Q: I am a long-time reader and fan. I appreciate everything you do for IndyCar. What makes a great race? The underdog: when Herta/Rossi and Herta/Wheldon take the checkered flag at the 500, that’s a great race to me. Strategy: when Dale Coyne or RLL go off-script and end up in the lead with 10-20 laps to go, that’s a great race. Weather: the great equalizer. Technology ($) can only do so much. Who guesses right? Fandom: I was always a big fan of Al Jr. Obviously, he was a highly competitive, aggressive, and successful racer. But early on I saw an interview where he spoke about some advice his father gave him. Al Sr. told him to never forget the fans. Without fans, there is no race. Without a race, there are no racers.
I can’t remember the last time I watched a F1 or NASCAR race (except the modifieds). I used to get up in the middle of the night to watch a F1 race. I haven’t liked the F1 cars since they raised the nose/front wing design. There is no competition. A change of position in the pits is not a race. I no longer understand NASCAR, and don’t have enough interest to figure it out, and plate racing is ridiculous. I read the Mailbag every Wednesday morning, and asking for reader input is another great idea. I look forward to seeing the contributions you receive.
Q: I love a close finish. Not like the orchestrated NASCAR races or the F1 Mercedes parades. My favorite finish was the 2014 Indy 500 race between Castroneves and Hunter-Reay. The last several laps were thrilling – we were between Turns 1 and 2, and believe me, I wished I had a seat in Turn 1. The year Buddy Rice won, and correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t that the year he made that wild pass on the main straight near the inside wall? I was out of town that year, missed the race, but it was wild to see it on TV. Hopefully with the added downforce the racing will be better. I will not lie, the IRL pack racing was like a drug. I know, it dangerous for the drivers and needed to stopped.
Long Beach was not my kind of race – glad Rossi won, but was kind of boring.
Q: When you asked at the beginning of your article on April 29, “What constitutes a good race?” I had an answer in mind. Then at the end of the article, you posed the question from a slightly different angle; “what (do) you consider good racing?”
Good racing? That’s fast cars, nimble drivers, good race strategy, cars dialed in, lots of dicing for positions all through the field, an exciting finish… it all makes for good racing.
But a good race? Some have said that street races are like a city-type festival that goes on for days, and occasionally, some cars drive by. Some say road courses are like hillside camping, set up your chairs, and have a hot dog. Oh, and cars drive by occasionally. But if you really want to watch a race, I mean see it, start to finish, all through the field, you have got to come to the Iowa Speedway to watch IndyCars run. How many races do you want to watch at once? Not just for the lead, but, look, there’s Tony going after Marco! Hinch on the outside of Dixon. Wow! The fans in the stands don’t miss anything, because you can see everything! That’s what makes a good race. Love ovals!
Marty Jorgensen, Des Moines, IA.
Q: I live in the center of Colorado ski country. We have a saying that any day you are skiing is better than any day at work. That same mindset applies. Going to or watching any race is better than working.
Mark Beer, Summit County, CO
Q: For me, it falls under two categories. First, the on-track, or personal results-oriented focus. Both times I attended the Singapore GP in ’15 and ’18 a Red Bull driver finished on the podium. Now, most races around that tight track aren’t good, but I will fondly remember them both because I had a vested interest in that team.
Conversely, the ’17 San Marino MotoGP race was spent in pouring rain and getting soaked but loving every second of it, and watching a last-lap pass for the win, in an amazingly difficult race, in which I had no favorite riders going into the event.
Second, the overall experience: I’ve been to Sonoma NASCAR twice and Sonoma Indy in ’14, and can’t really say the racing was good, but the overall experience and the beautiful scenery have lasted in my memories, and I think it’s a shame Sonoma and Laguna Seca couldn’t have been bookends on the schedule. The overall experience of going to Long Beach in ’09 and ’14 was much better than any singular moment of on-track action. Same with Monza in ’17. And although it’s always cool to see Takuma win, in Portland last year the yellow falling the way it did put a dampener on it as an overall race. But I still loved that weekend, and can’t wait to be back there this year. Had the pleasure to meet you in the pitlane at Vegas ’11 and am glad you’re still ticking after the health issues. Would definitely like to celebrate with a post Portland GP drink at the end of the summer while I’m there with my father.
Andrew from Seattle
Q: I loved your piece, and have not stopped thinking about the question since reading it. What makes a good race? As a recent radio broadcasting grad who just took a job calling open-wheel racing at his local short track in southern Ontario, Canada, I feel like I could write a thesis on the topic. But instead, I’m going to let 20+ years of racing fandom take over. What makes a great race? Well hell, that may just vary from series to series. But in particular, I want the feeling that no lead is safe, that no position is safe, whether my guy is out front or not… That anxiety is infectious.
Take NASCAR, if Kyle Busch is leading (I’m not a fan of his but also not a hater either), I want to feel like the two or three drivers behind him have a legitimate chance to get to him. They don’t necessarily have to, there just has to be that threat. That reason to cheer. Whether you’re urging someone to get to the leader or urging that leader to hang on. Passing ability is important. I can appreciate F1, and certainly Liberty has stepped up to the plate in terms of presentation of the sport. But until I get that legitimate feeling that maybe 10-12 – or even seven or eight – guys have a chance to win each week, it won’t be must-watch TV.
IndyCar straddles the line just right. I love Hinchliffe. I know he’s not on a big team. But I still go into each weekend believing he has a chance. But if he settles into seventh spot and is 10s behind sixth and 10s ahead of eighth, I lose that anxiety, and then if the battle for the lead or podium isn’t tight, I find myself tuning out. The best races will make you feel something for the competitors at the front of the pack, whether you’re actually fans of them or not. Unpredictability is appreciated, but I would never want safety or integrity of the sport affected to give me that unpredictability. And obviously, fuel and tire strategies can make races unpredictable, but the reality is that nothing replaces the chase on the track. If Sato uses a fuel strategy to jump to the lead, I want a legitimate chance that Rossi can run him down. That chase, and the corresponding anxiety that I feel in my chest… that’s the thrill of racing to me. That’s the kind of race where after the checkered flag I can sit down and say, “wow that was entertaining”.
Jonathon Howe, Radio Broadcasting Student, Mohawk College