Q: I have pondered your question all week and am sure I haven’t anything profound to stay. First off, how about our Oklahoma kid, Christopher Bell, winning his third race this season on Saturday by just a few feet? He credits his team and their work on his last pit stop for getting him out ahead of the leader for the win. Now, that is good racing in my book.
I enjoy close, clean racing. I am not an advocate for “chaos and crashes”, a phrase used by a reporter in the LA Times about NASCAR. I have been on the edge of my seat watching some amazing passes from Rossi at Indy and RHR at Phoenix through my fingers . I would have been thrilled if Sato had managed to pass Dario for the win at Indy [in 2012], but it just wasn’t to be that day. I am also a big fan of watching a driver dig him/herself out of a hole not always of their making. Seb comes to mind as one who can carve his way from the back to the front of the field. It does not always mean a win, and that doesn’t matter to me that much. I just admire that Bourdais never gives up!
Q: Number one, there has to be noise. In the early 60s, before even seeing the cars on track, I heard the roar as I walked with my dad through the lot at Williams Grove Speedway to see my very first race. That sound pretty much hooked me! Then the cars (or bikes) have to look fast (or just cool, in a child’s mind). As I aged, and discovered other forms of racing, it was clear that sometimes one car would be dominant. Frankly that was fascinating, be it Mitch Smith or Jan Opperman on dirt, or Hans Stuck or Gilles Villeneuve at a soaked Watkins Glen. Sometimes it simply didn’t matter if a superior car/driver almost (or did) lap the field. If there isn’t a battle for the lead, some action further back can be just as exciting. Yes, second place is just first loser, but some of the more epic duals I’ve seen have been fought over a top-10 spot – that’s the nature of a true racer. I suppose that as long as there is some sort of ‘wow’ element, at the front or deep in the field, and as long as everyone can walk away at the end, it’s been a good race. Sometimes, we who love the sport are fortunate to see a truly great race – a classic – and that’s just a bonus.
John Weaver, Camp Hill PA
Q: I got interested in racing in the late ‘60s. The best thing about being a race fan back then was that you could see your favorite driver in a Formula 1 car one weekend, Can-Am the next, at an Indy car race the next and also at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The number of races and the schedules (and driver’s contracts) were such that drivers could exhibit their skills in a variety of vehicles and tracks. Plus, probably most important, the money wasn’t as large as it has become today, so the drivers had to be versatile in order to earn a decent living from racing.
It’s probably because of this diversity that I didn’t pick a favorite type of racing – I found I liked all types of racing, from F1 to Indy to sports cars to NASCAR, and still do. Men like Andretti, Gurney and Donohue would run F1, Can-Am, Indy, Trans Am, Le Mans and NASCAR, and be competitive in all. So I suppose great drivers are a key ingredient to a good race. Also, great cars are important. The original, unlimited Can-Am cars were truly magnificent to watch, even though the competitiveness of the field may not have been that great. The first race I attended was the 1969 Watkins Glen Can-Am. When watching those cars driven in anger, I was in awe. They jumped out of a corner under acceleration, often leaving black trails of rubber on the road to show their trajectory. Just awesome! No, not great racing with continuous passes for the lead, but just incredible cars driven by amazing drivers.
I know we don’t have the same awe factor in a lot of today’s cars (or drivers), but I still enjoy seeing F1, Indy Cars, NASCAR and sports cars (IMSA and WEC) being driven at the limit. Watching them accelerate, brake and corner is to realize that they are doing something I can only dream of. I still get chills when I hear “drivers, start your engines.” This summer I will attend IMSA at Watkins Glen, IndyCar at Toronto and Mid-Ohio and NASCAR at Watkins Glen, and will enjoy all of them, regardless of there is constant passing for the lead or a parade. I like watching at various corners to see when the different drivers brake, how they modulate the throttle through the turns and when they hit the loud pedal coming out of the turn. Maybe go along the straight, to just drink in the sensation of speed from these multi-colored rockets. I appreciate the engineering effort that has gone into the design and development of the cars, and just like to get close to soak in the atmosphere. It makes me realize how ordinary my driving experience is and how special these masters are.
PS: If F1 and Indy Car are up against each other, I choose IndyCar first and F1 on DVR.
Paul, Lockport, NY
Q: In short , all the elements of a great race were on display at the MAVTV 500 in Fontana, June 2015. Great passing, wild speeds, drama in the pits, not-quite pack racing, winner in doubt till the end, and me with hands over my eyes at least 20 times during the race.
Gerry Courtney, San Francisco
Q: I want to tune into a race and not have any idea who’s going to win. An F1 race will be a Mercedes, with an outside chance a Ferrari – that’s it. If Rossi has a day like he did at the Beach, so be it. There is a lot of competition up and down the field. Indy has had great races with Sato diving in on Dario in turn one on the last lap. Rossi/Herta out-foxing the entire field to win. Dixon doing his Steady Eddie all day, and you blink and he’s in the lead. Watching the rookies this year is fantastic – who would predict a first-year team with a rookie driver would win! Just write the book!