If you thought today was crazy… just you wait! After approximately 150 minutes of waiting through the rainstorm, two waved off starts, a drifting Honda pacecar and one DW12 in the wall, the first race of the Honda Indy Toronto weekend was officially postponed… and in actuality, never started. Not all was lost in the timeframe however – we had riveting commentary from IndyCar legend AJ Foyt on how he feels about “never being too old to learn something new…” and from Michael Andretti who, like many others, was perplexed by race control calls/communication throughout the madness of the early evening. Maybe one of the craziest moments was watching the drivers walk with such intent from their cars when they were finally allowed out. People forget that these guys hydrate before these races in order to sweat as much as they need to in race-time without becoming dehydrated. Well, when you just sit in the car for upwards of 2 hours and don’t race… that whole aspect of being “only human” comes into play. When you gotta go, you gotta go.
Going, in respect to the race itself though, was one thing these guys could NOT do. And most of them were very adamant that that was the best decision possible. The Target Chip Ganassi Racing team was one of the most vocal on this, with both Tony Kanaan and former driver, Dario Franchitti stating how dangerous the conditions had become and that there are certain risks you just don’t take if you can avoid them. I heard many comments throughout social media about how drivers always risked their lives in “the good old days” and that’s why people watched. I take serious issue with this and it also makes me question what EXACTLY those fans were/are fans OF.
I have been a fan since I was 3 years old – from the moment I first walked out onto Turn 1 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And I will tell you this right now: never in my almost 29 years of fandom, have I ever wanted to go to a race BECAUSE the drivers were risking their lives. Risking their lives is what they do every time they get in that car, yes… it’s a reality of racecar driving and an outcome that sadly, is always a possibility. But that is the worst case scenario and the thing you never want to see happen. If there is any way for that to be avoided, I am all for it. The Dallara chassis that the Verizon IndyCar Series currently uses is the safest car ever driven by these elite athletes. Everything that is done nowadays in racing is done with one priority at the top of the list: safety. So if we have a situation like today, where you hear veteran drivers with thousands and thousands of laps under their career belts, state their concerns about track conditions, why would you doubt their feedback? These guys want to race even more than we want to watch them race. They would never choose to stay out of the car unless circumstances were simply illogical and the risk was swayed far out of their advantage.
Remember why these guys didn’t race today – it was a decision by IndyCar race control, not the individual racer’s choice. But, that makes me wonder – if they had decided to go ahead with the race this evening, with conditions unimproved from the initial starting attempts, would any of these drivers have refused to hit the track? It wouldn’t be a precedent. Racing legends Niki Lauda & Emerson Fittipaldi both withdrew from races during their careers because they considered conditions to be too dangerous and Jackie Stewart has always been a huge proponent for driver and racing safety. I guess I just don’t understand why anyone would want IndyCar to accept additional or unnecessary elements of danger to an already risky sport.
I definitely want to delve deeper into this huge topic of driver & racing safety and how far we truly have come, but I will save that for a future & more in-depth feature article. I look forward to sharing it with you when it is completed, but for now I’m opting to digress from this subject matter.
The latest update to tomorrow’s schedule is as follows:
The Verizon IndyCar Series will race a true doubleheader on Sunday, July 20th in Toronto, Ontario. The first race will go green at 10:30am ET with a rolling start (grid according to Saturday’s qualifying results) and the second race will go green at 4:15pm ET with a standing start (grid according to entrant points standings). Both races have been shortened to 65 miles (80 min). The original length of each race was 85 miles. NBC Sports will still broadcast both races so be sure that you set your DVRs accordingly and rearrange your day as necessary. I know I will. This is sure to be a true test of the teams, the drivers themselves and even the loyalty of the racing fans in the grandstands at the Canadian track. While many of the current drivers in the series have experience with endurance racing, this is a bit of a different scenario and leaves little room for error – particularly if they get involved in an incident with significant damage to their vehicles during the first race.
Earlier today, on the NBC Sports broadcast, they mentioned that the Verizon IndyCar Series is the most challenging and diverse racing on the planet. I could not agree more. The series, the tracks and the cars will always demand the utmost attention to detail and extreme levels of focus from the drivers that entertain us. Tomorrow will be the true test of their abilities and will showcase the prowess of their crews and all team members as their mental and physical limits are sure to be tested, pushed and maybe even broken. I hope you will all be able to watch from home and enjoy the rare format with your family and friends or even by yourself with a trusty social media app! Personally, I will do what I always do – pray for a safe and entertaining race. Emphasis on safe.
I am not trackside in Toronto this weekend – but I will be covering the races as fully as possible from a distance. Make sure you are following on all our social media accounts so that you stay in the loop with all the latest from MTAF Wheels & the Verizon IndyCar Series, plus my personal insight and reaction to the weekend in Toronto! All the links you’ll need are listed below: