Race car drivers have long memories.
But in the Verizon IndyCar Series, it’s best to forget. There’s just not much you can do about getting back at somebody on the track.
“I’m not sure it’s a battle you want to be in,” Marco Andretti said. “You don’t know if you’re not going to end up with the worst end of the stick.”
But two races into the season, there is so much to remember — at least for three drivers coming out of the Grand Prix of Long Beach two weeks ago.
Justin Wilson got annoyed by Scott Dixon’s aggressiveness. Simon Pagenaud walked away steamed at Will Power. And James Hinchliffe could barely hide his displeasure with teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay.
They all had a right to be mad. They all have a right to do something about it.
But in cars without fenders, when a touch of wheels at 200 mph could lead to disaster, it is a tall order to retaliate on the track. By Sunday, when the series visits Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., the offended parties will have to have gotten over it.
Unless they want to risk hurting themselves, other drivers, or spectators.
They have trained themselves to forget it.
“I think we all have that, where we’re able to switch mentalities,” Andretti said. “I don’t remember in my career where I’m like, ‘I’m going to take this guy out — I owe him one.’ That can’t happen without bumpers. Would our mentality be different with bumpers? Possibly.”
No matter how smart it seems, it is hard to forget entirely.
“I’ve been mad at people. I’ve had people mad at me, as well,” driver Tony Kanaan said. “It is what it is. I tell you what — if you have an incident with somebody, when you see him at the track, you’re definitely thinking, ‘What’s going to happen now?’ whether I did it to the guy or vice versa.
“But with our type of cars, it’s too dangerous. It’s too exposed. You can’t just run into somebody and pretend that nothing is going to happen.”
None of the drivers, speaking at a testing session at Texas Motor Speedway last week, named any specific way to send a message on the track. It could be that the best revenge is success.
“It’s tough competition,” said defending series champion Scott Dixon. “Sometimes you’re the window, and sometimes you’re the bug. My situation with Justin wasn’t intentional. It’s just racing — confined streets, everybody’s driving for a win; it’s a part of racing, unfortunately. As TK said, you just got to get over it, whether you’re the victim or the person who caused it. What goes around comes around.”
Power said driver conflicts will happen all year, and they will have to be forgotten all year.
“It’s racing. These things happen,” he said. “It’s going to happen all year between people. Just got to forget about it. Move on.”
If there is a chance for retaliation, it is best on a street or road course, where the speeds are slower and there are more protection zones and buffers around the track. But retaliation takes planning, and as Andretti said, that takes mental energy away from the racing.
“Maybe karma will take care of it, maybe it won’t,” he said. “But just worry about your program. As soon as you’re worried about somebody else’s program, your mind’s not where it needs to be.”