What I’m about to say isn’t anything personal towards IndyCar’s Race Control trio of Arie Luyendyk, Max Papis or Kyle Novak. This is something that’s been bugging me for years about what’s happened to IndyCar racing. Too many rules. Too much policing. Too much nit-picking. Not enough “let them race”. Over the weekend at Long Beach, we had a classic example of letting the rulebook override common sense.
I’m talking about Sebastian Bourdais’ awesome pass of Scott Dixon for second place going into Turn 1 on Lap 46. Do yourself a favor and watch the video Marshall Pruett has constructed, complete with commentary.
What you’re going to see is a couple of champions running approximately 175mph down Shoreline Drive. Seb gets a great run to pull alongside Dixie, who is stepping out to get past Spencer Pigot. There is a split second where it appears Scott is moving to defend and Bourdais reacts – neither doing anything wrong– and the latter puts about a car length between them before knifing in front of the PNC car and around Matheus Leist in time to make Turn 1.
It was breathtaking, and likely the greatest, ballsiest street circuit pass ever that didn’t end up against a wall.
But in order to make sure he avoided contact with Dixon, Bourdais took some evasive action and his right-side wheels crept over the pit lane exit lines. It wasn’t intentional, and it didn’t give him any advantage. It was a split-second reflex from a guy hanging his ass out.
Yet the stewards, both former IndyCar racers that understand the reactions and realities at speed, deemed it illegal because of the rulebook, and Bourdais was made to give the spot back to Dixon. Which makes me wonder what the verdict would be today on Alex Zanardi’s Baja 1000 off-road excursion around Bryan Herta for the win at Laguna Seca in 1996. Would he be made to give the victory to Herta?
Think about this. We constantly hear about how boring races can be with fuel strategy or an aero package that makes passing passé, so when we finally get a jaw-dropping moment that makes people sit up and shout, it’s ruled null and void because of some stupid line.
Even though Bourdais was able to get back around Dixon in a couple corners (safe to say that red mist played a part there), it ruined the moment for the fans and television audience.
This is where common sense needs to override a rule that has no affect on the competition. And this isn’t something Jay Frye or his group initiated. They inherited some of the rulebook from previous regimes, but they’re also free to make revisions. So this might be a good time to revisit or rethink certain situations. Bourdais took a chance where there was no room for error, and that’s what racing is all about. So don’t punish him. Don’t do anything but applaud the effort. His right-side wheels went over the pit lane line? Then fine him $1,000.
If you hadn’t noticed, it’s tough enough to get people to watch IndyCar racing these days, so you finally get a Monday morning water cooler moment, and it gets flushed down the toilet.
IndyCar doesn’t want to become Formula 1 with all those bull***t calls or under-review moments. Sure, there have to be some penalties for “avoidable contact” (it would be nice if those were consistent) or jumping restarts or hitting crew members, but IndyCar needs to let the racing breathe.
Don’t suffocate it like it did last Sunday.