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COUNTERPOINT: Was Dario right to complain?

by
Paul Dalbey & Steph Wallcraft
| Jun 15, 2011


In Counterpoint, Paul Dalbey and Steph Wallcraft of MoreFrontWing.com face off on topics related to the IZOD IndyCar Series. Neither reviews the other's argument until after the article is compiled for posting. It's up to you to decide who's made the better case!

This week: was Dario right to complain about the random draw for starting positions for race two at Texas?

PAUL'S POINT:

Following Saturday night’s Firestone Twin 275 races at Texas Motor Speedway, Target Chip Ganassi driver Dario Franchitti was quite vocal about his disdain for the IZOD IndyCar Series setting the starting lineup in the second race by a random draw, a race which he rightly points out could have a significant impact on the final championship standings. No sooner did Dario take to any and every microphone he could find to voice his displeasure about the procedure than did fans of INDYCAR take to their keyboards in near universal condemnation of his attitudes and “whining” (their words, not mine). Sadly, whatever good points Dario made about the questionable procedure ended up being lost as a result of the way he conducted himself in the post-race media availabilities.

Dario’s main point of contention is that in a race that pays championship points, the starting order (which obviously has a great effect on how the race is run) should not be decided by something as whimsical as a random draw. While it’s not difficult to defend that position, aren’t procedures of chance often used in competitions of all sorts as a way to set starting orders, whether pick-a-number or rock-paper-scissors? There is obviously more at stake here than playground bragging rights, but does that change the theory? It doesn’t seem so in the eyes of INDYCAR fans.

One issue that fans have taken with Dario’s stance is that the qualifying procedures for the duel races had been publicized for months in advance. Since the announcement that the lineup for the second race would be set by a halftime draw, little was discussed in public about how unfair the procedure would be, only that it should make a great show for the fans. It wasn’t until the Target boys were relegated to 18th and 28th positions did it suddenly become a point of contention. Had Will Power drawn either of the two lower positions still available rather than third, would Franchitti still talk about how unfair the procedure is? He might have mentioned it in passing (as Power did) but certainly not harped upon it as he did Saturday night.

What really rubs me the wrong way is the implied suggestion that all of racing is fair and the failure to acknowledge that sometimes breaks just don’t go your way. Success in racing always has and always will be largely dependent on luck. By and large, good luck usually falls upon Dario Franchitti and has helped him be very successful over the past couple seasons. For instance, was it fair or was it just good luck that yellow flags happened to come out at Indianapolis, not once but twice, while Dario was pitting? Ask Danica Patrick or Pippa Mann how fair it was when the yellow flag came out one lap too late for them. What about when Dario had Scott Dixon playing wingman and essentially blocked Will Power from being able to close on him? Fans understand that racing is a team sport, but many call it unfair that one teammate is blocking for another. There are many other instances where the circumstances aren’t necessarily fair -- when a driver gets stuck behind slower cars racing for position, when a driver gets taken out of the race in an accident that was completely another driver’s fault, when a tire goes flat, when an engine blows, etc. Those are just the breaks of the game. Sure, the draw for starting positions was gimmicky, but it was just another chance happening that brought luck into the game.

While Franchitti is miffed about having to start so far back in the field, most fans will not be particularly sympathetic to him at the end of the year if he loses the championship by a few points and blames it on this occasion. I doubt I will be the only person to point out that Franchitti and his team left a handful of points on the table at Indianapolis last month when pair of fuel gaffes left Dario just short of the checkered flag and losing ground in the championship when he should have walked away with the points lead. In qualifying, Dario earned a scant six points to Power’s ten because his team ran him out of fuel on the final lap of his qualification run, which by all indications would have been good enough to put Dario on the front row. Likewise, in the race, a failed fuel strategy dropped Franchitti to a 12th-place finishing position good for only 18 points, while Will Power was able to overcome an early pit road incident to salvage a 14th-place finish worth 16 points, totaling enough points to actually extend his lead by two after the Month of May. Such miscues on factors that teams do control need to be addressed and considered before blaming the potential loss of a championship solely on factors that are outside of their control.

Racing is a sport that often separates its winners from its losers simply by luck. Dario has had luck on his side more times than not recently. This particular night, however, the draw went against him. He will no doubt receive good fortune again this year, yet we fans will likely not be subjected to interview after interview bemoaning the part luck will play in the championship. That’s why a championship isn’t decided in a single race as these types of occurrences tend to even themselves out of the course of the year. By the time the IZOD IndyCar Series reaches Las Vegas in October, all the front runners will look back at their luck and realize they’ve been on both sides several times.

*

STEPH'S POINT:

Dario Franchitti caught a lot of flack from fans on Saturday night for complaining about the random draw for starting positions for the second race. However, Dario's concerns in this case are completely justified.

It's interesting that I would take this position since I've already argued the shut-up-and-drive angle once this season with regard to the driver complaints about double-wide restarts (a campaign also led, interestingly enough, by Dario Franchitti). Shut-up-and-drive is appropriate in some situations, but it isn't a catch-all, and these are clearly very different problems.

Based on the way fans have reacted to each of the changes proposed for INDYCAR over the past few months, there are two simple criteria that can be used to determine which ideas will be successful: 1) whether the change improves the show, and 2) whether the integrity of the final outcome is maintained upon applying the change.

The application of double-file restarts most certainly improves the show, particularly now that the drivers appear to have them more or less figured out. They can affect the outcome of a race in a sense, but they do so in a way that affects every racer equally, and so their application doesn't call the final results of an event into question. According to the criteria above, double-file restarts pass with flying colors, and they've clearly been a success.

On the other hand, a green-white-checkered rule may improve the show (though even this is questionable depending on who is asked), but it most certainly affects the outcome. A race should be run to its advertised distance. If the driver leading at the 300-mile point of a 300-mile race is not the driver who wins, something is very wrong. With a green-white-checkered finish, the integrity of the final result is sacrificed in the name of entertainment. With the majority of INDYCAR fans, this simply wouldn't fly.

Similarly, a Lucky Dog rule may temporarily improve the show for fans of a driver who benefits from it. But if that driver were to pull out a win thanks to a rule that gifted a lap back that wasn't earned, the validity of that win could forever be called into question. Watching a driver make up a lost lap on his or her own and pull off a win makes for far more real and spectacular racing. By the criteria above, this rule flat-out fails point 2 above and should therefore not be applied (and thankfully never was).

Now, let's look at the random draw. It's safe to say that the selection process improved the show. Many of the drivers hammed it up, the crowd got into it, and it was a great way to increase driver and sponsor exposure during the hour break between races. But did change affect the integrity of the outcome of the race? Absolutely. One key contender in the championship started third and went on to his first-ever win on an oval; the other started 28th through no fault of his own -- he didn't even pick the wrong tire because the one he got was the only one that was left -- and only had time in a caution-free sprint race to make his way back up to seventh, which left him 14 points further behind in the championship standings (including the bonus two Will Power gained for laps led). Remember that Dario won last year's championship by only five points. We all marvel on a weekly basis at how competitive the IZOD IndyCar Series is, but the side effect of that competitiveness is that these 14 points, which were earned through an entertainment gimmick and not through any skill whatsoever, could make a massive difference in the outcome of the championship. Now, if Will does go on to win the title, people can point back to this event and question whether he was deserving -- never mind the fact that Will's detractors can point to his first oval win and claim that he wasn't fairly challenged because his closest competitors were relegated to the back. On point 2 above, the random draw fails massively.

Therefore, if fans won't accept green-white-checkered or Lucky Dog rules because of the way that they affect the outcomes of races, they shouldn't accept the random draw, either. This one somehow got by a lot of the people who would typically back this argument until it actually played out. Now that it has played out, however, many fans have realized just how egregious the decision was from the beginning.

The obvious counterargument to this is that racing has always involved a degree of luck that needs to be overcome to secure wins and championships. But there's a difference between the luck that's inherent in racing -- a stuck gearbox, a stiff gust of wind, a yellow just after a pit stop -- and inserting luck-affecting situations artificially. Drawing for starting positions is on par with putting all of the car numbers into a hat, then drawing one out and saying, "Sorry, Briscoe, but we're pulling a cylinder out of your engine. Sure, it's a lottery, but the fans think it's fun!" There's misfortune, and then there's turning a sport into a game show–like farce of itself. Sadly, on Saturday night, Dario was subjected to the latter.

Ultimately, Dario has every right to be peeved off about the way things played out on Saturday night. He's a professional athlete at the top of his game, and he deserves to have his accomplishments and failures viewed with integrity and respect. There have been several suggestions made for how to maintain this format while keeping the championship fight in tact -- one is inverting the field, and another is to make the first race worth full points and run the second as an exhibition with a high purse. These or any number of other solutions would retain the event's overall entertainment value while keeping the championship fight intact. We can only hope that one of these ideas is applied going forward so that 2011 is the only year that will see the points race tainted by this unfortunate controversy.

26 Comments

  1. 1 Mauve 05 Nov
    Well maacdaima nuts, how about that.
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  3. 3 Prudy 24 Oct
    I spuspoe that sounds and smells just about right.
  4. 4 mike n 26 Jun
    If he don't like it, maybe he should try NASCAR, HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!
  5. 5 fred muschko 25 Jun
    dario is a good driver but he is now turning into a big crybaby
  6. 6 barry 21 Jun
    Dario Judd should remember that without the fans,he and Indycar would be nothing.While there countless ways the twins could have been done differently,Indycar is trying to bring more excitement to the series.He needs to keep his trap shut and go along with it.If he doesn't like it,go back to NASCAR where I'm sure he'll have plenty to bitch about.The series has enough to worry about with all the road course exibitions and a two team domination of the sport.Maybe we should call it the Izod Dariocar series!
  7. 7 Brent Scales 20 Jun
      I have to agree with Dario and I believe that he was right to complain.  While from a fan stand point I thought the selection process was very entertaining, I feel that kind of promotional gimmick can hurt the sport.  I would compare it to the MLB All Star Game in which the winner gets home field advantage for their league in the World Series.  An exhibition game that means something.  Invert the field.
  8. 8 Josh 20 Jun
    After watching the Milwaukee race, I'm convinced that the only two things Dario is good at are driving cars and complaining. He has had a bitch about almost everything that has taken place this season. His latest is a whiney rant about Helio blocking him. Give me a break! Of course Helio blocked him... It's called racing. It's time for Dario to shut his mouth and just drive. He's far too ignorant to realize it would have been a LEGENDARY race if he'd kept a stiff upper lip in Texas and drove himself to the front despite the odds. Instead, he's content to whine and complain to anyone with a camera and a microphone. A great driver, sure. A great champion, hardly.
  9. 9 mike n 19 Jun
    He was not living up to the gentleman status that Ashley loves to brag about. Complain before the race, but don't cry after.  
  10. 10 David W. 18 Jun

    There are two issues being blurred together here: (1) Was Dario too vocal about the random draw decision, and (2) Is a random draw to set a starting grid good for IndyCar.

    As a couple of comments have already pointed out, Dario not only spoke out against the random draw for the two weeks prior to the race, he spoke out against it in a podcast as long ago as March.  Those who accuse him of “whining” are, I suspect, disgruntled fans of his competitors, as the gratuitous and unwelcome swipe at his wife might indicate.  Dario is possibly the most courteous, well-spoken and civilized driver in IndyCar.  His restraint in reacting to the fuel gaffe at Indy is only the latest example.  And for the curious, I will admit he is not even my favorite driver.

    Mr. Dalbey sounds like a man with a scrambled brain.  Steph Wallcraft is absolutely right.  It’s astonishing that she has to point out his faulty “logic” to a man involved in the sport.  She says it all when she reminds us that “there's a difference between the luck that's inherent in racing -- a stuck gearbox, a stiff gust of wind, a yellow just after a pit stop -- and inserting luck-affecting situations artificially.”  For that and other reasons she has enumerated, I believe only one question needs to be asked: Do I want an IndyCar season champion selected by lottery?  I certainly do not.  A random draw seems to me a serious corruption of the championship.

    A related issue is whether we want to watch some of the best drivers in the world in a dangerous and exciting automobile race on some of the fastest tracks in the world, or do we want to watch a television game show.  This trend toward gimmicks of one kind or another in a misguided effort to heighten the interest of the fans also seems to me a move toward corrupting not only the championship but the sport itself.  We’re told “the fans like it” or “the fans want it.”  What polls were done which revealed that result?  No one asked me what I want or like and I am certainly a devoted fan.  I cannot imagine such “Mad Men” stunts being accepted in the sport as it existed when it was taken seriously by racing fans all over the world.
  11. 11 Bode Miller 18 Jun

    Nicole, the reason it would be different for Dario if the  field were inverted is where he would be starting IN RELATION TO the other championship contenders.  Yes he would've started last, but the other championship contenders would have been starting right next to him so they would not have had a significant advantage in starting position.  The field would essentially be almost level even though he would be starting last.  The way the draw played out, there was a huge gap (3rd to 28th) between Dario and WIll which gave WIll an advantage.

    I have an Ashley Judd story.  (What about how she hogged the spotlight after Dario won the championship last year?)She got pulled over for speeding on the Natchez Trace Parkway in Tennessee and played the "Don't you know who I am?"  card.  The ranger answered, "I didn't recognize you without all the makeup" and proceeded to write her a ticket.  Classic.

  12. 12 Bode Miller 18 Jun

    Nicole, the reason it would be different for Dario if the  field were inverted is where he would be starting IN RELATION TO the other championship contenders.  Yes he would've started last, but the other championship contenders would have been starting right next to him so they would not have had a significant advantage in starting position.  The field would essentially be almost level even though he would be starting last.  The way the draw played out, there was a huge gap (3rd to 28th) between Dario and WIll which gave WIll an advantage.

    I have an Ashley Judd story.  (What about how she hogged the spotlight after Dario won the championship last year?)She got pulled over for speeding on the Natchez Trace Parkway in Tennessee and played the "Don't you know who I am?"  card.  The ranger answered, "I didn't recognize you without all the makeup" and proceeded to write her a ticket.  Classic.

  13. 13 Bode Miller 18 Jun

    Nicole, the reason it would be different for Dario if the  field were inverted is where he would be starting IN RELATION TO the other championship contenders.  Yes he would've started last, but the other championship contenders would have been starting right next to him so they would not have had a significant advantage in starting position.  The field would essentially be almost level even though he would be starting last.  The way the draw played out, there was a huge gap (3rd to 28th) between Dario and WIll which gave WIll an advantage.

    I have an Ashley Judd story.  (What about how she hogged the spotlight after Dario won the championship last year?)She got pulled over for speeding on the Natchez Trace Parkway in Tennessee and played the "Don't you know who I am?"  card.  The ranger answered, "I didn't recognize you without all the makeup" and proceeded to write her a ticket.  Classic.

  14. 14 Nicole 17 Jun
    If the field had been inverted, wouldn't Dario have started in last? So how was starting 28th any different? NOT inverting the field gave him a better chance of starting better than inverting the field would have. He left IndyCar because he didn't like it, did he not? I remember the final race of the season before he left. His wife was rude and said some not-so-nice things about IndyCar. I don't remember whether he said rude things at that time or not. But then he came back when he couldn't handle NASCAR. . . And I firmly believe that's the only reason he's back. I really feel like if he doesn't like it, then he can leave again. No one told him to come back.
  15. 15 Bode Miller 17 Jun
    The time to complain and actually do something about the qualifying format was before the race, not after.  (Does anyone really think if he'd ended up with the pole, he would've been complaining?) And Dario generally has the best luck of any of the drivers in addition to favorable treatment by the officials.  The one time things don't fall his way, all he can do is complain.  I don't think he came off very well as a result.  Instead of whining about what *might* happen if the championship margin is less than five (or whatever) points, make it your business to drive so that doesn't happen.  Everyone had an equal chance of drawing each number.  Control what you can control, and if Dario is truly the best driver across the entire season he will still come out on top.
  16. 16 Paul Palmieri 17 Jun

    Could have been done properly by having two separate qualification rounds, for the two separate races the day before! Thus no bickering about a pick of the tire,and blind luck! That whole spectacle was a half hour advertisement for what would become the "Firestone boredom fest"! Anyone notice the lack of IZOD sponsorship up on that podium,or after the race? Thought so!

     

  17. 17 dave g 17 Jun
    Bring back michigan...................
  18. 18 indyjuan 17 Jun
    all dario does is complain about everything that does't go his way.he is such a pussey and arrogant.[go power].
  19. 19 Ed Epps 16 Jun
    I attended the Twin 275's at TMS last Saturday night and while it was interesting and oddball at the same time, it was still a sanctioned event that everyone knew the rules going in.  Why don't we all just chalk this up as an experiment gone bad and ask for a 500-mile winner-take-all race next June at TMS?  As a fan, that is what I would rather see and then the drivers can go back to complaining about other drivers again.
  20. 20 JB 16 Jun

    Comparing timing of yellows and fuel strategy/mistakes to blind draws for starting position in a shortened race with 30 cars...

    Congrats Paul, that's quite possibly the dumbest logic I've heard all week in a week full of dumb arguments.

  21. 21 Jon Thornburg 15 Jun
    I haven't been a fan of the draw from day one for the same reason Steph pointed out. Will's first win on an oval felt a lot like Bond's breaking Hank's record; yeah, he did it, but was it on the same terms? Invert the field. It's both fair with concern to points and it brings about some really exciting racing and passing. If you aren't familiar with how much fun this format is, then go to your local track on a Saturday night when they do this.
  22. 22 Ken 15 Jun
    I totally agree with the point Dario made... Just don't think it was brought up at the right time.  It shouldn't have come up during the race interviews.  But imagine if you were the best at what you do, and your year end bonus depended on you winning the lottery!  At least with the field "inverted" in some way, everyone is being treated equally based upon something... it wouldn't be luck of the draw!
  23. 23 Julie Prosman 15 Jun

    In response to Chad Higley and Paul's Point...Dario did express his concerns about the format prior to the race. He has been expressing his concerns about the "blind" draw format for at least the two weeks prior to the race and he even mentioned it in a podcast in March. So I do not think it is fair to say he only complained because of a bad draw....if you could even call it that since he was stuck with the leftovers. I also found it interesting that AJ Foyt mentioned in his blog that some of the drivers could actually see the numbers before they selected a tire...apparently the black sheet behind the tires kept blowing around giving some drivers a view of the numbers.

    Now back to the topic at hand. I agree with Steph's point. This is a sport that require great skill and ability. These drivers work very hard to hone their craft and get their cars running at optimal performance. I too would be pretty peeved off if my job, paycheck or promotion came down to a blind draw rather than the skills I worked hard to attain. I also find it interesting that everyone seems to think the Will Power has now figured out how to "win" on ovals after this one race...I think if Dario, Scott and Will were running together the results would have been different. I will admit that Dario could have behaved in a more adult manner after the draw and race...but he was legitimately angry. I know from my own experience that I do not always act in the most adult manner when I am genuinely peeved off. In fairness to Dario...he is usually very gracious in defeat and handled himself very well at Indy when things went very wrong for him so I think the outburst was a bit out of character...I think his reputation will bounce back.

  24. 24 Julie Prosman 15 Jun

    In response to Chad Higley and Paul's Point...Dario did express his concerns about the format prior to the race. He has been expressing his concerns about the "blind" draw format for at least the two weeks prior to the race and he even mentioned it in a podcast in March. So I do not think it is fair to say he only complained because of a bad draw....if you could even call it that since he was stuck with the leftovers. I also found it interesting that AJ Foyt mentioned in his blog that some of the drivers could actually see the numbers before they selected a tire...apparently the black sheet behind the tires kept blowing around giving some drivers a view of the numbers.

    Now back to the topic at hand. I agree with Steph's point. This is a sport that require great skill and ability. These drivers work very hard to hone their craft and get their cars running at optimal performance. I too would be pretty peeved off if my job, paycheck or promotion came down to a blind draw rather than the skills I worked hard to attain. I also find it interesting that everyone seems to think the Will Power has now figured out how to "win" on ovals after this one race...I think if Dario, Scott and Will were running together the results would have been different. I will admit that Dario could have behaved in a more adult manner after the draw and race...but he was legitimately angry. I know from my own experience that I do not always act in the most adult manner when I am genuinely peeved off. In fairness to Dario...he is usually very gracious in defeat and handled himself very well at Indy when things went very wrong for him so I think the outburst was a bit out of character...I think his reputation will bounce back.

  25. 25 Chad Higley 15 Jun
    As much as I understand why Dario was all up in arms with the format.  He really has no reason to complain.  The format was set months ago.  He knew what could and couldn't happen.  He never came forward until the situation was bad for him.  He only had months to say something.  Instead he complains on TV which can be a negative for the series.  It wasn't a conspiracy.  Thats just how the rules laid out.  He won the first race so he left Texas in better shape then 28 other drivers.  The series took a gamble with this set up and only one driver had a problem with it.  I would say that  it was a success.  I do agree that in the future it would be wise to simply invert the field.  Then Dario can't complain about it.  I don't think its going to matter anyway.  With the extra road course in Japan, Will Power will have an easy edge on the final Championship.   See ya in Milwaukee!!!!
  26. 26 Hunter Gunnell 15 Jun

    While it was a nice way for Firestone to get some publicity by having each driver sign their tires, it wasn't nice to Dario after he put his life on the line for our entertainment. The first race was very competitive as usual. Dario led for most of the race and everyone was on the edge of their seats. It was a fast race that averaged over 200 mph. Then, after an exciting first race, the drivers were asked to pick a tire that would determine their grid positions for the second race. Granted, everyone had the same probability of picking a favorable draw. However, in this case, it just didn't fit in with the rest of the program. This isn't rock-paper-scissors. This is IndyCar, where drivers go side-by-side at a very fast pace. It's fun for everybody, yet it is very dangerous for those who drive these exceptional cars. The draw was a cruel turn of fate for one of the most popular drivers in the world. IndyCar needs to take care of their own instead of bowing to big business. In the long run, more money will be lost by losing Dario than by losing a sponsor. Next year, I say if you want to have twin races, invert the field for the second race and have a concert during the idle time.  

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