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All-purpose open-wheel (F1, IRL) racing thread

Discussion in 'Sports and News' started by crimsonace, Feb 19, 2007.

  1. wicked

    wicked Well-Known Member

    I would have loved to see what Hornish could’ve done if he stayed in IndyCar. By the end he excelled at all the disciplines. I also don’t blame him for chasing the cash.

    Rick Hendrick already was doing ok for himself before signing Gordon, but that made him a millionaire again many times over. Without Gordon there’s no JJ. Bill Davis must spit or worse on Hendrick’s photo every day.
    franticscribe and playthrough like this.
  2. 2muchcoffeeman

    2muchcoffeeman Well-Known Member

    More likely that he spits on Michael Kranefuss’ photo. Kranefuss ran Ford Motorsports at the time and was dead certain that Robby Gordon would be the next big thing and that Jeff was going to be The Other Gordon.
    maumann and playthrough like this.
  3. maumann

    maumann Well-Known Member

    The history of the disconnect between the traditional ladders of open-wheel and NASCAR would make a fascinating book but I'm not the one to research or write it. So here's a quick synopsis -- or as quick as I can explain it.

    When roadsters roamed the earth, the traditional route to Indianapolis was through low downforce, high horsepower-to-weight ratio front-engined cars under USAC: midgets to sprint cars to roadsters. But when Jack Brabham initiated the rear-engine revolution in 1960, he unwittingly set in motion the eventual breakdown of the traditional "road to Indy."

    Jim Clark, Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart were immediately successful at Indy because they were experienced at driving those cars. American drivers at that time were forced to change their skill set to fit the new formula, which the best eventually did. And as aerodynamics improved -- particularly the addition of the rear wing in 1972 -- drivers from many forms of racing (Dennis Hulme, Peter Revson, Mark Donohue, Cale Yarborough, Donnie Allison, LeeRoy Yarbrough) had varying amounts of success even though they hadn't come through USAC.

    The economy of the 1970s which forced the closure of big ovals like Ontario and Texas World -- coupled with the 1978 plane crash that killed most of USAC's top officials -- sent IndyCar in a direction in which a majority of the events began to be run on road courses, where high-downforce and handling played more of a factor than pure horsepower.

    In 1980, Jim Hall (who pioneered the rear wing in his Can-Am car) figured out how to channel air flowing under the car (ground effects). The next generation of drivers -- Al Unser Jr., Michael Andretti, Danny Sullivan, Al Holbert, Bobby Rahal, Teo Fabi, Jacques Villeneuve -- all came through the Can-Am ranks, because those cars most closely matched the skill set needed for the car of that era. Suddenly, the USAC ladder system was irreparably broken, no matter what Tony George believed.

    When Emerson Fittipaldi came to America and had success, European drivers who couldn't thrive in F1 and thought CART was beneath them began to take notice. That remains the case today. The way to IndyCar now is either go-karts-Formula Fords-Pro 2000s-Indy Lights in North America or go to Europe and race lower level Formula series. Since the reunification, more and more F1-capable talent (Rossi and Ferrucci among them) have found it costs way less to bring $10 million sponsorship to ICS than $100 million F1.

    Driving today's IndyCar is basically steering a rocket with wheels. Could Kyle Busch do it at Indy? Yes because he's an elite driver. But he'd have a steep learning curve at somewhere like Long Beach or St. Pete.

    So what happened to all those good USAC sprint car guys? As NASCAR built more high-speed intermediate tracks to replace the bullrings and the suspensions became more sophisticated, drivers like Ken Schrader, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne -- drivers who learned car control from high-hosepower low-downforce racing -- found that their skill sets dovetailed perfectly with the new NASCAR. In addition, the costs of running a top-level Cup Series team skyrocketed to the point that independent teams were left behind. In fact, it's harder for a track champion at a traditional NASCAR ladder like Greenville-Pickens or Bowman Gray to get a look than someone who wins the Chili Bowl.

    The pairing of the equipment to a unique skill set -- and the exponential costs associated with learning the trade -- have more to do with how drivers choose one or the other, because everyone starts in go-karts at an early age now. Talent is still important, but who knows how many drivers will never get the chance to reach the top level because it's a matter of either having a famous last name or bringing a helmet-full of money. When it costs over $20 million a season to run Cup, it's more who you know that what you can do.
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2019
    HanSenSE and PCLoadLetter like this.
  4. bigpern23

    bigpern23 Well-Known Member

    This is fascinating and makes me want to devour books about it.
    maumann likes this.
  5. bigpern23

    bigpern23 Well-Known Member

    As I noted upthread, I'm a bit of a returner to the sport after some passing interest about 20 years ago. Thanks to having a 7-year-old interested in really fast cars, it's been enjoyable re-learning about the sport. The Netflix series F1: Drive to Survive coupled with playing the PS4 video game F1: 2018 has really rejuvenated my interest. I'm watching a replay of the Canadian Grand Prix right now and I'm happy to have fallen back in love with the sport. Recorded for my kid, too.
    maumann likes this.
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