IndyCar Fontana: Should we be outraged or amazed?

The MAVTV500 was a spectacle that will be remembered for years to come, but some hope it is something we never see again.

IndyCar Fontana: Should we be outraged or amazed?
Tony Kanaan, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Race winner Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske Chevrolet leads the start
Race winner Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Ryan Briscoe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda and Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport Honda in huge crash
Will Power, Team Penske Chevrolet crashes
Takuma Sato, A.J. Foyt Enterprises Honda and Will Power, Team Penske Chevrolet crash
Ryan Briscoe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda in huge crash
Pack racing
Ed Carpenter, CFH Racing Chevrolet
Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Race action
Will Power, Team Penske Chevrolet and Helio Castroneves, Team Penske Chevrolet
Pack racing
Race winner Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing with girlfriend Courtney Force
Pack racing

It’s been entertaining reading and watching all the commentary about Saturday’s MAVTV 500 on the Auto Club Speedway 2-mile oval in Fontana, Cal. This may come as a surprise but I’ve got to go along with two opinions, the one from racer/team co-owner Ed Carpenter where he stated on Twitter: “I love close IndyCar racing. Hate to see drivers bad mouthing a series. If you want to race, race. If not, retire.”

Carpenter also retweeted a comment Ryan Briscoe, who was involved in the final lap incident after racing at the front of the field for most of the contest’s 250 laps: “I thought today’s IndyCar race was awesome. A few drivers need to show more respect out there, but the racing was fierce and exciting.”

The winner's purse

Robin Miller posted a video in which he extolled the race as one of the best he’s seen - as did the legendary A.J. Foyt - and ravaged INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles for the low pay generated by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing winner Graham Rahal ($30,000 won’t even cover travel expenses for this small team) and the grand number of solar reflectors, rather than fans in the stands to witness a fabulous oval race.

There were drivers that didn’t like the fact that they had to race side-by-side with two or three or even four or five cars on the extremely wide, D-shaped Fontana oval. Prime among them were guys like runner-up Tony Kanaan, Will Power and Juan Pablo Montoya. I take the latter driver, who continues to lead the Verizon IndyCar Series points standings after his fourth-place result, to task for his comments, recalling the Colombian’s victory at Michigan in the 2000 CART race where the racing was very similar. He raced tight and clean during this race - what’s the problem?

No comparison to Vegas

Kanaan, in particular, brought up the prospect of another Las Vegas, where the great Dan Wheldon died from unsurvivable injuries in a race that never should have been held. If anything, that race is the reason Randy Bernard no longer works for INDYCAR. It was the final stanza for the old Dallara INDYCAR chassis and brought drivers out of the woodwork and onto the track that never should have been there. Period. It was stupid driving that caused that chain-reaction accident; there’s no comparison to Saturday’s Verizon IndyCar Series race.

Oh, and Kanaan was one of the fiercest and most aggressive drivers out there, diving, bobbing, weaving his way through the traffic, going high, going low and generally racing at least three-abreast most laps. His outside moves were mesmerizing. And then he trashed the way the race was held? And the requirements set by INDYCAR for his Chevrolet aero kit? Kanaan missed a second consecutive victory by inches; that’s the only complaint he should have.

Impressive reliability for a 500-miler

As we’re casting blame for all of the group racing, let’s also remember the amazing reliability we experienced in this contest. Although James Jakes lost an engine in the second practice session and was unable to qualify, not making it to tech in time, there were no other debilitating mechanical problems in this 500-miler - that weren’t of the team’s or driver’s doing.

The sole injury sustained during the MAVTV 500 came to a member of Dale Coyne Racing, Olen Trower was hit by driver Tristan Vautier during their first pit stop, marking the fourth time this year a team member has sustained a pit injury.

135 laps without a yellow

On Saturday I saw a tremendous level of trust, respect and diligence on the racetrack. Quite frankly, I thought it was going to be slow going, with green-flag runs breaking up the cautions. To go through 135 laps before throwing yellow was, to my mind exemplary racing on the part of 23 Indy car drivers. They raced single file; they raced many-wide and they raced clean and fast. Closing speeds into the first turn were most often in excess of 220mph.

That the race ended with a spectacular accident - from which all participants walked away - was a darn shame, especially since INDYCAR did throw a red flag at the previous caution to try and ensure a green-flag finish. When a driver gets turned on the track, though, something like this is going to ensue - unless the cars are so strung apart as to be boring (see Texas, which used to be pure entertainment). Schmidt Peterson Racing will have to build a new car; Andretti Autosport will have to replace some parts but neither Ryan, Briscoe or Hunter-Reay, needed any medical assistance and that speaks to the veracity and safety of these cars.

These 23 racers were hired to put their lives at risk - even in front of only 5,000 amazed fans - and they raced hard and clean. Except, of course when they didn’t. And if you’re not going for it at the close of 500 miles, you have no right being in a race car. If a driver doesn’t heed Takuma Sato’s creed of “no attack no chance” in the final 10 laps of a 500-miler, maybe they should do as Ed Carpenter suggests and retire.

shares
comments
Long time coming: Rahal, Andretti names share podium again

Previous article

Long time coming: Rahal, Andretti names share podium again

Next article

Is it acceptable to risk drivers’ lives to build an audience?

Is it acceptable to risk drivers’ lives to build an audience?
Load comments
Remembering Dan Wheldon and his last and most amazing win Prime

Remembering Dan Wheldon and his last and most amazing win

Saturday, Oct. 16th, marks the 10th anniversary Dan Wheldon’s death. David Malsher-Lopez pays tribute, then asks Wheldon’s race engineer from 2011, Todd Malloy, to recall that magical second victory at the Indianapolis 500.

2021 IndyCar title is just the start for Ganassi's newest star Prime

2021 IndyCar title is just the start for Ganassi's newest star

Alex Palou has captured Chip Ganassi Racing's 14th IndyCar drivers' championship, and in truly stellar manner. David Malsher-Lopez explains what made the Palou-Ganassi combo so potent so soon.

IndyCar
Sep 28, 2021
Why Grosjean's oval commitment shows he's serious about IndyCar Prime

Why Grosjean's oval commitment shows he's serious about IndyCar

One of motorsport’s worst-kept secrets now out in the open, and Romain Grosjean has been confirmed as an Andretti Autosport IndyCar driver in 2022. It marks a remarkable turnaround after the abrupt end to his Formula 1 career, and is a firm indication of his commitment to challenge for the IndyCar Series title  

IndyCar
Sep 24, 2021
IndyCar’s longest silly-season is still at fever pitch Prime

IndyCar’s longest silly-season is still at fever pitch

The 2021 IndyCar silly season is one of the silliest of all, but it’s satisfying to see so many talented drivers in play – including Callum Ilott. David Malsher-Lopez reports.

IndyCar
Sep 11, 2021
IndyCar young guns are great, but the elders aren’t done yet Prime

IndyCar young guns are great, but the elders aren’t done yet

The ace 20-somethings in IndyCar have risen to become title contenders, but the best of the series veterans are digging deep and responding – and will continue to do so over the next couple of years, says David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Aug 20, 2021
The F1 champion who became an Indy king in his second career Prime

The F1 champion who became an Indy king in his second career

Emerson Fittipaldi’s decision to go racing with his brother led to him falling out of F1, but he bloomed again on the IndyCar scene. NIGEL ROEBUCK considers a career of two halves

Formula 1
Jul 31, 2021
The lasting legacy of a fallen Indy car rookie Prime

The lasting legacy of a fallen Indy car rookie

Jeff Krosnoff was plucked out of obscurity to become a respected and highly popular professional in Japan, and then got his big break in CART Indy car for 1996. But a tragic accident at Toronto 25 years ago cut short a promising career and curtailed his regular teammate Mauro Martini's passion for racing.

IndyCar
Jul 14, 2021
The winners and losers in IndyCar 2021 – Mid-season review Prime

The winners and losers in IndyCar 2021 – Mid-season review

At the halfway point in the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season, we've had seven winners in eight races, spread between five teams – none of them Team Penske. In this unusual season, even by IndyCar standards, who’s excelling and who’s dragging their heels? David Malsher-Lopez reports.

IndyCar
Jun 18, 2021