FAQ for the Refugee

Posted by Iannucci | 3/27/2008 | 3 comments »
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Your humble host is well aware that not only have there been more than a few refugee drivers coming to the ranks of IndyCar in recent weeks, there have also been refugee fans. To you who may disagree with many of the regulars around here about the type of circuit or engine or nosecone used in the IndyCar series I offer an olive branch of sorts. We won, you lost, but that doesn't mean we're going to rub it in your face...no, that's not what I just did. Really. No, I meant that.

Please stop yelling "F-T-G" at the screen so we can continue with the post. Thank you.

In recent weeks I've received a handful of emails from former haters Champ Car fans who have asked with various degrees of, shall we say, disappointment about what in the world if anything is worth watching in the IRL. It is because of these requests that your humble host has produced this informative list of "Frequently Asked Questions" - or as the lazy kids like to say these days "FAQs" - for new fans who are only here because, in the words of Zack Mayo, "I got nowhere else to go!"

Q: The only drivers I know are Danica and Helio. Are they any good?

A: Helio has won the Indy 500 twice (sorry, Mr Tracy) and has 12 wins and 51 Top 5 finishes in 97 IndyCar races. So yes, he’s very good and a threat to win nearly every weekend. Danica, well, she’s up near the front most weekends, but right now she has the same number of wins as you or me.

Q: So he’s good and she’s not?

A: Oh she’s a good driver, she’s just not an elite-level talent yet. She’s often manages to avoid victory by using methods such as her patented “Danica Shuffle” during pit in/pit out laps.

Q: What’s the “Danica Shuffle”?

A: Right before or after a pit stop drivers have to rapidly accelerate or decelerate, right? Well every once in a while Mrs Hospenthal adds a tricky spin maneuver and hand puppet show as part of the pit-in or pit-out lap. So spin around and shake your hands and you too can groove with the “Danica Shuffle”.

Q: So who’s “elite-level”?

A: Helio, Tony Kanaan, and the two guys in the Target cars. Dan Wheldon is Lord of the Oval Rings, and Scott Dixon has won 5 of the 7 IRL road course parades. While you can’t entirely discount the chances of their teammates, barring a small-pox outbreak the 2008 series champion will be one of those four gentlemen.

Q: What about my former Champ Car drivers?

A: They will probably be competitive on road and street courses, and they have an outside shot at the crapshoot that is the Indianapolis 500. Some of them might even score a Top 5 finish on a short-oval track, but with so little time to acquire the engineering know-how required to shave those extra tenths from laps on the superspeedways they have no chance this year at places like Homestead, Kansas, Kentucky and Chicagoland. Sorry.

Q: Why do these cars sound so different?

A: The engines are without turbo chargers, just as God intended them to be.

Q: But they’re so loud I can’t hear the person sitting next to me.

A: This is a race track, not a conversation bar.

Q: Well why do they smell so different?

A: They’re running on ethanol, which is made from corn. Mmmm, popcorn.

Q: And what’s up with that ugly needle-nose car?

A: Admittedly it’s less than perfect, but at least that needle nose STAYS ON, pal!

Q: And where did the hottie grid girls go?

A: Back to work at Hooters. Again, sorry.

Q: Why should I even care about oval-racing?

A: Because - now pay close attention - there’s actual passing on the track. As a Champ Car fan you may have heard of this phenomenon but never actually witnessed it. I tell you it’s fun-tastic!

Q: Even though I don’t like oval racing, is there any event – and don’t say Indy – that might change my mind?

A: Texas. CART pulled out of Texas Motor Speedway when their turbo-charged beasts started giving the drivers vertigo, but in the wonderful world of normally aspirated engines the racing at this track is unbelievable. Especially at night.

Q: I still think road and racing is better.

A: That’s fine. Watch the single-file parade at Mid-Ohio and get back to me on that, will ya?

Q: Whatever. What’s the best non-oval on the schedule?

A: Uh, maybe Detroit. They repaved and revamped the circuit racing through Belle Isle and last year’s debut was actually quite a fun race.

Q: So a former Champ Car driver could win that race then?

A: You bet, especially if that group includes Ryan Briscoe.

Q: Well, I still hate Tony George.

A: Then take solace that his Vision Racing team has yet to win a race. In the meantime I would hope you find a driver you do like, because judging from the number of refugee teams and non-oval races in the IRL it would appear your beloved Champ Car hasn't just died - it's gone to a better place.


  1. Tom // March 27, 2008 10:41 PM  

    As a 25 year old Australian fan, who grew up watching CART very very late at night, then watching the IRL form and the following war, I'll add a few words. Before I start I sided with CART and have yet to watch a IRL race bar the 500... this is going to change this year. I will not desert the sport simply because "we lost"

    Ovals are not boring - they were part of the brilliance of CART. There does however, need to be a better balance. And I do miss Michigan - is texas much like it or better/worse?

    The noses are god damn ugly. Your lack of retort in this issue indicates you agree. Nothing can be done though, but spare us the onboards please. Bring on the new chasis packs in 2010 I spose.

    I think you will be surprised at how competitive some of the refugee teams will be - great teams with great engineers will always come to the fore.

    Finally, about time this is all over and the people behind the racing got on with the job of rebuilding the status of American open wheel racing.


  2. llilly // March 28, 2008 5:53 AM  

    I followed both series and got into the IRL more because Champ was Sebastian Bourdais and Paul Tracy pretty much. Seabass for the win and PT for the entertainment. (It was great when PT ran over Seabass' head and no one got hurt, kids.)

    When I am at a race, I prefer an oval race because you can see most of it from where you are sitting. Until they get big screens at all the tracks, road courses are only as good as the seat you have unless you are at home.

  3. Anonymous // March 28, 2008 10:51 AM  

    "It's a racetrack not a conversation bar" - ROFL!!! THAT is priceless, Jeff!! And I totally agree - being able to have a conversation should not impact the sound of a racecar.....ever.

    Other than that - awesome faq!!