Q: There are a lot of things that make for a great race. A race doesn’t need to have all of these to be a good one. Sometimes a race decided by competing strategies is intense and exciting because you don’t know how it will play out until the final pit stops or because of tire life until the final flag in event of a yellow. It is easiest to talk about what makes a good open-wheel race by referencing Formula 1 (because so many are bad the good ones stand out).
If readers saw the 2019 Bahrain Grand Prix, that was a textbook great race. There were on-track passes for position in the top five. There was reliability drama. There were battles throughout the field. There were mistakes made by the best drivers in the series. Competition at the front. The threat of a pass is sometimes as exciting as actual passing. Multiple strategies in play. Trying to figure out what each team is or should do is fun. Parity at the front. No Milka Dunos (everyone has a reasonable chance for a solid finish). Actual passing. Drivers with a personality. I really feel like Ricciardo’s personality is wasted in F1. A good venue. Many of the above factors are significantly impacted by the track design.
Ryan in West Michigan
Q: I consider myself a race fan, but I used to always favor IndyCar back in the 80s and 90s. Besides IndyCar, I follow F1, NASACAR and IMSA. I’m a former race official with the SCCA and a current member of the NASCAR fan council. IndyCar is finally making a good comeback, but it is missing some drama. Tires blow out less, engines hardly fail, and the drivers seem to be overly careful about competing side by side. Give me more drama to go along with the great talent. The cars appear slow on road courses but fast on ovals. Need more horsepower for road courses.
IndyCar is a great series to watch and it is exciting. I like drama, side-by-side racing and speed to keep me watching. NBC Sports and MSNBC is also doing a much better job of keeping me from changing the channel. F1 is an awesome parade of awesome cars. The driver talent is no better or worse than IndyCar. just the cars. I love the speed through the corners, the best race tracks in the world and the looks of the cars. The TV production and talent are also very good and keeps me tuned in.
NASCAR has lots of drama and promotes its talent very well. The cars are OK, but I like the fact that drivers are aggressive. I used to not always watch a complete race due to races being way too long. The middle of the race was a drag. However, shortening some of the races and stage racing has made a difference. The stages have now given the fight for position during the middle of the race meaning, more action and more drama. I’m not a fan of the lucky dog or multiple restarts, but I have no problem with a red flag if the race is under caution with three to 10 laps remaining.
Lastly, what I feel is killing TV audiences is the expense of cable TV. For me to watch any of my favorite sports, including baseball and football, I like most, must pay a premium for a sports package. This is on top of the already-expensive basic cable bill. Now you want me to pay $50 for practice. When does it end? I can afford a lot more than some, but I’ve reached my max on what I want to spend for TV. I really like F1 but if it goes to PPV like I’m hearing, they will lose me as a viewer. I’m done paying more for TV. I hope Comcast/Xfinity and all series start listening to the fans on this topic.
Jerry, Williamstown, N.J.
Q: It’s all about competitiveness and strategy. IndyCar and sports car/GT racing (IMSA, WEC, Blancpain, Super GT) are all great examples. Cars can run close together, drivers are able to fight for position, and pit crews have an active role. A great example is the first round of the BES at Monza – there were battles throughout the field, and strategy dropped some cars down the field while others rose as the race went on.
Series like Formula E, BTCC, and NASCAR offer the competitiveness but lack the strategy. And without strategy, there is always something to be desired. I don’t need constant lead changes or passes on every lap or crazy crashes or insane technology (although LMP1 was the best racing in the world). And if a guy hits the setup right and dominates a race, like Sato or Rossi, then good for him/her, they deserve it. It doesn’t make the race worse as long as the rest of the field is fighting.
Q: There are many factors that make you feel you are a seeing a great race – favorite driver, favorite team, good passing, etc. I think another factor is having something significant at stake. Even though Indy prize money is not what it should be, Indy is still a big event and doing well there is extremely important because of the prize money, prestige, publicity, and points at stake. For some teams, doing poorly there is an existential threat. In contrast, though I’m an F1 fan, each F1 race, with possibly the exception of Monaco, is pretty much equal in importance. F1 teams will get their reward at the end of the season – each race only has small ramifications. Of course, in all series, the later races in the series tend to become bigger events because of championships being decided.
Charles, Alto, NM
Q: Multiple lead changes, skillful driving, minimal cautions, maximum speed, cold beer and grid girls.
JRW, Chandler, AZ
Q: I think last lap battles, underdog stories, come-from-behinders, and even utter domination in some instances all make for good races. But I think the thing that really makes a good race are the bad ones. Without the boring races, we wouldn’t appreciate the truly good ones. Over the last couple decades, we’ve become accustomed to better and better races. Unfortunately that means we don’t appreciate the races that are not so great any more. As a parallel, I live in the Great White North, aka Canada. After a long cold winter, a sunny 45-degree spring day feels glorious. Take a Californian into the same conditions and they think it’s a cold miserable day. Perhaps it’s not the racing that’s changed, but the excitement threshold of us fans!
Jeff DeJong (starting to thaw out in Canada).