With Randy Bernard's State of IndyCar address coming later today, I've seen thoughts and ideas thrown about as to how to improve the series and to make it more appealing to the fans. Which in turn would drive up attendance and TV viewership while making all of us who have stood tall in the bad times very happy.
Some I'm OK with, but one that I don't is the idea that I've seen thrown around lately of adopting green/white/checker finishes instead of having races finish under yellow.
My opinion on that is simple and straightforward: hell no. Let me rephrase that...no way in hell.
I'm all for doing everything possible to make the sport and the races more exciting and fan-friendly, but never, ever at the expense of compromising the integrity of the competition. If a race's scheduled distance is 200, 300 or 500 miles, the race ends when the first driver completes that distance.
What mainly gets lost here is that at it's core a race is a competition. It's no different than a baseball, football or basketball game. A game in any of those sports isn't extended in order to provide more "excitement" to the fans...what happens in nine innings, 60 minutes or 48 minutes is what it is.
Sure, these other sports have overtime, but that is in the event of a tie after regulation has completed. Since there are no ties in racing, why would we need to go extra time in order to determine a winner?
Like lots of sports fans, I've been to crappy games. I've seen a 10-0 baseball game or watched a football or basketball team win by 30 points. I've even watched guys win golf tournaments by 10 strokes. Is it exciting? No, but you don't manipulate the outcome of the event in order to provide that to the people watching.
That's really what a green/white/checker is, manipulating the outcome of a race so that people are sent home happy. In sports it just doesn't work that way. Some games suck, it just happens. It sucks when we go to a race or invest our day watching it on TV and the race finishes under caution, but just like any other sport, it isn't a good enough reason to alter the finish.
It's also not fair to the guys (or ladies) who push their cars to the limit and are the first ones to cross the line after the scheduled distance, only to be told they have to go further to earn their win. Unless they caused said yellow, it's not their fault that someone else screwed up.
And really, in open wheel cars it's not practical. At places like Indy or Texas, an accident at high speed is typically very violent and strews a large debris field all over the racing surface. Often it takes 10-15 laps to clean it up. So if a caution comes out with five laps to go, it might be 10 laps into "overtime" before the final two-lap sprint would even happen. That sets up plenty of variables, especially in terms of fuel management, that would possibly cause issues.
Red flagging isn't an option. That should only be used when something happens where it isn't possible to continue the race safely, such as rain or an issue with the track, fencing or walls/SAFER barriers.
No doubt the fan should always come first, but when that green flag falls it's game on. This isn't the movies, where we always have a happy ending. Sometimes our favorite driver wins, sometimes they lose and sometimes the finish of a race isn't what we want it to be. Again, that's sports.
Maybe we are too used to rebooting things, hitting the reset button or taking something out and shining it up before we try it again. But we have to realize that more than anything, a green/white/checker blurs the line between sports and entertainment. When we start messing with the game, we start heading in that direction, and to me that just isn't a place where we want to go.