23 February 2010

It's a Small World After All

Tony Johns at Pop Off Valve posed the question via his twitter account:
Here's a question: do fans want more Americans, or is being Anglo-Saxon good enough? (see: @JustinWilson22, @PippaMann, etc.)
And I think it's a legitimate question.  With the first day of the Barber Test, along with the first real media availability of the Izod IndyCar Series drivers, it's worth noting that only three full-time series drivers (as of right now) are from North America - Marco Andretti, Danica Patrick and Alex Tagliani.

The twitter has been buzzing about this, as Paul Tracy has railed against it a time or two today.

So, with Johns' question in mind, what do I want from the Izod IndyCar Series as it relates to its drivers?  Is a series of talented international drivers acceptable, or must more Americans remain involved in the sport in order to hold my interest?

I don't think that it is necessary to have a series with a majority of Americans; however, having a series with viable American stars is vital.  Frankly, having Danica Patrick, Marco Andretti and Alex Tagliani as the Izod IndyCar Series' only North American drivers is not going to cut it for the general audience.

(Well, unless DanicaMania carries over from her time in NAPCAR, then it's a whole new ballgame. But I don't see that happening.)

Graham Rahal was supposed to be one of those young, up-and-coming American drivers.  The fact that he can't get a ride speaks more to the American economy, I think, rather than the series' ability to attract sponsors.  Clearly, having money helps land a ride these days, and unless Graham can find a more viable market in which to secure a sponsorship (say Brazil or Japan), he might have to drive for Dale Coyne or his father this season.

(Though neither one of those is a bad one-season option, given the choice of not running or running for a "lesser" team.  A crazy thought - if Rafa Matos can find additional sponsorship, could Graham move to the Marines/Air Force car for Luzco Dragon?  Yes, it is a crazy thought.)

Look, the Izod IndyCar Series has always had an international flair.  From Emerson Fittipaldi to Roberto Guerrero to Jacques Villeneuve (good on Jacques for carrying the Canadian flag during opening ceremonies - it even got the Indianapolis 500 a mention), the series has always relied on non-Americans to provide solid competition.

Is the fact that just two Americans are currently slotted to run full-time in 2010 disappointing?  Yes.  Can that number go up?  Certainly, with Ryan Hunter-Reay already slated for a part-time schedule and Rahal and J.R. Hildebrand currently trying to setup full-time rides, this number can increase.

But if they don't, will I abandon the series?  Certainly not.  The Izod IndyCar Series is about more than American drivers; to me, it is about close races, the Indianapolis 500, and watching some of the world's most talented drivers compete at the highest level of auto racing.  Whether or not the majority of those drivers are American does not matter, so long as the level of racing remains high.


  1. I TOTALLY agree with you. Sadly, if you read the message boards-a bunch of people hiding behind screen names, unlike me, I use my real Christian name here-say otherwise.

    My position is that those who make the claim that the "series needs more American drivers" are half-correct. On the one hand, sadly again, there are people who are so narrow-minded and jingoistic that they will only watch something with mostly Americans-they've starting to get chased away from NASCAR now thanks to Juan Pablo Montoya and Toyota-and feel very comfortable expressing that racism-at least on the internet hiding behind a screen name-I truly do believe (this may be only my view)that most people are open minded enough to realize we live in a global world and being narrow-minded and isolationist isn't a good thing.

    Does IndyCar need American drivers? Yes, but it also needs GOOD to GREAT drivers from all over. Keep this in mind: If a mostly-American series was so successful in IndyCar, why did the powers that be change it?

  2. Personally I don't care about nationality. I watch to see the best drivers in the world compete over the most diverse set of tracks in any series. Who cares where they are from?

  3. I'll put it in another words: who wants many US-born Milka Dunos? Not me.