Friday, September 16, 2011

Funkiest Cars of Indy, Part I

Sometimes, I believe we've all been That Kid. The one that seems a bit out of place and time.

Did you feel like maybe people didn't understand you fully? Did close friends laugh at something you said while others were left scratching their heads? Deep down you knew you were just as typical and shared common ideals with most everyone else, yet the world and you were a bit out of step. Indycars are no different and this post is to start a series of the funkiest, off-beat, head-scratch-inducing forms to ever enter the Speedway. 

There are several that come to mind quickly and I've enjoyed wondering what would've happened if that car would've won Indy? How would the racing/automotive world have changed? Just a quirk of fate may have opened our eyes to a new kind of way (to quote Gregg Rolie). 

My first offering comes from the early days of racing revolution that swept the Speedway in the 1960s on through the 1970s, Smokey Yunick's 1964 Hurst Floor-shifter Special:

Definitely a head-turner, Yunick was famous for producing some very 'out-of-the-box' solutions to engines and general racing problems. Often his ideas lead to rules changes due to the effectiveness of his solutions. After several years in NASCAR and at Indianapolis, 1964 saw what may have been, at the time, the most unusual chassis to debut. His sidecar-type chassis with Offenhauser power certainly didn't look like anything before it. 

Bobby Johns was the driver/pilot of this wacky machine whose offset certainly promoted left-turning. The car reportedly spun and made contact getting ready for qualifications in May of 1964 but never re-emerged. Possibly this very car or another chassis has been maintained to this day, in Yunick's trademark gloss black and metallic gold color scheme, which makes the tours of the Goodwood Festival and various automotive museums around the country. I saw the current one at the IMS museum within the last two years, not fully realizing the story of the machine and man behind it.

When seeing these funky creations, it takes little imagination to feel the anticipation and excitement of each May when creativity and innovation was truly the hallmark of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

They May Be Dumb, But They Ain't Stupid.

If you were invited to play a somewhat unfamiliar game, for a large prize, on the invitee's 'turf', viewed by a million people, and at risk of besmirching the company that provides your current lucrative living, one of two things might happen, so what would YOU say?

"Heh, thanks, but no, thanks".
Something like that maybe. So it goes with the few NASCAR drivers who might be qualified to make Indycar's World Challenge at the very least interesting. Some have gone so far as to make elaborate and uninformed excuses why 'it wouldn't be fair'. That's simply smart business. Allow the ego to be soothed by that bed of cash you roll around in, realizing that, no matter how badly you want to accept and win that challenge, you don't need it. Money has become to the NASCAR driver what that sweet high-school girlfriend was to the boyfriend whom with she pleaded to keep from getting into another scrap after the football game. The Id has again calmed and protected the Self from the fire of the Super-ego.

I have no doubt a few of the NASCAR drivers might be capable of fairly competing. Most of the NASCAR crowd, in my view, would be more fish out of water than in the reverse and very well know it, despite their 'facts' proving otherwise. Even with top-flight equipment the odds of winning the Challenge are marginal, say 10:1, at best.  Probably more like 20:1 for the few NASCAR jockeys capable. I'd put Stewart at the top of the list with a second-tier of Kahne, Gordon, and the like in that 20:1 bracket. The rest, just fish in a barrel.

"You're ON! Anytime, anyplace!"
All the sweet smell of... SUCKERRRRR! You've just stepped into the trap.. er, arena and now you're about to get abused only for the gain of others. Just couldn't keep your mouth shut could you? Now, at best, you could walk away with a $5 million prize, but odds are far more likely you'll will be a lap down by the first pit stop. Only then will the "I should've listened to Mr. France and kept my mouth shut", thought occur, realizing you now have two racing sanctions who don't care for you. Anyone remember what happened to Rocky Balboa when Clubber Lang called him out in public? Yep, that's right, severe ass-whuppin' from the hungrier challenger. Rocky should've listened to Mickey and sailed off into the sunset.

"But I can win this thing! I can be the hero!", you'll say. Yes, and an Offenhauser might fly out of your lower digestive tract. Even odds favorite Tony Stewart knows better and he's not the sharpest knife in the drawer so what does that make you? 

Dumb AND Stupid.