Q: The problem with posing the question in this manner is that “what makes a good race?” has changed significantly over time, as spec racing series have become the norm. When team budgets and resources varied widely, and cars/engine combinations varied more than at present, someone winning by a lap or so was relatively commonplace, and we, as fans, recognized that inequality between the teams was a given.
We applauded the achievement – the best drivers naturally got the best rides (with some exceptions, certainly), and if they won by a ton, so be it. Now, after over two decades of spec-series parity, we fans have become accustomed to the “nose-to-nose” finishes on ovals, and close finishes on road courses, and a dominating performance like Rossi at Long Beach gets panned as a “boring parade.”
Circumstances change over time, and how we assess things changes as well. A “good race” 30 years ago isn’t a good race to today’s fan. I enjoy both types of races. It’s sort of like being a baseball fan – you can appreciate your home team winning in a 15-run rout, but you can also appreciate the 1-1 pitcher’s duel. Both can qualify as “good games.” But to answer your question Robin, for me, a good race would be one where the top three all come out of the final corner side-by-side, three wide, with checkered flag in sight. All three then run out of fuel, and the fourth, fifth, and sixth place cars all pass for the podium positions. But, hey, I’m just being a selfish race fan . . .
Paul from Ohio
Q: It is the personalities – the Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods effect. I used to attend all of the races at Milwaukee. The excitement was Foyt, Parnelli, Mario, Ward, Norm Nelson, McCluskey, Don White coming to town. That’s what got us to the track. Whatever happened at the race, happened. There are no stars, no-one but the avid fan knows any of the drivers (NASCAR has the same problem). All the media talked all week long about the race. When Alan Kulwicki was driving my USAC stock car, the media came to the shop to interview us before every race at Milwaukee. I think it is called promotion and publicity. The only way the young people will get back to the track is to develop software that can allow the teams be heard over the cell phones. Then the young people can develop a relationship with the teams. Have a camera in the car, showing the driver and the gages, hear the communications with the team. See what the driver is going through. You can’t even see the drivers in the cars anymore.
Q: I prefer to watch IndyCar because it is the better total package. In 2019, Aussie fans are switched off from live racing, but I wait in hope for its return 2020. I do not watch sedan racing because it just looks boring: with apologies to Supercars, NASCAR, BTCC, etc.
I watch F1 because I can’t get live IndyCar racing in Australia in 2019. F1 is improving, and Honda is getting its act together. F1 will be very good if Renault can get its act together. But as a TV package, F1 is just awful. F1 is just too political. The UK pre-race commentary team bang on about absolute BS. The race commentary team is screaming into the mic just to make it seem dramatic. IndyCar is a better TV package. The cars look great. The drivers are very good. The racing is competitive and the winner is never a slam-dunk. The commentary is very good, and they are funny. IndyCar is an entertainment package.
Q: I’ve noticed that in some cases a good race is when your wife’s favorite driver wins.
Bill Phypers, Brewster, N.Y.
Q: Robin, it’s as simple as this. A lot of people don’t know how to watch a race. It’s not always about the lead. Sometimes you have to find the race within the race.
In every race, whether it’s 12 cars in a Saturday night short track show or 40 cars at Daytona, somebody may be having the best race of their life. The race for 12th, 18th, ninth could be the most exciting race you’ll see all year. Somewhere in the pack there are drivers further on the edge, wrestling ill-handling equipment, or wringing the last drop of performance from their machine battling another equally-performing car and driver.
Some of my best races were for a mid-pack position against my best friend. We put on a helluva show for whoever was watching. TV has been doing a better job of highlighting those battles. It’s not just about who wins. It’s about every driver out there doing his best. Look for him. Or her. That’s why I love Bump Day. Brave drivers handling marginal equipment from under-funded teams hanging everything out in a scary run to make the show. Now that’s thrilling to watch. That’s why I love to watch races.
Q: I love unpredictability. I love not knowing who is going to win a race. I love watching two cars go side by side into a corner and seeing who is going to come out the other side in front. I’m not offended when someone dominates a race, because when it’s your day, it’s your day. Period. I like passing, but it doesn’t need to be stupid easy to pass, and there don’t need to be 50 lead changes. I like seeing people come out of the corner with a snap of oversteer and then catch it. I love watching drivers drive as hard as they can. I don’t like races that are manipulated by stages, I don’t let wreckfests, I don’t like GWCs, and I don’t like being able to accurately predict the podium before the race begins. Based on that, it should be easy to guess that my favorite racing series are IndyCar and IMSA. I also like F1. It may get predictable, but when it’s good, it’s really good.
Evan from Youngstown, Ohio.