Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Green/White/Checker equals ultimate sellout(?)

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.


  1. I am with you in the "hell no" camp for G/W/C. I hate very few things, but let me tell you, I hate that idea. It cheapens racing, and the idea of fate, luck, and strategy taking a part in deciding a race. It makes much of went in the previous laps a moot point.

    Hate, hate, hate.

  2. Thank you. I hope the IndyCar powers that be never adopt such contrived finishes. The GWC finishes just put NASCAR that much closer to WWE. Good job!

  3. Amen to all of the above. I've never bought a ticket to a race, or to any other sporting event, for that matter, that had any verbiage on it saying that I was guaranteed to see a photo finish, walk-off home run or Hail Mary pass to end the game. Sometimes it works out like that, but usually not. That's what makes those endings so special. Any attempt to manipulate the proceedings to guarantee such a thing is an abomination, and I will write weekly blog posts condemning the sport if IndyCar adopts a G-W-C finish.

    Nice job here, Mike.

  4. I find it strange people are continuing to attack NASCAR for green-white-checkered finishes, but ignoring the fact that IndyCar just adopted shootout style (which I'm sure prompted this post). However, I think shootout style is absolutely just as cheesy as green-white-checkered restarts and is a key step in making me take the racing less seriously.

  5. I purposely avoided any NASCAR references in this post because it wasn't necessary. I actually went with the G/W/C topic because I had seen it brought up in Cavin's Q&A and referenced in some blogs and Twitter posts. I'm not a fan of double-file restarts, either (if that is what you are referring to), my point is that you can only go so far in giving fans "entertainment" and what they want. Altering the length of the race to provide an "exciting" finish is a step too far.

  6. Yes, "shootout style" is what the NASCAR media calls double-file restarts. I think even that is going too far, which is my point.

  7. I see what you are saying now. While I don't like double-file restarts I guess I'm going to hold off on my judgement on that piece until I actually see it in place.

  8. Don't worry, none of these restarts will be double-wide anyway. Brian Barnhart won't allow it.

  9. Well, now that the announcements are done for now I'm late to this party but I despise the G/W/C for the same reasons you stated.

    We have this obsession in America with having to fulfill OUR need of excitement as fans and NOT the spirit of competition that the drivers are in it for.

    Even with the "world's sport", soccer, we had to muck about with Overtime and Shoot-outs for a long time until they wised up and realized how stupid it made us look and changed it.

    I'm not a fan of double-file restarts either, but alas, I think we all had a feeling this was in the cards.

    Not sure I'm a fan of the pit box order gimmick either. Until someone other than a red-car team is dominating it's gonna look the same for awhile. A team like SFR is gonna take a hit since they won't be at every race so that kinda sucks.

    Okay, enough from me.