According to Wikipedia, the definition of racing is as follows:
“A sport race is a competition of speed, against an objective criterian, usually a clock or to a specified point. The competitors in a race try to complete a given task in the shortest amount of time. Typically, this involves traversing some distance, but it can be any other task involving speed to reach a specific goal.”
Meanwhile, Wikipedia gives several definitions for passing. The definition involving tansportation is stated as “the act of driving around a slower automobile.”
You may be asking why I’ve started today’s blog with what looks like some kind of vocabulary lesson. It’s because after Sunday’s Samuel Deeds 400 at the Brickyard NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, a.k.a. The Brickyard 400, at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart and several journalists in the media center after the race were at odds in regards to what makes good racing.
Questions were asked of Stewart and comments were made by the attending media members that NASCAR racing at Indianapolis, this past Sunday in particular, wasn’t very exciting since on-track passes for the lead were rare.
The comments rubbed Stewart the wrong way. The driver proceeded to go on a rant saying that the objective was racing, not passing and went on to give definitions and examples of each.
“Look up ‘racing’ in the dictionary and tell me what it says in the dictionary. Then, look up ‘passing.’ We’re racing here. That’s all I’m going to say. This is racing. If you want to see passing, we can go out on (Interstate) 465 and pass all you want. If you can tell me that’s more exciting than what you see at IMS, the great race car drivers that have competed here. This is about racing. This is about cars being fast.”
Maybe Stewart was a little biased, and therefore, felt the need to defend the racing at Indianapolis. The track is, by far, his favorite on the cirucit, and that’s completely understandable. He’s an Indiana native who grew up racing in the open-wheel ranks with the dream of some day racing at the Brickyard. For him, Indianpolis Motor Speedway is pretty much the mecca of motorsport. Then add to that the fact that a car he owned, driven by fellow-Hoosier Ryan Newman, won the race. Sounds like the making of a great race for anyone in that situation, no matter how exciting, or not, for anyone else.
I agree with both the definition of racing and that of passing mentioned at the beginning of this blog, which I think are also in line with Stewart’s idea of racing and passing. And I also think the journalists at Indy would also agree with those definitions. But I think the point of the matter is that just because a race is a race, that doesn’t necessarily make it interesting to watch. Sure, it’s always exciting for the winner, and racing, in general, is usually exciting for the compeptitors, overall, because of the adrenaline-inducing speeds.
But for the spectators, a racing without significant passing, especially up front, isn’t all the incredibly exciting.
“It doesn’t have to be two and three-wide racing all day long to be good racing,” Stewart said.
Maybe Stewart competes in so many events that he doesn’t get a chance to be a spectator all that much. Because to the fans in the grandstands and watching on television, racing that doesn’t include a significant amoung of two and three-wide racing isn’t very exciting entertainment.
According to Stewart, this idea of racing not being exciting unless there’s a lot of passing is a relatively new phenomenon.
“I’ve seen races that were won over a lap; I’ve seen 20-second leads here,” Stewart said. “For some reason, in the last 10 years, everybody is on this kick that you have to be passing all the time. It’s racing, not passing. We’re racing.”
I don’t think anyone would say the competitors on Sunday or in any other race with few lead changes aren’t racing. But racing without significant passing just isn’t all that exciting to the typical spectator.
I doubt fans have ever liked racing in a single line with limited passing. But in the last 10 years, there are more eyes on the sport and those fans watching have more outlets at their disposal for airing their dissatisfaction. Maybe fans aren’t more disgruntled than before; maybe their voices are just louder.
Follow Auto Racing Daily on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (AutoRcngDaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook: NASCAR Examiner