How to fix IndyCar

Posted on November 30, 2015

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How To Fix IndyCar

By: Rob Oakman

There has been a lot of complaining in the past few years about IndyCar. But why? The racing is good, the racers themselves are interesting, so what’s the problem? In short–the cars.
People can be fickle: we like what we like, and generally, it’s because it looks and sounds good. Think about it. A cool sounding car will get you to look, and then what catches your eye cements the thing into your very soul. You are now a fan. Without a cool car what is left? Lets break it down.

IndyCar sure can put on a show. (Courtesy of IndyCar.com)

IndyCar sure can put on a show. (Courtesy of IndyCar.com)

Competition:

Most racing fans love to claim how important competition is, and of course it is, but not that much. Competition matters to a point, but if that was the only measure that fans required, then F1 would have died out long ago and IndyCar would be king. In IndyCar there are over a dozen drivers that can win on a given weekend and no one team is going to win every race unless everyone else wrecks together.

The Racing:

On ovals IndyCar has passing numbers that even NASCAR can’t touch. On road courses they prove that aero-dependent cars can pass almost anywhere (I’m looking at you F1). It is just really exciting racing.

The Drivers (Racers):
NASCAR is the king at showing off their drivers’ personalities, hands down. But IndyCar isn’t that far off. You get a really good idea of who’s who pretty quickly from their race and media coverage. Each driver seems to have a defined personality that gets showcased. Fans of F1 love to boast about the personalities of the cardboard cut-outs that get paraded out in front of the media but that’s just silly. Cardboard cut-outs don’t have personalities.

The Mclaren-Honda from above. Looks a bit like a boxer in a dunce cap standing on his head. (Courtesy mclaren.com)

The Mclaren-Honda from above. Looks a bit like a boxer in a dunce cap standing on his head. (Courtesy mclaren.com)

Technology:

Technology can be one of three levels of importance to a series:
a) Very important ( IMSA, F1, DTM )
b) Kind of important ( IndyCar, sports cars, most open-wheel )
c) Not Important at all (NASCAR!)

You will notice that the biggest spectator sport in America doesn’t care about technology, Europe does sometimes, and happily sitting in the middle is IndyCar.

Proof:

In racing, once you lose the armor of cool looks and sound, people start noticing problems. The little things that would generally be nothing more than a snide comment here and there, become rallying points of discontent. You may not lose fans–you may still gain some from the momentum of your popularity–but once the complaints begin it becomes a matter of time before people jump ship.

F1 was surprised by the backlash when they changed from the screaming, high-rev monsters of the last generation, to the noisy turbo-charged hair-dryers of today. Promoters sued, fans revolted on the internet, and F1 is making changes for the 2016 season to make them sound better. As for looks–from above they look like a boxer (they kind of look and sound like Mike Tyson) but the noses are just silly looking and the bodies too narrow. Let’s hope that changes soon too.

NASCAR’s COT (Car Of Tomorrow) hit like a big ugly brick in 2007. They moved to make changes pretty quickly starting with losing the ugly wing. It really wasn’t until the Gen 6 car in 2013 that fans were happy with the cars again.

IMSA Prototypes and DP cars are freakin’ spaceships. Spaceships! And the various GT series vary from modified sports and super cars to purpose built race cars that look like the street versions. And they ALL RACE TOGETHER AT THE SAME TIME! Sorry. I get carried away sometimes.

Anyone could win it at the Indy 500. (Courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway)

Anyone could win it at the Indy 500. (Courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway)

IndyCars. Well IndyCars are shaped like pears, they haven’t changed, won’t for a while, no one knows when, and that just doesn’t work. The sound is alright, but not enough to shut down critics. Couple that with the fact they are still trying to recover from the CART / IRL split and you have a difficult situation. Fans want to cheer and show off their favorite racing to their friends on facebook and at the office, but they have nothing but an ugly pear to show for it. Sure the racing is great, the competition top notch, and the racers themselves interesting, but the point that matters most, above all else is the cars are not cool.

Fans of IndyCar are not complaining because they don’t love the series. They are complaining because they want it saved. In racing that look, that sound, that coolness, becomes a shield against all attacks from the haters and hides all flaws. No matter what shortcomings a series has, you can always come back to the look and the sound of the cars and no one can hurt you. Without that though, and the series is in trouble. You can throw all the quick fix double-headers, specials, and razzle-dazzle you like at fans, but until you address the real problem, the pear will be your downfall. But give fans a vision of what the car will look and sound like soon–and for the love of Andretti make it cool–and they will happily stay fans.

Remember to have fun out there and thanks for reading.
Subscribe for new articles and follow on twitter at @oakmanonracing. If you have any questions or comments about this topic, or anything else, feel free to ask.

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Posted in: Editorial