DiZinno: IndyCar’s Double-Edged Sword in Fontana


Saturday afternoon at Auto Club Speedway captured both all that was right and nearly all that could go wrong in the Verizon IndyCar Series in 250 laps, 500 miles, and nearly three hours of hysteria.

I’m on assignment at another race event this weekend, but I was firmly on the edge of my seat – by which I mean, hotel bed or comfy chair – some 2,500-plus miles away from Fontana, Calif. outside of Watkins Glen, N.Y.

WATCH: Full replay of Saturday’s race

That said, remote covering the MAVTV 500 race provided the widest – and perhaps weirdest – range of emotions I’ve had watching an IndyCar race in some time.

This year marks my 20th as a fan, and 10th as a reporter, overall and I can’t really begin to say which was the overriding emotion I had coming out of the day.


To start, there was amazement. After three-plus years of tinkering with the oval package since the introduction of the Dallara DW12 chassis in 2012, it looked as though INDYCAR – the sanctioning body – got the balance perfect this weekend at Fontana.

The racing was so intense because it captured everything that could be good about this new era of racing: the wheel-to-wheel racing but not slingshot-inspired passing; the downforce level, which was high but not too high; the tire fall off, courtesy of Firestone’s efforts; and the track itself, which with its varying degrees of banking, seams and lines always seems to produce great racing – for both IndyCar and NASCAR.

The North American open-wheel record number of lead changes, 80 split among 14 drivers, was proof positive of that.


Then, there was anxiousness. Recall we haven’t had an IndyCar “pack race” in standard “pack racing” format since that disastrous day at Las Vegas in October 2011. It was one of the most jarring moments of my career; that day, on site, I stood in Dan Wheldon’s pit box listening in on his radio.

To say there were nerves today for me would be an accurate statement, and again, this is coming only from a reporter in a hotel room. So I can only begin to imagine the sensitivity and concern faced by drivers who were in that canceled debacle of a race and were racing again on Saturday, or were watching from afar and commenting on social media. Hell, by circumstances outside of their control we had aces and race winners like Justin Wilson and James Hinchcliffe on Twitter during the race, instead of driving in it.

Or their significant others. We occasionally forget this sport is about families, and when you are out there running inches, millimeters apart at 215 mph and the slightest mistake happens, it’s not just a driver you could lose. It’s someone’s dad. Or brother. Or son. Or nephew. Or name your other family role here.

Was yesterday’s pack racing in the “Vegas 2011 pack racing” sense? To me, I have to say no. It flirted with disaster… it came the closest we’ve seen to it in the DW12 era.

However, at no point were the cars clumped to the point where they were stuck running two or three-wide for five or six consecutive laps, even though there were hair-raising moments of four or even five-wide. It had scary potential, but not scary stagnation, if that makes sense.

The thing about Vegas was, you had an overriding fear something bad was going to happen. In Fontana, on Saturday, it was a case where something bad could happen, but only if the stints were too short and the drivers too aggressive. So when the accidents started occurring when it got down to crunch time, yes, it looked bad. But that forgets 136 laps of clean, green-flag racing to open the day nearing 90-degree temperatures, which should not be overlooked.


More pressing to me, quite honestly, was anger. It was hidden by my excitement of watching the race, but then you looked around at the grandstands and thought the number of people watching on social media rivaled, if not exceeded, the actual number of rear ends in the seats on site.

This was one of IndyCar’s best ever oval races, certainly the best I’ve seen since flag-to-flag the 2001 Michigan 500 where Patrick Carpentier emerged as a popular first-time winner edging Dario Franchitti and Michel Jourdain Jr. (yes, the last four or five Indy 500s count but for my money I’ll take that Michigan race years later).

Not that this has any correlation, but there is a freaky and weird potential similarity that could rise from this – that Michigan race was the last under CART sanction there before the IRL (now IndyCar) took over in 2002. And that Michigan race was remembered for having great racing, but a small crowd (likely a bigger one than Saturday though).

The Toronto date change has thrown the second half of the 2015 IndyCar schedule into absolute chaos. We’ve come off a fatigue-ridden 10 week in a row stretch, then head west to Fontana for a 500-miler on a Saturday afternoon, in late June, then have four of the final five races have to sell their product with yet another date change.

I’ve said it since the start of the year. The second half schedule shift will look horrendous when all is said and done, and you see grandstands looking that empty. Optics are everything, and while you can make 5,000 or 10,000 patrons look acceptable on a street course when you only have two or three erected grandstands, you can’t make a similar number look good in a 75,000 or 80,000-seat arena.


The fourth is that of being stupefied. I’ll give a hat tip to my friend and colleague Steve Wittich for noting as a rare voice of calm in a sea of hysteria on social media during the race, that the decision to have a post-race penalty applied to Graham Rahal would be consistent with others issued by INDYCAR this year. He’ll sort the stats on that.

Again though, it comes down to optics. The optics of a guy – Rahal or whoever else – leaving the pit with a broken fuel buckeye and then having said buckeye do its own disappearing act on the track to cause a yellow but not get an in-race penalty leaves a black mark for the series. It adds to cries of inconsistency for Race Control, which is strictly a perception problem if not an actual one, based on the precedent established earlier this year.

Or, if you want to be cynical, call it a “makeup call.” Recall, if you will, that Rahal got perhaps unfairly hosed way back at St. Petersburg when he contacted Charlie Kimball and got an avoidable contact penalty assessed, when other contact incidents there or elsewhere this year may have not. I don’t think that thought process entered Race Control’s minds on Saturday, but still, it’s something that came to my mind today.


Finally, there was relief. We did have the two bad accidents after all, but fortunately with happy endings. The contact that took Takuma Sato and Will Power out of the race saw Power’s quotes get a lot of play. What should be getting more play? How about the fact these two hit the concrete wall on the front straight, sans SAFER barrier. I don’t know how many more of these type accidents need to happen before SAFER barriers are erected all the way around the perimeter on ovals.

And then there was the “Ryan and Ryan aerial show,” as I can call it now knowing that both drivers are safe, sound, and in Ryan Briscoe’s case, already joking after a horrific looking accident on the second-to-last lap. Briscoe went airborne after contact with Ryan Hunter-Reay, with the pair both in the wrong spot at the wrong time after contact when they were both near eventual fourth and fifth-place finishers Juan Pablo Montoya and Sage Karam.


So therein lies the perfect storm, the perfect dilemma, the double-edged sword for IndyCar after today’s thriller.

Fontana’s Auto Club Speedway produced arguably one of the best all-time races in the series’ history.

Yet so few people watched live in the grandstands.

Debate and drama has arisen about whether this was a return to the dreaded “pack racing.”

A driver finally won after being so close all year, yet avoided an in-race penalty.

And to cap it all off, the end of the race, ending under yellow after two severe crashes has again raised the specter of danger to the point where danger and drama – rather than dynamic racing – emerges as the dominant storyline from the race.

Saturday may have been one of IndyCar’s best days on track in its recent past.

Yet taken on the whole, it may open up a potential Pandora’s box of potential concern for its foreseeable future.

Vicki Golden and 805 Beer tell a unique story from an Inverted Perspective


Vicki Golden has earned a career worthy of a thousand stories and 805 Beer tells at least one of them, as “Inverted Perspective” premiered March 30 on the company’s website and YouTube channel.

Golden did more to break the glass ceiling in SuperMotocross than she ever thought possible. She knows this because riders have never felt the need to explain any of her accomplishments with the disclaimer, “for a girl”. 

At this point in Golden’s career, she’s been the first woman to finish top 10 in AMA Arenacross Lites, the first woman to qualify in the Fast 40 in Monster Energy AMA Supercross and the first woman to compete in freestyle Moto X competition, earning a bronze medal by doing so.

Her love for moto came from childhood while she watched her dad and brother ride. By seven she was on her bike and making waves throughout Southern California. 

Golden, 30, is still madly in love with the sport and has no plans on moving away but her career is already one to talk about. 805 Beer’s film series wanted to do exactly that.

“I’m taken aback by it all,” Golden told NBC Sports about the documentary. “It’s just crazy to see your story, it’s one thing to live your life and battle everything that comes about but it’s another to just sit there and talk about it.”

805 approached Golden about the feature by asking, “Do you even realize that what you do, and your story is special?”

Golden took the question as a blank canvas to map out the highs and lows of her career and life. 

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The title “Inverted Perspective” came from a brainstorming session with Dominick Russo and it highlights Golden’s outlook on the sport of SuperMotocross and her life in general. 

“My whole life, my whole career was thinking differently and looking at things that shouldn’t be done and aren’t there, while being able to make a place for myself, where no one thought there should be a place,” Golden said.  “It’s inspiring someone to think in different ways. It sums up my life.”

Vicki Golden is not “fast for a girl”; she’s just fast. – 805 Beer

While Golden is no stranger to the spotlight, this was the first time she’s been fully involved with the storytelling and creation of a feature about herself. 

“It’s not like a full new experience,” Golden said. “Obviously, you get your standard questions about your upbringing and accomplishments, but I’ve never really put into perspective things that happened in my past with my dad and putting that to light. Also, certain other things that maybe got overlooked in previous interviews or films. I wanted to touch on these and Dom wanted to create a story. It’s just cool to see it come to light, it’s a nearly impossible thing to tell somebody’s life story in 40 minutes.”

Golden’s father was left paralyzed after an ATV accident, robbing him the opportunity to ride again. This happened a few months before the father-daughter duo was set to compete in the Loretta Lynn’s Amateur Nationals when Vicki was 12. While she might have been unable to grasp the severity at the time, it’s something she carries with her. Golden continues to ride in his honor.

Years later, an accident in 2018 nearly sidelined the then 25-year-old Vicki when a freestyle accident almost resulted in the amputation of her lower leg. 

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Golden 805 Beer
Vicki Golden has ridden a variety of disciplines in SuperMotocross, which gives her a unique perspective. – 805 Beer

“Inverted Perspective” highlights her father’s diligence in helping Vicki continue with her career and the kindness and strength he carried while fighting his own battle. 

“My dad was the entire reason that I started riding in the first place,” Golden said. “So, to honor his memory and to honor what we went through and how hard he pushed to keep our dream alive and keep everything going – in that sense then, it was really special to be able to honor him and talk about him.”

The 40-minute feature was filmed entirely in black and white, a stark contrast from the oversaturated world of motocross where the brighter the suit the easier it is for fans to find their rider and follow him in the race. By filming in monochrome Russo and Golden had the chance to focus on the race and track from a different perspective. 

“It was cool to be able to film it differently,” Golden said. “It created a challenge in the sense of what was going to be more visually impactful for the film.

“I couldn’t be here without the companies that back me but at the same time, it’s not like the logos or colors disappeared, it’s just different lights shed on different spots. It’s just a cool way to do it and to take color away and still be impactful. When you think of black and white, you think of old school, the OG way of doing things.”