Woody: Copying NASCAR Is A Bad Idea
By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
In recent years the IndyCar Series has been trying to pattern itself more and more after NASCAR.
That’s OK in areas of marketing and promotion, but on the track it’s asking for trouble – as evidenced by the 15-car crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that claimed the life of Dan Wheldon.
Open-wheel racing has no business trying to race like NASCAR races. Its cars and its style of racing are not, never have been, and never will be, compatible with stock car racing.
For starters the open-wheelers can’t swap fender paint like they do in NASCAR because they have no fenders. They can’t run side-by-side and in packs like NASCAR’s “taxi cabs” because one side-swipe of the exposed tires can send the IndyCars spinning out of control.
Likewise, IndyCars should be weary of racing on banked NASCAR-type tracks because of the tremendous speeds the banks allow them to carry into the corners. The open-wheelers were intended for flat tracks and road courses.
And when NASCAR-type pileups occur, they tend to be worse in IndyCars because the open-
wheelers afford less driver protection. They don’t have roofs, padded side panels and steel roll cages that encase the driver in a protective cocoon.
NASCAR cars have driver-side window nets to keep arms, heads and other body parts contained inside the cockpit. There’s no window nets on IndyCars because there’s no windows.
IndyCars aren’t built to take a punch. They don’t afford the same driver protections as NASCAR cars, so they shouldn’t be racing NASCAR-style on NASCAR tracks.
There was a time years ago when the open-wheelers were what they were and made no apology: fast, lightweight racecars whose appeal was sheer speed, handling and driver dexterity. The IndyCar Series was not meant to be a contact sport.
Somewhere along the way that mindset seemed to change, and IndyCar trended more toward NASCAR. Perhaps it was a matter of racing instinct: the open-wheelers realized they were getting left behind and felt compelled to try to catch up.
During a period when NASCAR’s popularity was going through the roof, open-wheel racing stagnated, at least in the U.S.
While NASCAR was signing lucrative TV contacts IndyCars were racing on relatively obscure cable channels. While NASCAR was wallowing in corporate cash the IndyCar Series was looking for sponsors. While journeymen NASCAR drivers were getting rich, IndyCar champs were hustling rides and defecting to NASCAR.
The open-wheelers had to fight for a dwindling piece of the racing pie. That led to emulating NASCAR’s style in hopes of emulating NASCAR’s success.
It’s said that if you can’t beat them join them, but in this case it was a bad idea. Open-wheel racing and stock car racing are entirely different animals, and when the former tries to copy the latter it’s going to run into trouble.
I’m not sure what the answer is as the IndyCar Series braces for its post-Danica challenges, but trying to race like NASCAR is not it.
– Larry Woody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments