Ode to the Old Pylon, Or: How I Spent the Off Week

The Jerusalem of motorsports, Indianapolis Motor Speedway recently went all modern, hip and cool on us IRR is sad to note. In fact, what happened is most uncool. The sinister powers that be removed the old scoring pylon that so gracefully and unobtrusively stood watch over the 5/8s of a mile front straight for decades, dating back to the glory days of the early ’90s. It witnessed the likes of Kenny, Eddie, Juan, Helio, Dario, Dan, Tonys and Buddys plural swig the milk in victory lane after their numbers advanced skyward toward its coveted pinnacle. We shall miss ye, old friend.

Pylon, 1994-2014.

The late Pylon, 1994-2014. Rest In Pieces.

The aforementioned villains – traitors to tradition, tools for technology – replaced it with a multi-million dollar monstrosity, an ultra modern LED high definition television masquerading as a scoring pylon. The blowback from this controversial decision has been immense and we can safely report that cracks are beginning to appear at the highest levels of ICS leadership over this unwarranted, unwelcome and unwise miscalculation.

The magnitude of loss felt over the historic pylon’s demise cannot be overstated. To make an already dire situation for fans even worse, apparently it’s being parted out and sold off piecemeal, like some rusting old junkyard Infiniti. Fans across IndyCar association of states took the news hard, but in true die hard fashion they’re trying to cope and continue living their lives, however painful. This magnificent display of bravery inspires, doing so despite the depth of heartfelt  loss.

In breaking news and potential IndyCar blog scoop of the year, we have it on solid second hand background reporting that crowds of dozens have gathered to mourn at the corner of 16th and Georgetown, in what must be a mildly depressing scene, indeed. [Update – turns out folks were just morosely waiting in line for some fast food chicken, so ignore that last little bit.]

The towering ebony landmark that is no more – kaput, late, Python dead parrot-like – adequately marked positions and laps in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing for millions of fans in its twenty years of silent service. It did so the old fashioned way, with serviceable Edison light bulbs and simple white, neatly painted numbers. It will be fondly remembered for shining its functional orange dots ’round the world on satellite broadcasts, in grainy photographs and in the boozy, skewed memories of throngs of drunken race fans everywhere.

Described as “bigger, bolder, brighter” by IndyCar’s official PR arm (organ of the powers that be), at the risk of being called Luddites or worse we here at IRR say nuts to the new pylon. What’s wrong with smaller, lesser, duller when it comes to scoreboards, anyways? Hey buddy, ever been to Wrigley field?! It’s a frickin’ shrine and they (generally, until recently) don’t mess with it. Especially not the score board. We race fans are now stuck with the bells and whistles of a Busch Stadium-like ersatz eyesore, a regular red light camera, flashing at us, illuminating interminably, menacingly. Watching.

Who truly needs flashy video capability on a scoring stick at the world’s greatest motorsports shrine? What good are colors, animations, and crass commercial messaging on a two foot wide screen at a two and a half mile, three hundred thousand capacity speedway? Possibly most troubling of all, what about this – the very real danger of this trendy taste of Tokyo distracting beery fans from the five hundred mile race? Make no mistake, if allowed to stand the new pylon’s ostentatiousness will compete for fans’ attention against the sleek and sexy race cars and their death defying drivers hurtling side by side into the famous first turn. Finally, what about the children?!

We big-ly, boldly, brightly predict that this LED fad will soon pass, perhaps as soon as the first spring lightening storms arrive in Speedway next year. Change isn’t always good, and flashy isn’t always better, fellow fans of the 500. Bring back the old pylon. With all the nostalgia for yesteryear and faux outrage we can muster, we demand it.

[Note: If anyone of any importance at IMS is reading this, sees the light (bulbs) and reverses this dreadful decision, we’d be happy to take the new pylon off your hands. It actually looks really cool.]

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