January 28, 2013
Here’s what you’re supposed to believe:
Franchitti, Kanaan and Castroneves enjoy a special Divine Blessing. They are qualified to drive Indycars.
Milka Duno, Hiro Matsushita and Dennis Vitolo were not.
Neither was Danica, but she gets a free pass because she’s hot and brought lots of money.
That’s what you’re told to believe by the motorsports press. Legions of impressionable armchair fans have jumped on the same bandwagon and now anyone who doesn’t buy into the propaganda is considered a looney.
Well, I don’t buy it.
The confusion over who is and is not qualified to drive an Indycar stems from a uniquely American inability to speak our own language.
For over one hundred years, the standard that determined who was qualified to drive in an event was determined by… (drum roll)… qualifications. If the field was to consist of 33 entries, then the 33 fastest drivers were qualified to drive in the race. Everyone else was unqualified to drive in the race. Got it?
Let’s go over this again. There were two groups of drivers: those who were qualified and those who were not qualified. Qualification was determined by speed.
The notion that someone who had qualified for the race was somehow “unqualified” to race is a relatively new phenomenon that was considered too utterly ridiculous to comprehend just a few decades ago. Yet it is all the rage today.
I shall offer an example forthwith. Marty Roth qualified for the 2008 Indy 500. We know this because he went faster than several other drivers, including Max Papis and Mario Dominguez, and was 33rd on the speed charts. This demonstrates that he was qualified to race.
But then folks began to say that even though Roth was clearly qualified to drive the race, he still wasn’t “qualified” to drive in the race.
If this seems stupid, that’s because it is.
Nevertheless, the naysayers eventually won the day and Roth was pressured out of the series. Apparently qualifying for a race doesn’t qualify you to race anymore. Which, if you think about it, calls into question the entire concept of time trials.
So I have an idea. Let’s totally dispense with qualifications. After all, if the motorsports press and their mob-minded followers can arbitrarily determine who is qualified to drive an Indycar based on nothing more than their own worthless opinions, then why bother with all the hubbub of qualifying? It’s really just a big waste of Firestone tires.
Besides, we know better. Who don’t need no stinking clock. We have our opinions.
So let’s replace qualifications with voting. Hey, it works for the Heisman. Let the media cast votes for everybody, and whoever gets the most votes sits on the pole. Whoever ranks 33rd in the voting is on the outside of Row 11 at Indy. Everybody else is unqualified.
Why? Because we said so. We are judge, jury and executioner. We arrogate to ourselves that which could once only be earned. We replace speed with opinion. We trade reality for our own delusions.
The Racing Dentist, Dr. Jack Miller, once told me, “I’m tired of hearing about drivers who ‘deserve’ to make the race. No one ‘deserves’ to make a race. You either earn it or you don’t.”
The self-appointed puppet masters who want to stage-manage every race and only include those who, in their exalted opinion, “deserve” to participate are a relic of the past. Their arrogance is obsolete and an embarrassment to the sport.
Regardless of what anyone says or thinks, Milka Duno was qualified to run every single race in which she competed. How do we know she was qualified? Because she qualified. That’s what the word means. Learn to speak English.
True, if Penske had expanded his team by ten cars, she might not have qualified. And if I had wings I could fly. So this isn’t about what didn’t happen; it’s about what did happen. Milka showed up and qualified for races fairly and squarely. Period. To claim otherwise is to spit on the entire time trial process and a century of racing history.
Obviously, that doesn’t magically make Milka or anyone else a good driver. But it does make her good enough. Whether we like it or not is irrelevant. Either respect qualifying results or ditch the entire process and stop pretending.
It’s time for auto racing to embrace objectivity again. It’s time to return some purity to the sport. It makes no difference whether 50 cars attempt to qualify or just ten. A stopwatch always tells the truth.
I am losing patience with the growing league of journalists who trash the traditions of auto racing and take cheap shots at drivers who rightly earned a legitimate spot in the field through qualifying. If the press doesn’t like Milka or Marty or this week’s Target du Jour, there’s a very simple way to make sure they’re not in the race… get off your lazy backside, go qualify a car and bump them out of the field.
Journalists who can’t do that are not only unqualified to be in the race, but perhaps they’re not qualified to comment on it, either.
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