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2017 Point Standings
After Sonoma
Rank Driver Points

1 Josef Newgarden 642
2 Simon Pagenaud 629
3 Scott Dixon 621
4 Helio Castroneves 598
5 Will Power 562
6 Graham Rahal 522
7 Alexander Rossi 494
8 Takuma Sato 441
9 Ryan Hunter-Reay 421
10 Tony Kanaan 403
11 Max Chilton 396
12 Marco Andretti 388
13 James Hinchcliffe 376
14 Ed Jones 354
15 JR Hildebrand 347
16 Carlos Munoz 328
17 Charlie Kimball 327
18 Conor Daly 305
19 Mikhail Aleshin 237
20 Spencer Pigot 218
21 Sebastien Bourdais 214
22 Ed Carpenter 169
23 Gabby Chaves 98
24 Juan Pablo Montoya 93
25 Esteban Gutierrez 91
26 Sebastian Saavedra 80
27 Oriol Servia 61
28 Jack Harvey 57
29 Fernando Alonso 47
30 Pippa Mann 32
31 Zachary Claman DeMelo 26
32 Jay Howard 24
33 Zach Veach 23
34 Sage Karam 23
35 James Davison 21
36 Tristan Vautier 15
37 Buddy Lazier 14

Rookie of Year Standings
1. Ed Jones 354
2. Esteban Gutierrez 91
3. Jack Harvey 57
4. Fernando Alonso 47
5. Zach Veach 23

Manufacturer Standings
1. Chevy 1489
2. Honda 1326

America was once in love with the car and racing boomed

by Stephen Cox
Friday, October 20, 2017

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Empty Grandstands for the GP of Indianapolis makes IndyCar look like a complete loser
Empty Grandstands for the GP of Indianapolis makes IndyCar look like a complete loser
The past few years have brought every gimmick imaginable to auto racing. NASCAR holds races that three people can win. The ever-changing playoff system (a gimmick in itself) functions like an automotive version of musical chairs.

Indycar's gimmicks are even worse. They tried mandating overpriced “body kits” to make their field of 33 identical Dallara chassis look like something other than a field of 33 identical Dallara chassis. Their “Fast Nine” and “Fast Six” qualifying gimmick hasn't revived interest in pole day although it's proven very effective at totally confusing fans.

Instead of trying to out-gimmick the competition with Disney-style entertainment to attract a generation of I-gadget slaves who can recite the Starbucks menu by heart but can't drive a straight stick, perhaps we should be asking why gimmicks are necessary in the first place.

Laurel Speedway 1925 - Huge crowd
Laurel Speedway 1925 - Huge crowd
After all, Indycar needed no gimmicks to draw global attention in 1985 when Danny Sullivan spun trying to pass Mario Andretti for the Indianapolis 500 crown. NASCAR needed no gimmicks to shock the world world when The King passed the spinning cars of Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison to win the 1979 Daytona 500.

So why now? Yes, the plague of I-gadgets has certainly had an impact. But it can't be the entire problem because Atari's 2600 home video gaming system brought digital entertainment to the masses back in 1977, yet race tracks had full grandstands and little need for gimmicks.

It's true that the economy has not been our friend. But the economy was awful in the late 1970's as well, yet people still turned out in droves to see Larry Rice and Pancho Carter and Gary Bettenhausen battle it out on dirt tracks every weekend. So that's not it, either.

Beverly Hills CA Board Track - 1920s
Beverly Hills CA Board Track - 1920s
University of Southern California and California Historical Society 
The problem is that fewer people care about cars today. The auto racing industry needs to get this, and get it good... people who don't care about automobiles will never, ever care about watching anyone else race them. If public interest in the automobile falters, then auto racing is doomed. And that is precisely what's happening right now.

226 million Americans bought about ten million new cars per year from 1976 through 1988. But over the past decade, 323 million Americans have bought between five and seven million new cars per year and that number is dropping precipitously. Americans just aren't buying cars like they once did.

Why? Because getting a driver's license is a creepy, invasive, Soviet-like experience that everyone hates. Because the price of mandatory insurance policies is skyrocketing and if you dare use your insurance for its intended purpose, they'll gouge you even more. Because even if you have a great sports car, you can't have much fun driving it because the penalties for the most minor speeding infractions are insanely high and surveillance cameras watch every move you make at stoplights around the country. Because we make cars with proximity warnings and rear view cameras and a mountain of gadgets that enable lousy drivers to think they're competent.

Phoenix 1964
Phoenix 1964
PIR Archives
So long as this situation continues, it really doesn't matter what auto racing does. There aren't enough gimmicks in the world to fix that. Remember, people who don't care about automobiles will never, ever care about watching anyone else race them.

America was once in love with the automobile because the automobile represented freedom. The enthusiasm Americans had for their automobiles directly translated into enthusiasm for automobile racing, which gave birth to a golden era of American motorsports.

The goal of the motorsports industry must be to restore the liberty, freedom and fun that was once synonymous with the automobile. When that enthusiasm returns, we won't need three winners at every race or multiple rounds of qualifying to con them back to the race track. They'll show up by themselves.

Stephen Cox
Sopwith Motorsports Television Productions
Co-host, Mecum Auctions on NBCSN

Stephen Cox Blog Presented by McGunegill Engine Performance


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