Monday, May 19, 2014


Stephen Cox is awaiting the day when Indycar dumps its failed experiment with spec cars. Then we won’t need gimmicks any more.
I grew up in Indianapolis and I live for the Indy 500. I’ve worked on the TV crew during the month of May. I’ve watched Indycar my whole life. But I have no idea how the pole position
will be determined today.

The problem is not that the process is too complicated. I’m watching it on TV right now. The real problem is that I don’t care anymore. I don’t care anymore because the purity of the sport has been sacrificed on the altar of Disney-style entertainment.

Everything feels plastic. Phony turbocharger settings are used to pump up speeds and make TV headlines. They added a Lights race, a Grand Prix, and a new qualifying format. They added Sammy Hagar, Kid Rock and Poison. Still, they have empty grandstands.
Just showing up gets you in the show since spec car mandates have driven costs through the roof, eliminated competition and made Bump Day obsolete. We once entered every May wondering who would make the race. Now we wonder if there will be enough cars to have one.

I’m not the only one who feels this way. Over one hundred thousand fans once showed up for pole day qualifying. Today, vast stretches of empty grandstands manifest mass dissatisfaction with the product on the pavement. The crowds at this year’s pole day and the new Grand Prix of Indianapolis were embarrassing.
TV coverage of qualifying has wrapped up, and it looks like Ed Carpenter won the pole. He won it yesterday, too. Apparently it counts this time. The “Fast Nine” was supposed to artificially generate drama, but watching the same guy do the same thing twice is an anti-climactic monument to redundancy.

I’ll be in Turn Three with my boys this year to watch the race. This is still home. It’s still the 500 and I still love it. But something deep inside still tells me that we traded our soul for a circus. We lost greatness in the quest for popularity.

Stephen Cox is a racer and co-host of TV coverage of Mecum Auctions (NBCSN), sponsored by:

1 comment:

Dan Aiken said...

Stephen, I couldn't disagree with you more. The Gran Prix was a huge success. Sure the crowds weren't that of pole days of yesterday, but at 40,000, was as expected, and those who were there ranted and raved at the entire experience. Ratings were good, drawing an overall .9 and a 1.8 in Indy. Even a 1.6 in Tampa. The race drew a 4.0 which is up from last year. There is a buzz in Indycar. You can feel it. With the aero body kits coming next year, it won't be long until Indycar is THE American form of racing again, surpassing Napcar. And I have news for you, nothing will ever revert to what it was in the 60's, 70's and 80's. In the info/tech world we live in, it's just not going to happen. It was a fantastic race. Two years in a row now, and the racing in Indycar at other venues is fantastic. Only a blind man couldn't see how much more entertaining Indycar is than Napcar. Keep the faith, celebrate the past, but believe in what Mark Miles and others are doing. It's working and getting better each week!