I follow a good number of both Sports Car racing and IndyCar racing fans on Twitter and yesterday during discussion of the Grand Am/ALMS 2014 class structure announcement I noticed some IndyCar fans saying calling sports car racing confusing because of it’s multiple classes. I’m a fan of both types of racing and I don’t find sports car racing confusing at all. I think it just boils down to a difference in concept and how the fans view the sport between the two forms of racing, particularly during the modern era. What follows are generalizations but it’s how I see the two forms of motor sport and the majority of the fan base for each.
In sports car racing, fans are generally a fan of the cars whereas in IndyCar, fans are generally a fan of the drivers. With sports cars, the cars are the stars of the show. While there are certainly popular and recognized drivers, allegiance is usually to a particular manufacturer or perhaps a team. In IndyCar, the drivers are the stars of the show. There are engine manufacturers involved but fan allegiance is usually to a driver (or once again perhaps a team). In sports cars, if a driver moves to a different manufacturer most fans usually stick with the manufacturer rather than following the driver from team to team. In IndyCar, if a driver moves, most fans generally follow the driver from team to team rather than sticking with the manufacturer.
An aside here.. It’s been interesting to watch this change in NASCAR. When I was a kid, NASCAR fans while fans of the drivers, were generally divided into camps by manufacturer. They would get angry with a favorite driver for changing which manufacturer they drove for. As time as moved on, manufacturer has become secondary to the drivers with fans following the drivers from manufacturer to manufacturer with next to no blowback from it.
There is a similar situation between engineering and close racing between sports car racing and IndyCar racing. With sports car racing, while the fans are interested in the racing they frequently put a great deal of emphasis on the technical and engineering aspects of the cars. With IndyCar, fans have an interest in the technical and engineering aspect of the sport but put more emphasis on close racing. Whereas a sports car fan will accept racing that’s not as close in return for technical differences between the cars, IndyCar fans will accept a more spec style of racing if it provides closer action on the track. Note: Some fans of Grand Am racing provide a counter to this argument, which is indicative of the conceptual differences between Grand Am and ALMS that are going to make the transition to a combined series so tricky.
To sum up, there isn’t a problem with either form of racing or either form of fanhood. Realize the differences between different forms of Motor Sport and recognize that some fans aren’t going to cross over between the various genres. If the different genres of motor sport were all the same, it would be a dull sport indeed. Personally I enjoy a variety of series for the unique excitement each provides.