Exclusive INDYCAR Nation News

Fans, you are ambassadors too

by
Paul Dalbey
| Aug 25, 2011

When the new 2012 IndyCar debuts next year on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, the hope is that the car will represent a technical revolution and a clean break from the stagnant machines of the past nine years. 

My hope is that another revolution will be taking place on the other side of the fence.

Last week, More Front Wing received an e-mail from one fan lamenting that the level of frustration and negativity of the most vocal INDYCAR fans has become a distraction to growing the series and attracting new fans.  One portion of the e-mail effectively outlines his argument:

…in more than one blog, you could find complaints with the Toronto event for too many crashes and not enough calls.  Complaints in the same blog for too many calls for penalties at Edmonton.  Complaints again in the same blog about the boring racing at Mid-Ohio.  Each race is framed on many INDYCAR blogs by the negative aspects of the events.  Is each of the above valid?  To some degree, yes… but each point could be brought up in a way to offer constructive insight instead of the negativity and hatred towards the Series officiating that they have. Somewhere along the way, that focus for many has shifted from an outlet for thoughts and opinions to an outlet for pure criticism.  And it's creating a pool of negativity that's feeding itself at this point.

Though this fan was specifically writing about some INDYCAR blogs, his argument can easily be stretched to encompass much of the larger fan base as a whole.  (The blogs are, after all, supposed to represent the voice of the everyday fans, are they not?)  Just five minutes spent on Facebook, Twitter, or TrackForum will tell a person all they need to know about how the fan base is feeling about many of the events in North America’s premier open-wheel racing series.  

Perhaps more accurately, doing so will demonstrate how the fan base’s feelings are being portrayed.  Let's hope there is a big difference.

As with anything in life, it’s often difficult to judge the feelings of an entire population based on a small sampling of data.  Particularly when gauging opinions, those who are the most upset always make the most noise.  To say that the “entire” INDYCAR fan base is represented by the views of those on TrackForum is obviously a gross exaggeration. But to the casual viewer who is maybe just starting to follow the IZOD IndyCar Series, the general cloud of cynicism that permeates those who are supposed to be its most ardent fans speaks volumes and leaves them questioning why they should devote more time to the sport.

Are all things perfect in the IZOD IndyCar Series?  Of course they aren’t.  Anyone who would try to convince you otherwise is delusional, naïve, or just drinking the Kool-Aid.  But I also don’t think things are nearly as universally bad as many would have us believe, either.  If left to the fans to report, the only event that would have occurred during the last race at New Hampshire would have been the final restart.  Sadly, that completely ignores the great runs by Ryan Hunter-Reay and Oriol Servia, the great start of the race for Tomas Scheckter (who once again proved why he is one of the most exciting drivers in the field when he passed 12 cars in less than one full lap of combined green flag time), and any number of other notable storylines.  For every article, post, or tweet about any of these stories, there are dozens more about the fouled-up restart at the end of the race.  New Hampshire isn't the only race affected by such imbalances, either -- I can just as easily rattle off similar cases for Toronto, Edmonton, Texas, and so on.

There is no doubt that, even three and a half years after the North American open-wheel racing scene was finally unified after nearly 30 years of separation, a certain amount of bitterness, divisiveness, and resentment lingers on.  While most fans do accept the IZOD IndyCar Series as the premier open-wheel racing series in North America, there are still those who view the sport with an “us vs. them” mentality, who see the current Dallara and any vestiges to the Tony George era as barricades to real advancement, and who see the outnumbering of ovals by road and street courses as a slap in the face to the original vision of the Indy Racing League.  It's time for all of us to accept that those days are in the past.  There are certainly areas that INDYCAR can tidy up to help make fans a bit more confident in the direction of the Series, but for those who profess to love open-wheel racing, an evaluation may be in order of how they project themselves and the sport in the view of new fans and understand that they are being watched by those who may soon become the sport’s biggest supporters.

INDYCAR racing has a phenomenal heritage and a bright future.  With the new car and engine technologies coming in 2012, an exciting new era is upon us that will see the teams back on a level playing field and starting from a clean sheet of paper.  I have great hope that along with a new era on the track, a new era off the track can bring about a shift in the mindset of those fans who still cling to the animosity that defined too many years of the recent past.

 Paul Dalbey(@Fieldof33) is co-editor of MoreFrontWing.com (@MoreFrontWing), your source online for blogs, photos, podcasts and more covering the IZOD IndyCar Series and beyond. Paul can be reached at paul@morefrontwing.com.

 

18 Comments

  1. 1 Raymond Schadt 18 Nov
    Hey there! Where can I get more sites on this topic?
  2. 2 Chynna 05 Nov
    You've really captured all the esesntials in this subject area, haven't you?
  3. 3 Bitterwood 27 Aug
    My experience is that there are naysayers active on many sites devoted to IndyCar who derive more pleasure from their own trash talk than they do from auto racing itself.  The opportunity to make negative judgments and nasty comments anonymously seems to be very satisfying to a certain kind of person, especially on the internet.
  4. 4 Paul S. 26 Aug

    Paul D, first of all I must confess that my first post was rather barbed.  I do follow you, More Front Wing and the podcast regularly even when I disagree with you...which is often.  BUT, the point is that I welcome your comments. Maybe I was surprised by positivity.

    Secondly,  without spending too much time researching your posts and podcasts, I believe you have criticized the abilities of the following drivers within the last 18 months.  PT, Saavedra, Alex Lloyd, James Jakes, Taku, Viso. 

  5. 5 Paul Dalbey 26 Aug

    @Paul S:  I agree that I have at times been harsh on the boring road and street courses, but rarely do I ever criticize the races without trying to offer an opinion on what could be done to make them a better experience for the fan at the track or watching on TV.  Likewise, when I truly enjoy a road or street course, I am equal in my praise of that event as I am in my criticism of events I don't care for.  I'm sure if you read my opinions on the races in Sao Paulo and Toronoto you would see that my feelings go both ways on such events.  Likewise, there have been oval races that I have been critical of as well.  Granted, those aren't as common because I tend to enjoy oval races better.  That's part of what Steph and I enjoy about doing our site is that we come from very different backgrounds and often see everything through a very different set of eyes.

    As for your assertion that I have been critical about the lack of quality drivers, I'm afraid I'm not sure to what you might be referring.  I have been particularly complimentary of the current class of drivers, not only this year but for the past several years.  In fact, I was even chastised by Robin Miller at Indianapolis for suggesting that this current class isn't as far away talent-wise as his favorite classes of 1994 and 1995 as he would like people to believe.  If you would like to point to some specific examples where I lament a lack of talent in this group of drivers, please feel free to e-mail me some examples and I will happily look into it.

  6. 6 Paul Dalbey 26 Aug

    @Paul S:  I agree that I have at times been harsh on the boring road and street courses, but rarely do I ever criticize the races without trying to offer an opinion on what could be done to make them a better experience for the fan at the track or watching on TV.  Likewise, when I truly enjoy a road or street course, I am equal in my praise of that event as I am in my criticism of events I don't care for.  I'm sure if you read my opinions on the races in Sao Paulo and Toronoto you would see that my feelings go both ways on such events.  Likewise, there have been oval races that I have been critical of as well.  Granted, those aren't as common because I tend to enjoy oval races better.  That's part of what Steph and I enjoy about doing our site is that we come from very different backgrounds and often see everything through a very different set of eyes.

    As for your assertion that I have been critical about the lack of quality drivers, I'm afraid I'm not sure to what you might be referring.  I have been particularly complimentary of the current class of drivers, not only this year but for the past several years.  In fact, I was even chastised by Robin Miller at Indianapolis for suggesting that this current class isn't as far away talent-wise as his favorite classes of 1994 and 1995 as he would like people to believe.  If you would like to point to some specific examples where I lament a lack of talent in this group of drivers, please feel free to e-mail me some examples and I will happily look into it.

  7. 7 Turn13 26 Aug
    Oops - guess I should have said "most of the comments BELOW... :)
  8. 8 Turn13 26 Aug

    I agree with pretty much everything Paul is saying, as well as most of the comments above :)

    We do need to make an active effort to recognize the positives, and to share the good stuff.  I rarely think about the negatives or the politics when I'm at the track.  For whatever warts there may be, a day at the track is better than just about anything else :D

  9. 9 Paul Dalbey 26 Aug

    @Paul S:  I agree that I have at times been harsh on the boring road and street courses, but rarely do I ever criticize the races without trying to offer an opinion on what could be done to make them a better experience for the fan at the track or watching on TV.  Likewise, when I truly enjoy a road or street course, I am equal in my praise of that event as I am in my criticism of events I don't care for.  I'm sure if you read my opinions on the races in Sao Paulo and Toronoto you would see that my feelings go both ways on such events.  Likewise, there have been oval races that I have been critical of as well.  Granted, those aren't as common because I tend to enjoy oval races better.  That's part of what Steph and I enjoy about doing our site is that we come from very different backgrounds and often see everything through a very different set of eyes.

    As for your assertion that I have been critical about the lack of quality drivers, I'm afraid I'm not sure to what you might be referring.  I have been particularly complimentary of the current class of drivers, not only this year but for the past several years.  In fact, I was even chastised by Robin Miller at Indianapolis for suggesting that this current class isn't as far away talent-wise as his favorite classes of 1994 and 1995 as he would like people to believe.  If you would like to point to some specific examples where I lament a lack of talent in this group of drivers, please feel free to e-mail me some examples and I will happily look into it.

  10. 10 Paul S. 26 Aug
    Paul, I have been praising Indycar for years even during the rough times.  So I find it a little strange that YOU of all people is now telling us to be more positive and act like ambassadors.  Too often, you've complained at length about boring road races and the lack of quality drivers.  And, it's not in a humorous way like Pressdog or Meesh.  Unlike you, I welcome the diversity of tracks and often root the underdog drivers.  You should learn a little acceptance and humility from your podcast co-host.  Here's hoping fatherhood will dull your pointed daggers.
  11. 11 Hunter 26 Aug
    I agree that criticism must be constructive, but to not criticize where it is needed is doing a disservice to the Series.
  12. 12 Bruce 26 Aug
    Paul's comments are so true. We need to build the sport and not cut it down. We; as fans, must look ahead and offer solutions and not live in the past. 
  13. 13 dave g. 26 Aug
    Bring back Michigan.Enough said.
  14. 14 Matt Callahan 25 Aug

    Couldn't agree more. Indycar fans are more cranky and passionate than any other fan base I've experienced. (and I'm a Massachusetts born Red Sox fan!)

    The best way to grow the fan base is to get people to the track. I always bring at least one "newbie" to the 500 each year. Watching someone without any racing background experience the start is almost as fun as your 1st start. Racing is a bit like hockey in that to understand it on tv you have experience it live first. And let's be serious, racing "personalities" are far less interesting than the actual racing once you experience it live. Scott Dixon in a car right in front of you is far more interesting than any commercial or interview with Dancia. Also, bring your kids go-karting. Give them the feeling of what is great about the sport and make them RACING fans. The sad thing about the NASCAR empire is that it has actively squeezed out coverage of other racing series. The more racing fans there are in general the better it is for everyone. (And frankly less obnoxious, I can't stand Yankees fans, but a baseball fan who roots for the Yankees now there's someone I enjoy arguing with.)


     

  15. 15 Matt Callahan 25 Aug

    Couldn't agree more. Indycar fans are more cranky and passionate than any other fan base I've experienced. (and I'm a Massachusetts born Red Sox fan!)

    The best way to grow the fan base is to get people to the track. I always bring at least one "newbie" to the 500 each year. Watching someone without any racing background experience the start is almost as fun as your 1st start. Racing is a bit like hockey in that to understand it on tv you have experience it live first. And let's be serious, racing "personalities" are far less interesting than the actual racing once you experience it live. Scott Dixon in a car right in front of you is far more interesting than any commercial or interview with Dancia. Also, bring your kids go-karting. Give them the feeling of what is great about the sport and make them RACING fans. The sad thing about the NASCAR empire is that it has actively squeezed out coverage of other racing series. The more racing fans there are in general the better it is for everyone. (And frankly less obnoxious, I can't stand Yankees fans, but a baseball fan who roots for the Yankees now there's someone I enjoy arguing with.)


     

  16. 16 Zachary 25 Aug

    What a great article, Paul.  I could not agree more. Yeah, there are things that could be better, but I really believe we are blessed every day we get to interact with and watch the folks who give their heart to this sport. There's so much good out there as well, but it's easy to be frustrated or a cynic. I think we all do it, but that doesn't mean it's desired behavior.

    I started enjoying this series more and more when I made a conscious effort to share it with my friends and peers, and to explain to them what I found so great about it. That's been one of the most rewarding things I've done in this hobby.

  17. 17 Zachary 25 Aug

    What a great article, Paul.  I could not agree more. Yeah, there are things that could be better, but I really believe we are blessed every day we get to interact with and watch the folks who give their heart to this sport. There's so much good out there as well, but it's easy to be frustrated or a cynic. I think we all do it, but that doesn't mean it's desired behavior.

    I started enjoying this series more and more when I made a conscious effort to share it with my friends and peers, and to explain to them what I found so great about it. That's been one of the most rewarding things I've done in this hobby.

  18. 18 open wheeler 25 Aug
    Fixing the officiating and rulebook would go a long way in building respect and enthusiasm for the series along with the proposed changes. I think most of the frustration comes from the fact that the die hard fans have put the series on a pedestal and when it doesn't meet the expectations it draws ire. Fans want to be proud but, it is tough when the expectations of what this sport was can't be met.

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