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The Big “What If” Question

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  • #16
    "...It's only my opinion that open wheel racing would not look significantly different regardless."

    This probably a good assessment since US open-wheel racing continued as before with scarcely blinking an eye when the Contest Board folded at the end of 1955.

    As for Jim's query, I would suggest that the mid-1960s to early-1970s would have been the point at the latest where something akin to what happened in the late-1970s may have occurred. Probably sooner, maybe later? Given all the possible variables at play regarding contingency and agency, I really have no idea as to how it might have unfolded. However, consider the various abortive attempts by the Contest Board to align its "formula" once again with the International Formula and that USAC had the same lack of actual commitment to doing so as well. Not to mention NASCAR and SCCA, of course. Lots of possible friction points to consider. Of course, there is the possibility that US racing might have become a total wasteland by the 1960s and not much different than it was in latter 1920s or 1930s in most ways. The SCCA might not have had John Bishop move it in the direction of pro racing or NASCAR might have just been a regional series led by an autocrat.

    In other words, WHATEVER! So what?

    Maybe Harry Turtledove will base his next series of alternative histories on this question...

    I find this an interesting question, but apparently not for the reasons others do.
    And so we beat on, boats against the current, drawn back ceaselessly into the past ... F. Scott Fitzgerald
    Ever have the feeling that the rest of the world is a tuxedo and you're a pair of brown shoes? ... George Gobel

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    • #17
      Originally posted by Indyote View Post
      Remain thankful that a carbon copy crash of Tony Renna's fateful crash never happened on Race day. You would not have had the Race Day we had this year had that happened.
      Mike Conway's crash on the final lap of the 2010 race had some similarities. The car lifted into the catch fence in the north chute, ripped down a lengthy portion - with people seated inches away. had it not been the final lap anyway, we were looking at a lengthy red flag, or perhaps the end of the race at that moment.

      Conway's car flung back onto the racing surface without any major parts landing in the seating area. That's the only reason we don't talk much about that crash anymore, and why it's starting to be forgotten. There were some minor spectator injuries reported, but nothing serious.

      I'm pretty sure they've replaced the catch fencing around the entire perimeter of the Speedway since that day...as part of routine upgrades/maintenance. But I'm not really aware of any other significant improvements made as a direct result of that particular crash. They coincidentally have removed sections of seating at the north end, but was due to low demand, not safety.
      Doctorindy.com

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      • #18
        Originally posted by Don Capps View Post
        "...It's only my opinion that open wheel racing would not look significantly different regardless."

        This probably a good assessment since US open-wheel racing continued as before with scarcely blinking an eye when the Contest Board folded at the end of 1955.

        As for Jim's query, I would suggest that the mid-1960s to early-1970s would have been the point at the latest where something akin to what happened in the late-1970s may have occurred. Probably sooner, maybe later? Given all the possible variables at play regarding contingency and agency, I really have no idea as to how it might have unfolded. However, consider the various abortive attempts by the Contest Board to align its "formula" once again with the International Formula and that USAC had the same lack of actual commitment to doing so as well. Not to mention NASCAR and SCCA, of course. Lots of possible friction points to consider. Of course, there is the possibility that US racing might have become a total wasteland by the 1960s and not much different than it was in latter 1920s or 1930s in most ways. The SCCA might not have had John Bishop move it in the direction of pro racing or NASCAR might have just been a regional series led by an autocrat.

        In other words, WHATEVER! So what?

        Maybe Harry Turtledove will base his next series of alternative histories on this question...

        I find this an interesting question, but apparently not for the reasons others do.
        Good points Don. I think eventually AAA would have gone away as well.

        My focus on history isn't sanctioning bodies, but wasn't AAA a rarity among them? An actual auto club that took on sanctioning of auto races? Weren't most other sanctioning bodies, at least major ones, formed to run auto races as opposed to AAA being a motor club that happened to sanction races?

        Had it been in the 1960's or 70's when AAA got out, would USAC have even been formed? AAA/USAC had several other divisions, sprint cars, midgets and stock cars. Could those have gone to other organizations such as IMCA? Could championship racing have fallen under SCCA sanction?

        Interesting question.
        "For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children's future, and we are all mortal".

        John Kennedy at American University 1963

        "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power"

        A. Lincoln

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        • #19
          Originally posted by Doctorindy View Post

          Mike Conway's crash on the final lap of the 2010 race had some similarities. The car lifted into the catch fence in the north chute, ripped down a lengthy portion - with people seated inches away. had it not been the final lap anyway, we were looking at a lengthy red flag, or perhaps the end of the race at that moment.

          Conway's car flung back onto the racing surface without any major parts landing in the seating area. That's the only reason we don't talk much about that crash anymore, and why it's starting to be forgotten. There were some minor spectator injuries reported, but nothing serious.

          I'm pretty sure they've replaced the catch fencing around the entire perimeter of the Speedway since that day...as part of routine upgrades/maintenance. But I'm not really aware of any other significant improvements made as a direct result of that particular crash. They coincidentally have removed sections of seating at the north end, but was due to low demand, not safety.
          I remember walking around rather nervously after the race when that happened, waiting for an update on the PA. I never met Mike Conway, but I had recently interviewed Hunter-Reay in his coach at Sebring before the 12 Hour for something I ghost-wrote for him for Road & Track, so at that point it was the closest I had been to someone who had been in such a big wreck.
          “America is all about speed. Hot, nasty, badass speed.” - Eleanor Roosevelt

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          • #20
            My point was/is that despite how much has been written about why the AAA stopped sanctioning races, and how many times it has been repeated, that we should stop and think about what we really know. This isn't criticism of you Teddy, it's just a call for examining things more deeply in general.

            In contemporary articles, the president of the AAA, Andrew Sordoni, only said that LeMans was definitely "a factor" in the decision. That quoted part is the only quote provided in the UP wire report. The rest, on Vukovich and all the other racing fatalities, seemed added by wire reports who wished to list the toll and cite it on their own. The wire reports all use the term "partly" as the reason. I've seen one article where Sordoni reportedly mentioned Vukovich's fatal accident as a factor, but again, it wasn't in his own words. He was quoted more extensively in the AP wire report: "All who have a knowledge of racing events in this country know that it could happen here." Interestingly, articles of the time cited another factor, the difficulty in obtaining adequate insurance. Which, according to a quote from Col. Arthur Harrington, chairman of the AAA Contest Board, was because: "the tendency of juries to give very excessive damage awards" to spectators injured in racing accidents. The way these quotes are excerpted and only partial makes me wonder about their full quotes and context.

            Don, any surviving minutes of the AAA meetings? ...or were they all thrown into the furnace in the basement with rats nipping at heels?
            "Versions of a story that are more tidy, compact, and camera-ready should generally be viewed as historically suspect." - Jackson Landers

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            • #21
              "Don, any surviving minutes of the AAA meetings? ...or were they all thrown into the furnace in the basement with rats nipping at heels?"

              Assuming that you mean the Contest Board proceedings, once you nose through the automotive journals of the early years and then have access to the material Gordon White had microfilmed for the Atlantic Coast Old Timers Auto Racing Club in the 1983/4 timeframe, there is far more than regarding the meetings and newsletters than you have been led to believe. I was very surprised -- almost literally shocked to be honest -- as to just how much there was regarding the Contest Board and its activities. Although rather uneven since White separated out all the material in the IMS 500 mile race into separate reels, plus not everything in the filing cabinets got microfilmed when the IMS pulled the plug, more "survived" than I ever imagined. Plus, I did get access to whatever there was of what Russ Catlin had left -- which was not much, but it seems that Bob Russo and maybe others helped themselves to it -- which fit into a single file box.

              The infrastructure of motor sport -- sanctioning bodies, space, place, facilities/venues, support activities, rules/regulations, policies, personnel, politics, communications, record-keeping, finances, etc., etc. -- tend to be treated pretty much with great disdain by the vast majority of racing fans (and seemingly a vast majority of "auto racing historians...), and understandably so. However, some of us (a very, very, very to be honest) think that this is actually pretty interesting stuff to consider and dig through and consider.

              Le Mans, Vukovich's death, and the general tenor of the zeitgeist allowed the AAA to bow out and let someone else deal with something that the organization had long sense simply done because, well, it was always something that the AAA had done: the usual Self-Licking Ice Cream Cone paradigm. The AAA's leadership's lack of enthusiasm for motor sport outside the rather small group concerned with the sport finally put the Contest Board on the wrong side of the "history" in 1955 (keep in mind that the Contest Board was not actually dissolved until the end of 1956, its sole focus that year being on speed trials).

              One might suggest that the AAA might have been wiser to jettison the Contest Board during WW2 or just afterwards, which could/would have allowed the IMS, had it survived, do something similar to what happened a decade later. In essence, the USAC was formed as the initial iteration of an Indy Racing Series, the other activities basically sublimated to the IMS race as feeder material.
              And so we beat on, boats against the current, drawn back ceaselessly into the past ... F. Scott Fitzgerald
              Ever have the feeling that the rest of the world is a tuxedo and you're a pair of brown shoes? ... George Gobel

              Comment


              • #22
                Originally posted by Belanger99 View Post

                Good points Don. I think eventually AAA would have gone away as well.

                My focus on history isn't sanctioning bodies, but wasn't AAA a rarity among them? An actual auto club that took on sanctioning of auto races? Weren't most other sanctioning bodies, at least major ones, formed to run auto races as opposed to AAA being a motor club that happened to sanction races?

                Had it been in the 1960's or 70's when AAA got out, would USAC have even been formed? AAA/USAC had several other divisions, sprint cars, midgets and stock cars. Could those have gone to other organizations such as IMCA? Could championship racing have fallen under SCCA sanction?

                Interesting question.
                In the USA, yes, a rarity, but in most countries all over the world the sporting authority is with regular auto clubs - not unusual at all. The major difference in the US is/was that the AAA or USAC were never alone in representing that authority. In Germany, we have the ADAC, the AvD, DMV, DMSB and a number of minor clubs, but they are all under one big umbrella, the ONS. Same in Great Britain: BARC, BRSCC nad BRDC are the three major clubs, and there's a myriad of smaller ones like DRC, SMRC, 500MRCI, AMOC etc. etc., all "answering to" the RAC-MSA. In France, there was a big row when the power shifted from the ACF to the FFSA in 1968, but there was always just one "National Authority", or ACN as it is known in offialdom. In the US, this was the ACA until 1928, then the AAA and much, much later the ACCUS, but it had never the authority other ACNs enjoyed. AAA and/or USAC never had the authority to make universal rules for Sprint car, Midget or Stock car racing, as there were always several dozen clubs sanctioning races for these categories. In effect, the spectators made those rules, for good and for bad, by patronizing the races or staying at home.

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                • #23
                  As Michael suggests, when IMCA set up shop in 1915 and the sky didn't fall, the tides didn't stop, and then the Contest Board sort of muddled through the latter part of 1917 and then 1918 (it is something of an interesting question for some as to where the 1918 AAA sanctions came from considering that the Contest Board itself never met that year nor during the latter part of 1917 after vowing to close shop for The Duration...), putting the toothpaste back in the tube just wasn't going to happen.

                  ACCUS was/is/continues to be more of an uneasy coalition of clubs having to meet together than an ACN of the sort that Michael mentions as being the norm elsewhere.

                  Needless to say, Michael pretty much nails it.
                  And so we beat on, boats against the current, drawn back ceaselessly into the past ... F. Scott Fitzgerald
                  Ever have the feeling that the rest of the world is a tuxedo and you're a pair of brown shoes? ... George Gobel

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    Originally posted by Don Capps View Post
                    As Michael suggests, when IMCA set up shop in 1915 and the sky didn't fall, the tides didn't stop, and then the Contest Board sort of muddled through the latter part of 1917 and then 1918 (it is something of an interesting question for some as to where the 1918 AAA sanctions came from considering that the Contest Board itself never met that year nor during the latter part of 1917 after vowing to close shop for The Duration...), putting the toothpaste back in the tube just wasn't going to happen.

                    ACCUS was/is/continues to be more of an uneasy coalition of clubs having to meet together than an ACN of the sort that Michael mentions as being the norm elsewhere.

                    Needless to say, Michael pretty much nails it.
                    Apart from being the organization recognized as representing the United States to the FIA, for the life of me I never understood what exactly ACCUS did when we have all these different sanctions for the various types of racing.
                    “America is all about speed. Hot, nasty, badass speed.” - Eleanor Roosevelt

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