In IndyCar, youth will be served
I knew it was going to happen. As I approached the intersection, the light was green, and I could tell that two cars in the turn lane coming in the opposite direction were going to turn in front of me. That was cool. The social covenant of the road clearly gave them that option. As an experienced driver, I quickly assessed the situation and continued at speed. My years of experience also caused me to look at the third driver in line, a spiky-haired youth in a pick-up truck. There was no way he had the time to make the turn without me getting hard on the binders, but I knew he was going to turn anyway. And he did.
My tires squealed. I would like to say that I calmly gained control of the car and continued on my way. But I can’t. I screamed, shook my fist, and gesticulated wildly. My blood boiled. I turned behind him and considered following him to make a point about how dangerous his driving was and how we were only saved by my vast experience and cat-quick reactions. Then a Gustave Flaubert quote rolled through my head: “By dint of railing at idiots, one runs the risk of becoming an idiot oneself.” I let him go.
In our entitled society, I am sure many people think the proverb “youth will be served” means that adults do all they can to help and support young people. It really means that young people cannot stop themselves from being the callow, self-centered, pains-in-the-neck that they are. Young people will do what young people do. The case in point is Sage Karam of Chip Ganassi Racing.
I am not passing judgement on Sage Karam in his budding conflict with Ed Carpenter of Carpenter Fisher Hartman Racing. If Karam squeezed Carpenter in the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway and Carpenter had to take defensive measures, why should anyone be surprised? He’s a kid with very little IndyCar experience acting like a kid, doing what he wasn’t supposed to do and going where he wasn’t supposed to go, breaking the social covenant of the racing fraternity. Like most kids, he didn’t like being called out in public and on television by a grumpy Uncle Ed and responded just like the kid he is. Again, what do we expect?
My biggest issue with Karam’s response to Carpenter was his quote ” “It’s close racing. It’s IndyCar racing. This ain’t go–karts or anything anymore.” It makes me weep for public education in America. The only thing that could have made it better was if Karam had dropped a “bro” and a “dude” or two in the interview. Again, youth will be served.
The truth is that the Verizon IndyCar Series needs the energy and edginess of youth. Karam’s limitation is going to be financial if he keeps wadding up DW12’s. It will not be because he is controversial. Even Mark Miles says that the Karam/Carpenter dust-up does not qualify as a violation of the new IndyCar Gag Rule 9.3.8, even though a reading of the rule clearly shows it could be. Miles knows, as do we all, that controversy sells. And IndyCar really needs to sell the product in any way it can.
A new audience for IndyCar translates to a young audience. You sell youth with youth. Drivers like Karam, Josef Newgarden, Gabby Chaves, and Conor Daly are the personalities that have the chance to connect with new, young fans. The series needs them to have success. It also needs them to connect with the ever-changing ethos of a new, young audience. Right now, Karam is the only one with an edge. That is a really good thing.
So cut the bro a break. Sage Karam is needed in IndyCar precisely because he possesses the punk attitude. It doesn’t matter if fans love him or hate him. As far as promotion goes, love and hate are two sides of the same coin. It is about time that the fraternity of IndyCar drivers goes from the Omegas of Animal House fame to John Belushi’s Deltas. Toga! Toga! Toga!