In the Garage: INDYCAR Snafu Tests The Mettle Of All

Indianapolis—There’s a fine line between taking a risk and doing something stupid.

At 8:15 AM Carpenter/Fisher/Hartman Racing’s Ed Carpenter went airborne in Turn 2 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It was the third time in a week a car has flipped at speed after a spin.

All three cars were Chevrolet’s with a new aerodynamics package that has seen only modest test laps at Indy.

At 8:30 the track was closed for “repairs.”

Carpenter was pronounced fit by the infield hospital and emerged with these words: “I’m pissed.”

It’s worth noting that Ed is the step-son of Tony George, whose family owns the Speedway.

An emergency meeting of INDYCAR and Chevy officials followed, then Honda joined the meeting.

At 10:50 Doug Boles, President of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, emerged and reassured fans, “Racing comes with its risk, but we want to be sure our drivers are safe first.”

In the wake of that announcement rumors began circulating. What will they do? Will INDYCAR force Chevrolet to qualify with last year’s Dallara aero package (miles per hour slower than the new one)? Will Honda-powered cars only be allowed to take the track?

At 11:30 Boles returned to announce changes.

Some were schedule changes: the nine-car shoot-out for the pole was scuttled.

Some were technical modifications: cars must race what they qualify.

Some were rules changes: no points for qualifications.

By noon the changes were ratified by Mark Miles, CEO of the Human & Company parent to INDYCAR and the Speedway.

This isn’t the first time Indianapolis Motor Speedway has seen plans come asunder.

There was the infamous Formula 1 race here in 2005 in which three-quarters of the cars were sidelined by suspect tires.

There was the yellow-flag-controlled NASCAR race in 2008, again tire problems.

So what to make of the latest snafu?

When Carl Fisher envisioned this track in 1905 his intent was to build a place where automobiles could be tested before they were delivered to customers.

He was also reacting to the reality that European auto manufacturers were clearly already building superior machines for road-going transportation.

Racing on public roads, mostly dirt or gravel, was commonplace—endangering the occupants of the car and the public.

Cars, both consumer and racing, have come a long way from those days.

Confining untested ideas to the closed track was and is the ideal way to challenge the status quo and to test the courage of men.

As frustrating as it is, this is why we race. It’s why we tolerate the noise and crowds. It’s why men take a risk to reach fame and glory. It’s where important ideas that come to the highway start.

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