Vroom, Sort Of

This was my weekend

That’s the Indy Racing League Grand Prix of Detroit, run on the streets of Belle Isle Park. It was great for 45 laps, then the road surface started falling apart. More specifically, patches of some type of material were sticking to the tires of the car and getting pulled up.


That caused one car to crash just around the turn from where we were, resulting in this.

The race was red-flagged, some kind of quick-drying ooncrete was used to patch the surface (this was happening in multiple spots around the track), and two hours later the race resumed. But due to the lateness of the day, they ran only 15 of the remaining 45 laps. That was a bit disappointing, but we still had a good time. Congrats to winner Scott Dixon, who dominated the race from start to finish.

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About J@m3z Aitch

J@m3z Aitch is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.
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11 Responses to Vroom, Sort Of

  1. lancifer666 says:

    Not to diminish your experience but I can’t get into the current Indy series. These emasculated spec cars leave me cold. NASCAR in nearly identical semi-open wheel chimera.

    I still remember when cars at the edge of technology roared around the speedway breaking records with each qualifying lap.

    I attended the annual Mecum auto auction here in Indy and saw Mario Andretti’s STP turbine car. Forty years later it still stood the hair on the back of my neck on end to see it up close.

    Compare this year’s Indianapolis 500 with 1965, when Jim Clark stunned the field in his beautifully elegant and diminutive Ford/Lotus. The first five qualifiers also included A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Dan Gurney and Parnelli Jones.

    Each year would bring new cutting edge technology and international driving talent. It would consume the entire month of May. The current series, which qualifies in two days and runs the next Sunday, attracts cast offs from F1 and lesser venues in cars designed to be safe and not push any limits of any kind to encourage close clumps of nameless drivers. Like I said NASCAR-lite.

    Maybe I’m just an old curmudgeon living in the past.

  2. lancifer666 says:

    Oops, the car at Mecum was Graham Hill’s 1968 “wedge” turbine not the one I remember Mario driving during practice for the STP team the previous year.

    Still, my point stands.

  3. James Hanley says:

    The cars don’t leave me cold, but I do think we’re long past the golden age of racing, for the very reasons you give. It was inevitable that the technology would eventually reach the point where it would outstrip any race track worth watching a race at. I suppose we could build a SuperDuperSpeedway 5 miles around with no sharp turns, where there was still room for technological advances in the cars, but I don’t know that it would be worth watching.

    A few years back at Michigan International Speedway we got to see–and hear–the turbine car in action. It was an awesome experience.

    I don’t think the drivers are lesser quality, though. The top drivers are, I think, as good as drivers ever were and could readily go wheel-to-wheel with Foyt, the Unsers, Andrett, Sneva, Mears, and so on.

  4. lancifer666 says:

    You like identical chassis cars with lo-po V6s?

    As far as automotive technology outstripping the race tracks I have to disagree. With modern ground effects and tire technology I have no doubt that cars could be built to blaze around the current tracks at speeds approaching 300 mph.

    Would it be expensive and dangerous, you bet. But let’s be honest, that is part of what made auto racing what it was in the “golden era”.

    If I hit the Mega Millions jackpot I would be tempted to buy 400 acres out in Hendricks County (about twenty miles west of the Speedway) and build a four mile oval super speedway, that could be converted, with infield turns, to a ten mile road course.

    I would hold a “run what you brung” 600 mile open wheel race on the super speed way in early May and a Le Mans style 24 hour sports car and prototype endurance race in early September. I would NOT hold a NASCAR race (let the Wal-Mart goobers go to the Brick Yard 500 for all I care.)

    If enough entrants had the balls to come I bet it would bring back the glory days when hundreds of thousands of people, from all over the world, flocked to central Indiana in May. Of course there would be howling from safety nannies and trial lawyers would no doubt be eager to cash in on the inevitable carnage.

    But man, it would be real racing worthy of the risk of money, life and limb, that Indy Car racing used to represent. It would also be worthy of a phrase which the current Indianapolis 500 makes a mockery “The greatest spectacle in racing.”

  5. James Hanley says:

    The cars could go safely at that speed, given computers driving them. The problem is human reaction time–when a football field goes by in one second, you’re at the limit unless your straights are too long and the curves too gentle for the race to be of interest. At 140 mph in the 1950s, the technology had not yet overwhelmed the track because the drivers’ still had time to react.

    If you watched the Indy 500, I think you’d know there’s still real danger on the fast ovals (Ed Carpenter’s wreck was not the scariest ever, but was still pretty scary), and the only reason the danger is minimized is because of safety improvements. I’m not opposed to the technological safety improvements, and there’s still room for more in that field. My argument is that the speech technology is maxed out because humans can’t drive the current tracks much faster without enough mayhem to make it more of a demolition derby than a race.

    And I doubt many would turn out for a race at a track as big as you’re talking about. At the least, deep racing pockets like Penske don’t seem to share your confidence.]

    That said, no, I don’t really like the identical cars, and that’s why I say the golden age is over. We’ll never have that excitement of individual teams coming up with new and innovative designs again, and that’s a huge loss. That said, I still enjoy watching the drivers compete against each other, and the teams trying to figure out the best strategy for pit stops, tire use, and so on. It’s not what it was, but then neither is college basketball, and I still (mostly) enjoy watching that.

  6. lancifer666 says:

    You’re probably right. Sadly.

  7. Dr X says:

    I’m still disappointed that they took advanced steroid technology out of baseball.

  8. lancifer666 says:

    Dr X,

    He he.

    It did reduce the number of home runs. I also think a person that takes performance enhancing drugs knowing that these drugs will shrink your testes, and other harmful and perhaps deadly consequences has shown a greater commitment to the sport and should be praised even more than the wimps that aren’t brave enough to take the risks.

    Also why is it admirable to be genetically predisposed to athleticism but shameful if you take drugs to get the same advantages? If I take a drug that improves my fast twitch muscle response or muscle endurance I am a despicable cheater, but if I am born with this advantage, by no effort of my own, I am a hero and a role model.

  9. Troublesome Frog says:

    lancifer666,

    I’m all for letting people take all the steroids they want in general, but I can understand the professional sports situation. With that much money at stake, the equilibrium situation is that you take steroids and destroy your body or you don’t play. You can avoid the race to the bottom if everybody agrees in advance not to do it. And of course, if you decide to do steroids after everybody agrees not to, you’re a cheater.

    But that’s really only an argument for banning performance enhancing drugs that have damaging side effects.

  10. lancifer666 says:

    Troublesome Frog,

    Yeah, it would be interesting to see a rationale for banning a drug that didn’t have negative health consequences.

    Of course participation in certain sports, like boxing and NFL football, are hazardous to your health in and of themselves.

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