When the subject of sports comes up in a typical conversation, I am not as astute as many of my other male counterparts. Thank goodness for SportsCenter, Mike and Mike in the Morning and ESPN First Take or I would be hopeless. I often get lost when names are called and stats are given. Somewhere in the conversation, I have to confess that I am a motorsports fan. Afterward, I get bombarded with the age-old questions: “How can you watch that?”, “Aren’t they just driving cars?” and the always present criticism: “They just go around in circles!”
It’s not hard for me to go into a soliloquy about the science and thrill of racing. “How can I watch it?” With excitement and fervor, that’s how! However, it is not just for the crashes or personalities. I look at racing cars much the same way I look at a Lamborghini Aventador or Aston Martin Vanquish….with appreciation of its beauty.
Just look at a race car at speed. A spoiler slicing the air so thin, it whispers as the car goes careening by at over 200 miles an hour. It’s splitter gliding above the glass-smooth racing surface about as high as the thickness of a nickel. Tires gripping the racing surface like spikes as they reach their limits of adhesion. The body rising and falling against the laws of physics, panels flexing as they are trapped in the middle of an epic battle between the iron will of the driver and the unchangeable forces of inertia.
This is the beauty of a racing car. It makes no difference if it’s the sculpted form of a Formula One car, the low-slung, tightly proportioned shape of an Indycar, the slab-sided profile of a Gen-6 NASCAR or the simplicity of the wild wings of Midget Sprint Cars. There is something just amazing about a racing car.
Alas, they do seem a little stagnant when they are displayed at car shows or special events. This is where you appreciate the working environment of a driver. It’s where you see the rivets that cling to panels for dear life during a race. This is where you see the real width of the tires. The real beauty is not here. The real beauty is when this same car is qualifying at Indy and you can see the car settling into a corner. The racetrack is where packs of cars lurch perilously close to one another – inches from callous destruction. Weather only adds to it as rain pours across the muscular haunches and broad fenders. Rooster tails exaggerating the tires endless quest for grip.
The physical feats of the drivers are part of it as well. Just look at any pre-war racer. Its cigar-shaped body and tall, skinny tires were all proportioned so well that almost 60 years later, you not only hail the heroes that piloted them, and you almost worship the car itself.
A race car at speed is a thing of beauty, a feat of science and a wonder of technology all at the same time. This is where the beauty of an exotic meets with the bare-bones essentials of spontaneous combustion. Just to talk about it gets me going. While we have only a short portion of the racing season left, I implore you to enjoy motorsports. Yes, these cars do go around in circles most of the time and do so for hours. If you have never stopped to watch, take half an hour and see how dangerous and technical it is. Listen to the commentators as they try to explain in layman’s terms how a driver feels and see how quickly they react while teetering on the edge of human frailty.
Finally, just look at a race car, not from the usual perspective, but with the same passion that you look at a Bugatti Veyron as it catapults itself to near take-off speeds. The science of speed, the strength of materials, it is such a beautiful thing. Enjoy.