admittedly, there’s no making some people happy. Give them a sunny day and the sky isn’t blue enough. On the other hand, anything a sport’s governing body can do to calm the anger of a cynical fan base- is in my opinion- a worthwhile investment.

Then there’s the final question: What do we do with this race? Many suggest its the track, others say its the car. A little of both perhaps ?

Is it time to abandon the track? The suggestion is out there. It would be a shame. This is where auto racing was essentially born. Tony Stewart, by no means a Kool-Aid drinker, asked the question of whether or not there there has been any other racing besides stock cars in the last 30 years where’s there’s been bumper-to-bumper racing. On the other hand Smoke’s teammate Ryan Newman simply says IMS just isn’t for stock cars in a piece for the Indianapolis Star.

If what Stewart says is correct (and far be it from me to argue with a 2-time champion), the technology has evolved to the point that this is what racing is, then NASCAR, IRL and Formula One may have a much bigger problem on their hands. This is most certainly the racing fans don’t want. Perhaps the era of the speedway is over and it’s time for a short track renaissance.

It speaks volumes of good that NASCAR, Goodyear and the racing teams teamed up and invested the money and time to assure fans there would be no repeat of 2008. Putting that same kind of energy into giving the fans something they will be happy with in terms of racing they like is worth the investment in the long run. It’s like something i read from Greg Engle today- a fuel mileage track, a technical track is o.k., just not every week. Personally, I think this race would have been more easy to stomach were it not for Chicagoland, Pocono and Michigan still in our rear view mirrors.

While butt-whuppins happen in sports, and while there’s some positives you can take away from Sunday’s race, an investment of creativity to make this a better race, worthy of the pageantry and the spectacle that the race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been billed to be.

It’s not impossible is it? I believe in the “Can Do” attitude that made America great.

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1 Jerm July 27, 2009 at 9:04 pm

For my entire opinion, refer to my website lol

2 Ken July 28, 2009 at 10:10 am

Watching grass grow is more exciting than NASCAR at Indy. I can’t believe I wasted my time watching a circular parade. Were there any true green flag passes?

3 Lou July 28, 2009 at 5:19 pm

The cot needs to be overhauled , it is ruining racing , i am all for safety but they gotta figure out a way to build a car and they need green flag passing , most of this season has been a major bore , i d v r the race and fast forword until about 10 laps to go , this from a pittsburger who has followed nascar since 1980 and i follow the races on my sprint phone from steeler games .

4 Chatham Harrison July 29, 2009 at 9:09 pm

Perhaps? PERHAPS?! Of course we need a short track renaissance! My father and I discussed this way back in 1998: we need to focus on short tracks, we need double-file restarts, and we need safer cars. Two out of three isn’t bad, but we need the short tracks back.

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