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AFTER THE RACE, REALITIES TO FACE
Brock Yates
June 11, 1973
Nowhere in sport does the lust for sponsor dollars exceed that at Indy, where each car is a speeding outdoor ad display and its driver a multi-labeled sandwich man in Nomex. The constant push of outside capital has set up a spiral whereby a single engine can cost $30,000 and the entry of one bare-budget race car consume a minimum of $100,000. With this sort of money at stake, excessive pressures are exerted on drivers to make Kamikaze efforts to qualify and place well in the race itself.
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June 11, 1973

After The Race, Realities To Face

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Nowhere in sport does the lust for sponsor dollars exceed that at Indy, where each car is a speeding outdoor ad display and its driver a multi-labeled sandwich man in Nomex. The constant push of outside capital has set up a spiral whereby a single engine can cost $30,000 and the entry of one bare-budget race car consume a minimum of $100,000. With this sort of money at stake, excessive pressures are exerted on drivers to make Kamikaze efforts to qualify and place well in the race itself.

As obviously dangerous as such aggressiveness can be, officials at Indianapolis have tried to regulate the proceedings with fatherly admonitions, wrist pats and paltry fines. Abuse of starting rules at Pimlico or Belmont can unhorse a jockey for a costly period; the same offense at Indy this year drew a derisory $100 penalty. When you couple this undisciplined zeal with an antiquated facility, the recipe for disaster is complete.

While millions have been spent to improve the old Speedway, most of the investment has been misdirected at building more grandstand seats, thousands of which are too close to the race cars. The fact that only 13 spectators were injured in the black-comedy start of last Memorial Day borders on the miraculous. Indy management has been warned repeatedly that a racing car could easily vault the fence at any one of several points on the track—especially in the pits where thousands of people sit near exposed, monster tanks of racing fuel—and kill several hundred in a few seconds. This is unacceptable. Motor racing need not be filled with death and gore. NASCAR Grand National cars, running 500-mile races nearly 20 times a year at average speeds close to those at Indy, have killed eight drivers since 1958 in millions of miles of racing, testing and qualifying. Over the same span, Indy has killed 10 drivers.

The aged rationale that Indy is a proving ground for future civilian motoring is nonsense. Indy cars are bastard machines, far in arrears of automotive technology. Propelled for the most part by engines whose origins date back to 1931, these racers are discouraged by the rules from employing such advanced automotive mechanisms as rotary engines, turbines or four-wheel drive, and are relegated to a cubbyhole of technology as too-efficient, four-wheeled freaks.

Racing is a legitimate sport, pursued by talented, courageous men; men of worth. It is a shame that their judgment and the believability of the sport they represent should be made suspect by this single track. As a former professional race driver, I agree that radical action must be taken. Driver discipline must be enforced. A major redesign, including expansion of the alley-width front straightaway, and a program to increase spectator safety must be started. Three days after Indy, the United States Auto Club slapped new restrictions on airfoil area and on-board fuel, a move to make the rest of the season slower and safer. This action now must be backed by a hard look at the crazy expense being borne by the competitors. Most important of all, the survival of Indianapolis and of the sport of motor racing is dependent on new priorities, aiming at an emphasis less, as has been rhapsodized, on "instant fame and a winner's share of the quarter-million-dollar purse," and more on the resumption of competition by rational men in reasonable automobiles on good tracks.

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