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IndyCar Aero-Kits: Hit, Miss, or Just Something New to Bitch About?

by Frank Santoroski @seveng1967

Bitch (bich) verb (used without object)
Slang. to complain; gripe:
ex: The favorite pastime of the IndyCar fan is to bitch about the Series.
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The Verizon IndyCar Series opened their 2015 season this past weekend with the highly anticipated debut of the new aero-kits. The IndyCar faithful collectively held their breath hoping for a slam dunk as the newest era in America Open Wheel Racing dawned. By the end of the weekend, many questions were answered, and new questions arose.
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Did the cars look different? Yes, the cars looked decidedly different. You could easily identify the Chevrolet with its ‘Bunny Ears’ front wing from the Honda ‘Can of Pringles’ front wing.

Performance gap? Well, Chevrolet cars did take the top six spots. Of those, four were Penskes. If you ask me, the true performance gap is not between Honda and Chevy, but between Penske and every one else in the world.

Faster Speeds? Definitely..The St. Petersburg track record was shattered in qualifying.

033115_igh.0Debris Cautions? Big Time! There were 5 cautions for 22 laps, almost a quarter of the race.  Most of them were to collect bits and pieces of the aero-kits off of the track surface. Some of the debris was able to be removed without caution, and some speculated that perhaps a long-handled fishing net would do the trick. That’s actually quite a novel idea.

Were the cars harder to drive? Yes, many of the drivers reported that the additional downforce on the front wings made the steering rather heavy. Some reported additional strain on the neck and shoulder muscles. This did not appear to manifest itself in any way on the track. Perhaps the additional cautions allowed the drivers enough rest time between full-speed stints.

Are there problematic issues? Yes, as a matter of fact, a piece of flying debris made it all the way to the concession stand where a spectator was injured. In my mind, a spectator injury is the worst thing that can happen on a race weekend. These freak accidents happen sometimes, and I feel that I should refrain from further comment until IndyCar completes their investigation. I will, however, state that I wish Ms. Hoffstetter a full and speedy recovery.

JDC-STPTSUN-2015-1480Was the racing improved?  Well, the early stages of the race were a rout for Will Power.  A bit farther back in the field, we saw some spirited jockeying for position. Graham Rahal, with the Honda configuration, was particularity racy. He made some dynamite passes on the track, but also a big misjudgement when he punted the crippled car of Charlie Kimball into a spin.

When you consider that the pass for the lead was actually made on pit road, it certainly seems anti-climatic. However, the move by Montoya defending the lead in the closing stages was brilliant. Better racing? The jury is still out.

After one weekend its too early to tell, but after reading dozens of articles and thousands of comments on social media, I have drawn the following conclusion. The aero-kits have given IndyCar followers something new to bitch about.

IndyCar fans and haters alike love to bitch. In fact, the history of open wheel racing has led to it.

pc7_cart_1979The first two IndyCar races I attended as a youngster were polar opposites of one another. The 1979 Kent Oil 150 at Watkins Glen was the lone road course event of the upstart CART Series in their inaugural season. CART was formed as an alternative to USAC that had sanctioned Indy Car racing for years. Bobby Unser won the race on Sunday, and I had the time of my life.

The 1981 Van Scoy Diamond Mine 500 at Pocono was a USAC race, one of a precious few left. Without enough IndyCars to fill the field, USAC Silver Crown dirt cars were added to the grid. Thankfully, the rains came down after 300 miles to put an end to this embarrassing monstrosity.

I wasn’t instantly sold on Indy Cars, I was a big F-1 fan at the time. The USAC loyalists would bitch about CART, and the newly indoctrinated CART fans would bitch about USAC.

Man, Indy Car fans really like to bitch, I thought to myself.

Mikey1992When USAC all but dried up, the “Golden Age of CART” dawned. The racing was good, the teams were strong, the drivers were the best in the business and sponsor dollars flowed.

Winning the CART Championship was actually a legitimate springboard into Formula One as we saw Andretti, Villeneuve, Zanardi, Montoya and da Matta all head to Europe with varying results.

Truth be told, looking back, there actually wasn’t much to bitch about.

But we found it. Too many road courses, too many foreign drivers, ride-buyers that were moving chicanes, restrictive engine leases, poor management at the top level, a board comprised of team owners with self-serving agendas, taking the company public on the NYSE,  too many overseas races, etc etc etc.

The bitching at the time led to the formation of the Indy Racing League in 1996. The Series started as an all-oval series for American drivers. The rub was that this new Series happened to own the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. You can call this ‘The Split’, ‘The Chasm’ or ‘The Great Divide.’

I call it ‘The golden age of bitching.’

IRL97The split divided hardcore fans and confused novice watchers. You felt like you to had to choose a side, and all this was going on as more and more fans became connected to the internet and were able to voice their opinions instantly like never before.

In the early days of Indycar bitching, you had to write a letter to the editor of AutoWeek or National Speed Sport News and hold your breath and wait to see if it was published.

The split so fractured open wheel racing that the divide exists to this day, seven years after reunification. There is still a large faction of CART/Champcar loyalists that believe American open wheel racing died sometime in 2007. There are IRL loyalists who think that the current series resembles the old CART too much. I have found that there is also a large group of fans who love the current series, love the drivers, but absolutely hate the cars.

16C_9114Then, there are those sappy optimists like me, who grew up watching American Open Wheel Racing and desperately want the Series to thrive, and want the aero-kits to work. But, at the same time we feel thwarted by the series’ own efforts to shoot themselves in the foot with things like the shortened schedule.

But all of us have something in common, we like to bitch. That’s what we do.

We are Indy. (A slogan coined by Gene Simmons that, incidentally, IndyCar fans like to bitch about)

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