Letter to the editor
Some thoughts as followup to recent emailings and events occuring at our Indianapolis Motor Speedway - racing has always been integral to life on earth and exhibited in many forms.
Practically, as a sport, that easily may begin with horses. From there, it should be no surprise that airplanes, boats and automobiles should continue the "Need For Speed."
Personally, I have been a big fan of auto racing, especially at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Few can exceed my adrenaline blasts caused by events at IMS and a resulting appreciation for Tony Hulman.
A senior citizen now, I regret that those good days seem to be a thing of the past, not likely to be seen again. That is not a change in my interests, but that the sport of racing has changed to where it is not so enjoyable any more. Events have occured to cause this, but now, in 2008 and 2009, the economy is also having a serious impact on motor racing. I doubt the sport will survive. Certainly not as we've known it.
The mere mention of names and words stirs excitement in the many of us auto racing fans- Wilbur Shaw, Fireball Roberts, Mauri Rose, DuQuoin, Bill France, Hulman, Foyt, Jack Roush, Parnelli Jones, "Gentlemen, start your engines!", Bignotti, Sid Collins, Roger Penske, Richard Petty, Fisher, Graham Hill, Ted Horn, Watson, Eddy Rickenbacker, Bobby and Donny Allison, McLaren, "He's on it!", Bettenhausen, Colin Chapman, Maserati, Rex Mays, Daytona Beach, Andy and Vince Granatelli, Langhorne, Novi, Miller engines, Firestone and Goodyear, Ferrari, Mario Andretti, Jim Nabors, Yarborough, Offenhauser, Lloyd Ruby, Sterling Moss, Pete DePaulo, Tom Carnegie, Juan Fangio and (insert name).
What was it that stirred our emotions? It may start with personalities, those who were a little different, more dashing, more handsome, more dominant, or too often victims of bad luck. Maybe a variety in engines, nationalities, sponsors, colors, owners, chassis. Speed? Yes, but that is relative. Bristol is every bit as exciting as Talladega. Also, many harbored the urge to equate racing vehicles with what they drive to work and the grocery store.
Not many years ago things began to change. Now we find at the race track entries that come from a cookie cutter with one choice of engine (my apologies to NASCAR, four, all with equal power, endurance and acceleration), one chassis, one type of tire and one fuel. The league dictates the specs. for the throttle linkage cotter keys and number of threads on the gearshift knob. Drivers got seats because of sponsors they enchanted. A person with some extra money goes to a catalogue and orders the authorized components to create a racing team.
I suggest these changes may have began with the media (ABC Sports, ESPN?) with their demands, the reasoning of which has been lost in history. Changes occured simply for the sake of change, not to stimulate originality or allow innovation. Instead of a sport for fans, it became a "big business" enterprise.
Now, in addition to the economy is the matter of fuel efficiency and environmental concerns such as pollution. The motoring public now wants a light, low powered, fuel efficient, nonpolluting automobile, preferably that does not use fossil fuel. Power, speed and fuel guzzling are not popular. Auto manufacturers now are trying to develop electric and hybrid types for reasonable prices. This is admirable, but is causing public disdain for powerful racing machines.
All these things combined is causing automobile racing to lose its lustre.
Likely, the horse is out of the barn and lost. IRL racing is boring. Sprint cup is not much better. Formula One, short track and motorcycles suffer as well. Fans are not attracted to team personalities because too many are unknown or exhibit bad character.
Maybe the future holds something we aren't able to predict now, such as entries that use renewable energy, space connected with light weight or the use of human power. Maybe cyber racing, where any of us can participate through our computers, but in a way that allows fans, corporations and sponsors to benefit. Any ideas?
I would like to see the spirit of the past "Glory Days" return, but don't think that is possible.