What Makes A Racing Series Interesting?

Illustration for article titled What Makes A Racing Series Interesting?
Photo: Pierre Verydy / AFP (Getty Images)

The husband and I got into a very heated discussion about the nuance of what makes a motorsport series interesting that somehow devolved into the two of us comparing different disciplines to potatoes—which is beside the point—and I have not stopped thinking about it.

It all kicked off because someone on Twitter said he found Formula One more interesting in the early 2000s. My husband argued that F1 is objectively more interesting now. I argued for the side of semantics, because “interest” is always subjective. I am fascinated by specific words Virginia Woolf uses in her novels, but I am well aware that a good 99.999 percent of the population does not give a single fuck.

Our conversation eventually boiled down to this: There are two main ways that motorsport is interesting. One is the technical aspect. The other is competition.

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My husband was arguing for the technical aspect, which is why he felt, objectively, modern F1 is better than in the past. The cars are better than they’ve ever been, and they’re better than every other racing series, and that’s why F1 is the pinnacle. That is also what makes F1 interesting.

I generally argue more for the competition side of things. You can have the most advanced car in the world, but if I can predict who’s going to win every weekend, that’s not very interesting. There’s still a hierarchy in more spec-based sports like NASCAR, IndyCar, and Formula E, but the spec aspect levels the playing field a lot more. To me, that’s more interesting than any fancy doo-dad tucked away in the engine compartment that I can’t see.

But as we talked, we came up with other options that could theoretically make a series more interesting:

  • Nostalgia. It’s a hell of a lot easier to assume racing was better when you were a kid than when you’re a jaded adult.
  • Off-track drama—the stuff that makes F1 so delicious to me. All the subtle bitchery that goes on behind the scenes: the complaining to the media, the subtle jabs in press conferences, that kind of stuff. Which, admittedly, requires you to be glued to your phone digesting all the news in a 24/7 cycle.
  • Worse cameras. Hear me out here: one of the most frequent comments you get on old racing videos is someone saying, “Cars are faster nowadays, but they look so much faster then.” That’s because modern tech has improved, so we generally film races with steady cameras. The jerkiness adds an element of rush, of trying to capture this elusive moment, because the car is going too fast for you to keep it in frame. Basically, it’s an illusion.
  • Accessibility. For $50, you could dick around in the IndyCar paddock at Pocono. You can’t ever really do that in F1—or even in NASCAR, for that matter. I am always more interested in things when I can stick my nose in everyone’s business.
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But we are just two people, and I imagine the potato talk got us sidetracked so that we weren’t able to really parse out all the complexities. So—what makes a racing series interesting to you?

Weekends at Jalopnik. Managing editor at A Girl's Guide to Cars. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.

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DISCUSSION

Flying jumps, rubbin’s racin’, turnin’ so hard your vehicle is on three wheels.

I’ve been watching a _lot_ of stadium super truck recently. It’s like NASCAR but ten times better.

If you’ve never seen it, give it fifty seconds.