Yesterday I woke up early and watched both the F1 and IndyCar races at Silverstone and Toronto. Both were pretty good races and well worth missing a bit of sleep for. Watching the two races practically back to back prompted me to compare the two races and makes some comparisons between the F1 and IndyCar seasons so far. The subject of green-white-checkered finishes came up in regards to the finish of the IndyCar race; that garnered plenty of discussion in the twittersphere and I’ll discuss it some more here.
I was mightily impressed with Roman Grosjean at Valencia and even more impressed with his performance at Silverstone yesterday. While watching the IndyCar race, it struck me how similar Charlie Kimball’s drive and result were to Grosjean’s. Both drivers have been suffering from poor results and were in need of good finishes. Grosjean took fifth at Silverstone through a great drive after an opening lap problem that dropped him to last. Kimball stepped up his game even more finishing second in Toronto after an early race incident with teammate Graham Rahal dropped him to the back of the lead lap. One could argue that Kimball didn’t face competition as stiff as Grosjean did after front runners such as Dixon, Franchitti, and Power ran into troubles but he did drive a terrific race showing some aggression that hasn’t necessarily been evident in prior races.
Earlier in the season, I compared the struggles of defending champions Vettel and Franchitti having a hard time coming to grips with new cars in 2012. Both drivers, Vettel in particular, have seemed to get a better grasp on the new cars and this weekend a better 2012 comparison came to mind. McLaren in F1 and Ganassi in IndyCar seem to be having analogous season. McLaren’s drivers have each won a race, Button in Australia and Hamilton in Canada, but otherwise it seems that the wheels have come off of McLaren’s season. Likewise, Ganassi’s drivers have each won a race, Franchitti the IndyCar season’s biggest at Indianapolis and Dixon the following race at Detroit, but otherwise mechanical woes and lack of pace have hamstrung their season. It’s also fairly easy to compare the drivers of the two teams to each other. Interestingly enough, the drivers of both teams stand 4th and 8th in their respective driver’s championships. Hamilton and Dixon both stand 4th and Button and Franchitti both stand 8th. Hamilton and Dixon each represent their team’s best hopes for a championship this season while Button and Franchitti have both suffered from uncharacteristically poor performances. Realistically, both Button and Franchitti are out of the hunt but it will be interesting to see if two very good teams can put Hamilton and Dixon back in the title hunt.
As the Toronto IndyCar race ended under caution, Scott Dixon (who suffered an early race engine failure) tweeted that he thought “IndyCar needs green white checker. Sucks seeing a race end under yellow.” First of all, I wonder if he had been leading the race and was low on fuel he would have still been suggesting a Green-White-Checker (GWC) finish? To be honest, it surprised me that the suggestion came from Dixon; I never had him pegged as a driver that would back something like that. That single tweet set off an afternoon of discussion on Twitter on whether or not IndyCar should utilize GWC finishes. Many current IndyCar fans are opposed to using GWC finishes although there are some who support the idea because they think that it will help bring in new fans and grow the sport.
I was disappointed with NASCAR writer Jim Utter, who tweeted that IndyCar would be against the GWC simply because NASCAR invented it. Personally I think such a statement calls his journalistic integrity into question. He was clearly throwing a bomb and trying to foment ill will between two groups of fans. There is plenty of room for NASCAR and IndyCar and it does neither side good to take pot shots at the other.
Personally, I fall into the category that doesn’t wish to see Green-White-Checker finishes in IndyCar. IndyCar races are advertised as races that will be X number of miles long. The teams base their race strategy on that length of race. To add a Green-White-Checker finish throws a monkey wrench into the strategic side of motor sport. Some may not like that aspect of the sport but it has always been a part of it. There are times that a race is going to end under caution; it’s simply part of the sport. At the end of the day, IndyCar needs to decide whether it wants to be sport or whether it wants to be entertainment. There are times that a sport isn’t going to be entertaining, but that’s the nature of sport. Just as there good football games and bad football games there will be good races and bad races. It’s important to let a sporting event run its natural course. A Green-White-Checkered finish offers an artificial end to a race; sure a finish under caution eliminates the chance for the second place driver to take victory but he also had the rest of the race to take and keep first place. If IndyCar wants to be a sport, they should reject the suggestion of the Green White-Checkered. If they want to be entertainment, they should institute it. Perhaps in this day and age, it will gain them some new fans but at what cost in the numbers of lost current fans?