Open-wheel race cars are built for speed not for bumping, but the double-file restart policy may give racers more wrecking than they have previously known.
The IZOD IndyCar Series double-file start may have not caused at least four top competitors to wreck in the first turn of the 2011 season, but many cautions are yet to happen.
Marco Andretti’s No. 26 car was upside down after the six-car pile-up and his anger was immediate.
“Helio (Castroneves) misjudged his breaking point and ran up into the back of me,” Andretti said. “It was all a chain of events from there. I think having the cars start so close together is great for the fans but it was no good for me today."
On double-file restarts, the field managed to maneuver without wrecking so it could be a matter of driver learning curves. But other tracks on the circuit are not as wide as the St. Petersburg configuration and could be even more frustrating for open-wheel cars that are not built for bumping.
It was NASCAR’s bumping and banging that has caused anger to flare and rivalries to be born in the 63-year history of stock car racing. The anger didn’t always have bad results.
Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison got into a fight at the end of the 1979 Daytona 500 and gave NASCAR a national presence when CBS televised the Daytona 500 live flag-to-flag for the first time. It was weather induced. The 1979 Daytona 500 had millions of viewers as a captive audience, because heavy snow made any travel dangerous in the Northeast. The weather, the race and the fight put NASCAR on the map.
As for the rivalry and fighting, Bobby Allison is all smiles when he tells the story these days how Yarborough’s nose beat his fists.
Tempers still erupt from competitive drivers in a modern era where a lot more money and sponsor exposure are on the line.
Recently Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton scuffled on-track after wrecking, but Gordon’s anger and Burton’s defense were brief. Later both laughed when they talked away the incident.
Kyle Busch has many fans, as he was voted ninth most popular NASCAR driver in an NASCAR/NMPA Most Popular Driver poll and Carl Edwards was one spot behind in the No. 10 position. But at almost every NASCAR introduction when Kyle Busch comes out on stage, boos erupt.
It seems many folks would like to see Edwards get even for the crash of Edwards by Busch at Phoenix this season that set Edwards back 28 points. Edwards has said he owes Busch one for that. Some fans are eager to witness that on-track revenge.
Martin Truex Jr. has had an encounter with Jeff Gordon in 2010 that prompted him to say, “What goes around, comes around.” after being wrecked and then interviewed. Gordon apologized, but Truex hadn’t heard that.
Truex summed up his thoughts on grudges and retaliation in a recent teleconference.
“The amount of forgiveness is different for everybody,” Truex said. “You never forget, that's for damn sure. I know who's done me wrong in the past. It's just something you keep in your memory bank. Whether or not you take action on it is a different story. That just depends more on the person than anything.”
After the first race of the IZOD IndyCar season at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg the podium winners, Dario Franchitti, Will Power and Tony Kanaan met after the race for trophy presentation.
The gathering was more celebration than rivalry as Franchitti and Power smiled and shared their thoughts about the 100 lap race. Kanaan arrived to give Franchitti a bear hug for his winning accomplishment. The three bantered about more like teammates than competitors for several minutes before trophy time.
During the post race press conference, Power and Franchitti spoke about their rivalry. That fact that Franchitti won the 2010 championship by five points over Power and now the first race of the season too, wasn’t a major topic.
Will Power summed up his feelings.
“I have a lot of respect for these guys and Dario,” Power said. "He's like clockwork, he never makes mistakes and he's good, hard and fair.
“When we race, we race clean and hard. Yeah, I enjoy racing with Dario, you know he's not going to stick the wheel under you. But he'll push you to the edge. Yeah, it's a good rivalry, race hard on the track, and friendly off the track.”
“Our rivalry is on the track and occasionally it spills over to here,” Franchitti. “We've all had it. But we try and keep it on the track, and you don't get situations like we had today with moves like that if you want to beat each other. You saw some of the stuff, some of the passes that we made, you don't have those unless there's that competition and that will to win. But, we keep that on the track most of the time.”
Whether IZOD IndyCar continues the double-file starts and restarts that fans requested will be seen throughout the season and beyond. Whether closer racing at start-ups causes rivalry to turn to grudges is the stuff of the future too.
Maybe Truex put it best, “That just depends more on the person than anything.”
FYI WIRZ is the presentation of select motorsports topics by Dwight Drum @ Racetake.com. Quotes derived from team and sanction press releases.
Photo credit: Dwight Drum @ Racetake.com