Home / 4 Burning Questions / 4 Burning Questions: Why Does IndyCar Keep Tempting Fate?
(Photo: Chris Owens/IndyCar Media)

4 Burning Questions: Why Does IndyCar Keep Tempting Fate?

Why does the NTT IndyCar Series go to Pocono Raceway?

No, really. Can somebody give me a good answer to this?

I understand that IndyCar has a legacy of staging races in the Northeast (which is layman’s terms for saying, “muh tradition”). If this is the case, why doesn’t IndyCar return to Watkins Glen International? Or it could go to a number of other road courses in the area, such as Lime Rock Park or New Jersey Motorsports Park.

Let me preface this by stating that I’m sure people love going to Pocono, and that by all accounts, the Mattioli family has always been some of the best/most friendliest track owners in all of racing. But I have no qualms stating that Pocono cannot host another open wheel race.

IndyCar is a death trap on the Tricky Triangle. It’s a miracle that nobody was seriously injured in that lap 1 incident last Sunday — unlike last year, when Robert Wickens went from a very promising IndyCar rookie to having to relearn how to walk after one bad wreck at Pocono.

Anybody who seriously goes, “It’s not Pocono’s fault, those wrecks could have happened anywhere” needs to look in the mirror when they say it. If that’s the case, why does Las Vegas Motor Speedway not host an IndyCar race anymore? “Oh, just one person died” sounds better than, “Oh, just one person died and another one was paralyzed a couple of years afterward.”

And as obviously dangerous IndyCar is on mile-and-a-half ovals, at least Texas Motor Speedway and Las Vegas are/were exciting to watch. When the red flag was finally lifted after cleanup to the fence on Sunday, fans in attendance and watching at home were treated to one of the most forgettable IndyCar oval races in a long time. When rain came and the race was called early, it was clear nobody was missing anything in those last 72 laps not contested.

It’s understandable that Indianapolis Motor Speedway cannot go away from the series despite being somewhat similar to Pocono. Yes, it’s another case of “muh tradition,” but that label is more than earned when said race is arguably the biggest race in the United States every year regardless of series, the most attended event in America every year ,and it has had over 100 years of history attached to it. What’s more is that Indy has proven itself to be safer than Pocono — not by much, granted, but at least nobody’s career has ended on its grounds in quite some time now.

It’s obvious that at this point, Indy should be the only oval a mile-and-a-half or longer that IndyCar visits. The IndyCar schedule should be composed of Richmond Raceway, World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, ISM Raceway, the Milwaukee Mile, Iowa Speedway, Indianapolis and 12 road courses. The reality is that most ovals in the United States are ill-suited for IndyCar, and while IndyCar should have more ovals in general, it’s not worth as big a risk as tracks such as Pocono bring to the table.

Who will master Mosport?

This weekend marks the seventh year of NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series racing at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. The lone national series event in Canada, it has become a gala event on the schedule as both its only road course event and also one of its most exciting tracks in general.

Six drivers have won the six races held at Mosport, with a seventh coming on Sunday due to the lack of previous winners in the field. Of those six, all went on the following season to substantial Xfinity Series competition, with four having gone so far as to have won races at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series level.

Among the regulars, it’s hard to figure out who will be good. Todd Gilliland almost won before being wrecked by his teammate last year. Johnny Sauter has done well but has never won, as has Matt Crafton.

The favorite entering this weekend is probably Alex Tagliani. The former IndyCar star is in the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Tundra, arguably the best truck of the season, and already has two poles in four starts there in Trucks to go with his win in the accompanying NASCAR Pinty’s Series race last year. Tagliani is definitely getting the best chance he’s ever had at getting that first big league stock car win.

What will be the effects of NASCAR’s slight format changes to NGOTS and NXS competition?

This week, NASCAR announced changes to the Truck and Xfinity series coming in 2020.

The most notable change was that the NXS field has been reduced by two vehicles. The field will now be made up of the 31 fastest qualified cars, four further spots being made up by owner points and the final slot in the field being filled by either a past series champion or, barring that, another team by owner points.

This is actually not that bad a change. Is anybody really going to miss those two extra cars? Those are two cars that were either going to park or be lapped at a constant clip by the much faster leaders. It sucks that those crew jobs are going away, but if the series starts to get more viable teams (and thus jobs) popping up, it’s not like NASCAR can never increase the field size again.

Is NASCAR going to a single lugnut?

It was reported by NBC Sports this week that NASCAR is considering getting rid of the five-lugnut wheel in favor of a one-lugnut wheel.

The change wouldn’t be coming until the new generation of NASCAR stock cars (the Gen 7) rolls out on track in 2021. This rumor comes off the heels of NASCAR’s announcement last week that the Gen 7 would have 18-inch wheels instead of the current standard of 12 inches.

There are positives to this idea, yet also very noticeable negatives. As Nate Ryan notes in his piece, this would reduce the risk of loose wheels, making the sport safer. But how many times do drivers have wrecks due to tires coming apart? Maybe once or twice a season? Usually, if a driver has a loose wheel, they have enough time (or at least sense) to go down pit road to get it changed.

What’s more is that it would take another variable away from any given race. Drivers can and will run away with a race, but an unscheduled pit stop due to a loose wheel can blow the entire race wide open. Making it easier for tire changers to get things right is just going to take that dynamic away. It makes it easier for teams to absolutely dominate races without having to ensure that everything goes according to plan, and would also make it harder for teams to pass each other on pit road outside of strategy calls.

Support Frontstretch on Patreon

About Michael Finley

Avatar
Michael has watched NASCAR for 15 years and began covering the sport five years ago. He is a graduate of Salisbury University and a proud member of the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA).

Check Also

Kyle Busch Cruises To Ford EcoBoost 400 Victory, 2nd NASCAR Cup Title

Kyle Busch is a NASCAR champion once again. For the second time in five years, …

10 comments

  1. Avatar

    By this logic NASCAR should stop racing at Daytona. 7 dead.

    The fact is this crash had nothing to do with the track. The safer barrier, the catch fence, the HANS device, wheel tethers, alcohol based fuel, helmets, fire suits and the frontal protection device all worked exactly to their design and as a result all of the drivers walked away. Indycar is safe. Other race series are safe now because of the pioneering work done in Indycar.

  2. Avatar

    Pocono is a challenging race track the drivers know
    it , the really good drivers like it . The top 3 finishing
    drivers in last Sundays Indy Car race (Power,Dixon,Pagenaud) emphatically stated that after
    the race & want the race to return in 2020.
    The 3 recent accidents were not caused by the track,
    they were causaed by the drivers being overly aggressive making ill conceived, inappropriate moves
    the current one on the first lap!

  3. Avatar

    I have been involved in auto racing for 45 years as a car owner,club president,race director you name I held the position.Every driver’s meeting I tell them you can’t win the race on the first lap,but you sure can lose it on the first lap.Pocono is no more dangerous or safer than any other track.I had a car owner once tell the track was to fast I told him to go home

  4. Avatar

    That’s a load of crap. Mario’s right. Take a historic look at the names that have raced there. Raise the wall 3 feet.
    This reminds me of hos pansied our society has become. Racing is dangerous or these guys wouldn’t be driving. Kinda reminds me is the F1 candy assets who wouldn’t race at Indy one year because turn 1 was too fast.

  5. Avatar

    I would suggest there is a downside to making the cars so “safe” that these crashes happen without injury. It makes the drivers lose respect for the dangers inherent in racing. This is less true in Indycar, the in both Indycar and NASCAR introduction of aerodynamic downforce has raised speeds to ridiculous levels that has added nothing to excitement for the viewer but has created increased level of danger. Instead of countering that by eliminating downforce they have turned the cars into tanks and the drivers into idiots who keep the gas pedal flat on the floor and who would now rather crash the car than lose a position on the racetrack.

    I watch the weaving back and forth on the track, in both series, as drivers block the cars behind them to prevent passing, and recognize that these idiots are completely willing to cause a high speed crash in front of the rest of the cars and I cannot help but think that auto racing is approaching the end. This kind of stupidity will eventually be banned by law.

    • Avatar

      Not to mention deliberately wrecking a car ahead of them when they are unable to pass it, with the announcers frantically urging them to do so, and wailing in disappointment if they don’t.

    • Avatar

      if you don’t like racing why not watch badminton safe as hell

  6. Avatar

    Racing is inherently dangerous. It’s part of the attraction both for fans and drivers. Let’s make racing perfectly safe – no car is allowed to go more than 5mph, and is a solid ball of driver protection. Who will watch it? Who will participate? No one.

    As a racing fan, no matter the series, I don’t like to see anyone injured, crippled or killed. It’s an unfortunate part of pushing the boundary of man and machine. I do appreciate we can – and have – taken steps to review the results of those unfortunate incidents and build new safety measures to better protect competitors. However, until you take the human body out of the car, severe injury and even death are possibilities anywhere they race.

    Past performance is no guarantee of future results – applies to tragedy too. Pocono has had an unfortunate run recently, but nothing is stopping the same things from happening elsewhere. The reality is, regardless of racing series or race track, the speeds are high and the human bodies of the drivers are no match for all the concrete, steel, plastic, and carbon fiber surrounding them.

  7. Avatar

    Actually the Indycar race was enjoyable from the stands. Once weather became the bigger issue, drivers were then actually stepping up and pushing for the win. Look at Will Power, he came back from a bad pit stop that fell on a yellow and raced back up to the lead from the 12th position.

    Indycars were designed for Super Speedways and Short tracks. Something the current schedule lacks. The accident on Sunday was caused by less give and more take. These drivers complain about Nascar crashing in a straight line should be embarrassed for what happened. However, abandoning the history and challenge of this track is just another example of leaving the history of the sport. Look at Nascar leaving tracks down south. The sport has changed, yes it changes with the times, but you cannot ignore or try to forget the past.

    Mario Andretti said it best, Pocono is not for Sissies. You need to respect every track you race at, especially a Super Speedway. Hell, how many drivers died at Indy? You’re going to tell me that we can still race there with tight 90 degree turns and with all the death and injuries at the track? It’s a loaded article. Any true fan of the sport will defend the reasoning of the race. I am from New England so it would be a total loss for this area. If Pocono is off the schedule they need to get back to Loudon and actually give the race a chance to take off. Instead of the 2011 debacle and they never came back.

    Ovals need strong promoters and people who take chances and book action all day at a track. A concert at night to keep people at the track and most importantly entertained.

    • Avatar

      Do people get in this sport because it is safe? It would be interesting to ask drivers why they race and why they got into racing despite having friends that have been injured or killed. The Pocono race facility did not cause that crash. Three drivers, all of whom could have chosen to life, chose to not. With all due respect to Mr Wickens, the same could be said of his similar incident.
      Texas and Indy are no safer, why does everyone hate Pocono? The problem is aero rules that allowed great racing and passing a generation ago, but now force drivers to take stupid risks when the field bunches up on restarts. Why no go after the real problem? I will also remind you that Rodger Ward refused to drive at Langhorne because he though it unsafe. Drivers have the option to not go. Anyone that takes the race 3 wide in the tunnel turn on lap 1, then blames the track, is acting only on emotion.