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Thread: Indy ROP and Gordon Smiley crash

  1. #1

    Indy ROP and Gordon Smiley crash

    There's been some interesting conversation on Facebook regarding the Gordon Smiley crash in 1982. Does anyone know if during ROP at the speedway rookies are shown video of this crash? I'm not implying that it be to scare them, but to demonstrate how the aerodynamics of a ground effect car work on an oval and the way Smiley drove and attempted to save the slide the car was in.

    People want to talk about how devastating the crash was and how sad and unfortunate that moment in racing was. However, I contend that Smiley's sacrifice has been to the greater good of anyone who's turned a lap at Indy since, especially rookies. Don't get me wrong, yes it was tragic but it's also an invaluable piece of footage that clearly demonstrates the differences of road racing skills versus oval track skills and how to correct for a similar error.

    When Sebastian Bourdais crashed at Indy last year it immediately reminded me of the smiley crash as did many others who've commented. I don't question Sebastian's abilities as a driver or intend to be critical but it seemed to me he made a similar error in correcting the slide. Due to the far more advanced design and safety features of today's cars he suffered recoverable injuries were as the technology in 1982 couldn't for Gordon.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chaparral4 View Post
    There's been some interesting conversation on Facebook regarding the Gordon Smiley crash in 1982. Does anyone know if during ROP at the speedway rookies are shown video of this crash? I'm not implying that it be to scare them, but to demonstrate how the aerodynamics of a ground effect car work on an oval and the way Smiley drove and attempted to save the slide the car was in.

    People want to talk about how devastating the crash was and how sad and unfortunate that moment in racing was. However, I contend that Smiley's sacrifice has been to the greater good of anyone who's turned a lap at Indy since, especially rookies. Don't get me wrong, yes it was tragic but it's also an invaluable piece of footage that clearly demonstrates the differences of road racing skills versus oval track skills and how to correct for a similar error.

    When Sebastian Bourdais crashed at Indy last year it immediately reminded me of the smiley crash as did many others who've commented. I don't question Sebastian's abilities as a driver or intend to be critical but it seemed to me he made a similar error in correcting the slide. Due to the far more advanced design and safety features of today's cars he suffered recoverable injuries were as the technology in 1982 couldn't for Gordon.
    I understand what you are trying to say, but turning right into the slide would be a natural reaction for most drivers.

    Look at Hinch at Pocono last year - an amazing save by turning right to correct the slide.

    Sometimes the car sticks and sometimes it doesn't.

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    I don't have the answer for your question. I only have a comment of, the Gordon Smiley wreck was the first thing i thought of watching Bourdais qualifying crash for the '17 500. Racing these missiles at the speeds we do on these Ovals like Pocono and IMS, makes it incredibly dangerous to ever turn the wheel to the right in the corner, but to see anybody pull it off is incredible. Montoya did in the 2015 '500 while battling for the lead, Hinch at Pocono in 17, Tagliani (i want to say 2012) at Indy. Incredibly dangerous and amazing if pulled off.
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    Quote Originally Posted by GRW1983 View Post
    I understand what you are trying to say, but turning right into the slide would be a natural reaction for most drivers.

    Look at Hinch at Pocono last year - an amazing save by turning right to correct the slide.

    Sometimes the car sticks and sometimes it doesn't.
    There is a lot more to it though than just turning into the slide. The circumstances of those two events were very different: Hinchcliffe was in a race environment and it wasn't as important to stay in the gas for his moment. He was able to release the throttle, then work it while he tried to correct the slide.

    In Bourdais' case, it is Indianapolis 500 qualifying and the most daring drivers stay in the gas regardless. Sebastien was laying it out on the line with a car that was quick enough for the Fast Nine, and did not want to ruin a qualifying run. Therefore when those front wheels eventually catch, and he still has the power down, it is going to give him much less reaction time to return to the left-turning position that he would need to be in in order to finish the corner safely.

    Feathering the throttle and not being 100% in the gas allows that window of reaction time to expand - not by much but it helps.
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  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by GRW1983 View Post
    I understand what you are trying to say, but turning right into the slide would be a natural reaction for most drivers.
    Exactly. He didn't do anything any other driver wouldn't have done.

    As has been discussed here before, most of what you heard about the Legend of Gordon Smiley is false.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveL View Post
    As has been discussed here before, most of what you heard about the Legend of Gordon Smiley is false.
    Over and over again, ad nauseam.

    As for the OP's question, I seriously doubt the Speedway is interested in showing a thirty some year old death video.


  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by DaveL View Post
    Exactly. He didn't do anything any other driver wouldn't have done.

    .............
    I don't know what they do today but for decades NOT trying to save a car at Indianapolis was stressed with rookie drivers.

    Before anyone got to take a Rookie Test they were talked to by both officials and veteran drivers and told again and again to let the car spin instead of trying to save it.

    I've heard that McCluskey always stressed this when he started the ROP in the early 1980s.

    Maybe things have changed with the SAFER barrier instead of just the concrete wall but it still seems like good advice for the most part.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by rrrr View Post
    Over and over again, ad nauseam.

    As for the OP's question, I seriously doubt the Speedway is interested in showing a thirty some year old death video.

    Since when is the speedway responsible for ROP? Isn't it the responsibility of Indycar? USAC prior to that. What do you think they are doing during the ROP each year? Sucking on lolly pops and saying only turn left,,,,don't turn right???

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by GRW1983 View Post
    I understand what you are trying to say, but turning right into the slide would be a natural reaction for most drivers.

    Look at Hinch at Pocono last year - an amazing save by turning right to correct the slide.

    Sometimes the car sticks and sometimes it doesn't.
    For someone with a road racing background that makes sense but when on an oval they preach just the opposite and that's the whole point. That's what the veteran drivers tried to tell Smiley as they could see his road racing background in his style of driving. Bottom line, he refused to listen and look what happened. It's not as simple as saying the car sometimes sticks and sometimes it doesn't. He wasn't even on the right line entering the turn. He then attempted to drive it down when the back end started to come around. It was driver error from the start. The car was doing what it was supposed to do.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by DaveL View Post
    Exactly. He didn't do anything any other driver wouldn't have done.

    As has been discussed here before, most of what you heard about the Legend of Gordon Smiley is false.
    I'll trust Dr. Olvey's comments in his book over yours. I don't think he needed to sensationalize things to make the story "better".

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by RHRfan#1 View Post
    I don't have the answer for your question. I only have a comment of, the Gordon Smiley wreck was the first thing i thought of watching Bourdais qualifying crash for the '17 500. Racing these missiles at the speeds we do on these Ovals like Pocono and IMS, makes it incredibly dangerous to ever turn the wheel to the right in the corner, but to see anybody pull it off is incredible. Montoya did in the 2015 '500 while battling for the lead, Hinch at Pocono in 17, Tagliani (i want to say 2012) at Indy. Incredibly dangerous and amazing if pulled off.
    Something else to keep in mind with the Smiley crash,,,he wasn't even on his qualifying run. It happened on a warm up lap. So unlike Bourdais, he wasn't even committed to the qualifying run yet.

  12. #12
    I read an interview once-I think it was with Mario Andretti-who gave some insight into a scary tendency those early ground effects cars had.

    At the time of the Smiley crash, ground effects were still fairly new to Indy. In those early ground effects cars, getting out of shape, even for a split second, could have serious consequences. You'd start out with good airflow and the ground effects giving awesome grip. Then you have a "moment," and the airflow changes and suddenly you have little to no grip. You try to correct it. Suddenly, when the car starts going straight again in whatever direction, the airflow resumes its normal path over and under the bodywork, clamps it down instantly, and SUDDENLY you have tons of grip again, only this time you're not pointed anywhere good, and you're just going to go wherever it was pointed when the airflow resumed. And in Smiley's case, that was head-on into the wall.

    That was, of course, 35 years ago. I don't think today's cars have that issue to that extent, so I'm not sure what the point would be of showing that video to rookies, except to instill a sense of their own mortality in them.
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  13. #13
    Would you look at that, the Gordon Smiley thread came 5 months early this year.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chaparral4 View Post
    For someone with a road racing background that makes sense but when on an oval they preach just the opposite and that's the whole point. That's what the veteran drivers tried to tell Smiley as they could see his road racing background in his style of driving. Bottom line, he refused to listen and look what happened. It's not as simple as saying the car sometimes sticks and sometimes it doesn't. He wasn't even on the right line entering the turn. He then attempted to drive it down when the back end started to come around. It was driver error from the start. The car was doing what it was supposed to do.
    The whole "veteran drivers tried to tell Smiley..." tale has been repeated ad nauseum too. Smiley had two 500's under his belt by 1982. He had a good rookie race going in 1980, running in the top 10 by 40 laps, before car issues sidelined him; and in 1981 he ran in the top 5 and led the race before tangling with Tony Bettenhausen. He also had several other oval starts. By most standards, he would be considered a veteran in 1982. Not some brash, know it all, youngster that people who weren't around in that era paint him out to be after the fact. He was a talented, fast, driver who made a mistake. Like many before, and many after.

    As for the point about ROP, I think most of today's drivers are far beyond "the scared straight" modus operandi and dredging up a morbid reminder is in nobody's best interest.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Shadow101 View Post
    As for the point about ROP, I think most of today's drivers are far beyond "the scared straight" modus operandi and dredging up a morbid reminder is in nobody's best interest.
    You're missing the point completely. It's not about being "scared straight". I'm talking about the forensics of aero and ground effect on an oval. I think I was bluntly clear in my original post but like so often here on TF people want to go off on a tangent that wasn't even part of the original post. As of yet, no one has answered the real question originally asked only assumptions and personal opinions. Nothing of substance.

  16. #16
    I don't know what Rutherford does. But he seems to do a pretty good job with ROP.
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    All oval race car drivers try to correct a sliding rear end with a quick turn to the right and in almost every case they save the car. We see it all the time in the Indy Car in-car camera shots (recall Danica's first flying lap during her rookie Q run). Probably happens over a dozen times in every modern Indy 500, we just don't always see them.

    Sometimes, of course, it ends up being an overcorrection when the rear tires suddenly catch from a slightly bigger slide, and you're heading for the wall. That's the way it's always been, and most probably always will be as long as race cars still have 4 rubber tires.

    The same physics happen to motorcycle road racers and it usually results a spectacular "highside" crash.

    Whether the increase in the ground effects downforce in the new car will change the current equation any, I guess that remains to be seen until we see a big wiggle into a turn at Indy at 230 mph.
    Last edited by Stick500; 01-10-2018 at 05:39 AM.
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  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Chaparral4 View Post
    I'll trust Dr. Olvey's comments in his book over yours.
    And I'll trust what Chuck Sprague, Paul Diatlovitch, Jerry Eisert as well as a few other eyewitnesses who were crew members on Fletcher's and other teams who all said on Facebook what Olvey wrote was incorrect.

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Chaparral4 View Post
    You're missing the point completely. It's not about being "scared straight". I'm talking about the forensics of aero and ground effect on an oval. I think I was bluntly clear in my original post but like so often here on TF people want to go off on a tangent that wasn't even part of the original post. As of yet, no one has answered the real question originally asked only assumptions and personal opinions. Nothing of substance.
    Sorry, but the topic can be explained without said video.

    If you add in the video, it is about 'scaring' people... Period.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chaparral4 View Post
    Since when is the speedway responsible for ROP? Isn't it the responsibility of Indycar? USAC prior to that. What do you think they are doing during the ROP each year? Sucking on lolly pops and saying only turn left,,,,don't turn right???
    Speedway, IndyCar, who cares? Your OP is the same old crap dragged up from the muck.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chaparral4 View Post
    For someone with a road racing background that makes sense but when on an oval they preach just the opposite and that's the whole point. That's what the veteran drivers tried to tell Smiley as they could see his road racing background in his style of driving. Bottom line, he refused to listen and look what happened. It's not as simple as saying the car sometimes sticks and sometimes it doesn't. He wasn't even on the right line entering the turn. He then attempted to drive it down when the back end started to come around. It was driver error from the start. The car was doing what it was supposed to do.
    You cannot prove your statements are factual. It's just a load of BS. You have no way of knowing what Smiley or his car did or didn't do. Whatever Steve Olvey said, it isn't based on facts, only his supposition that was colored by hearsay and other unqualified comments.

    This same thread has been posted too many times to count, and the same crap that was said then is being said now.

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    Seemed to me Smiley was a good racer. Had the misfortune of seeing this crash again recently and can say that I’m sure drivers are aware of what not to do without a formal video orientation of sorts.
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  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by rrrr View Post
    You cannot prove your statements are factual. It's just a load of BS. You have no way of knowing what Smiley or his car did or didn't do. Whatever Steve Olvey said, it isn't based on facts, only his supposition that was colored by hearsay and other unqualified comments.

    This same thread has been posted too many times to count, and the same crap that was said then is being said now.
    Soooo,,,you respond and pile more crap on the heap???? Apparently it makes you happy.

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by Insighter View Post
    Sorry, but the topic can be explained without said video.

    If you add in the video, it is about 'scaring' people... Period.
    That's still not an answer to the question.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by rrrr View Post
    You cannot prove your statements are factual. It's just a load of BS. You have no way of knowing what Smiley or his car did or didn't do. Whatever Steve Olvey said, it isn't based on facts, only his supposition that was colored by hearsay and other unqualified comments.

    This same thread has been posted too many times to count, and the same crap that was said then is being said now.
    Agreed. Deja vu all over again.
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  26. #26
    Mario's knowledge of ground effects of the era is the best firsthand explanation of what happened to Smiley I've heard, and completely useless for drivers today. Next.

  27. #27
    Ive raced my entire life. if you have to think oh man the back of this car is starting to step out whoa! its already waaay too late. your natural instincts and your hips realize the slide and you turn into it before you even know whats going on, its a few hundredths of a second thing. seb reacted just like gordon did. if it was back in the day seb would be dead as well. I dont buy this idea that if the car starts to step out you just let it go. If that were the case i think most cars would be out by about lap 10, unless the car has a major push. A car prob has a pretty decent step out 10-15 times during the course of of a 500 race, you gotta catch that stuff and keep racing. some times they hook up and snap, sometimes you catch them.

  28. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by Andretti91 View Post
    Would you look at that, the Gordon Smiley thread came 5 months early this year.
    I blame global warming.

  29. #29
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    Every rookie has access to YouTube... why would they need anyone else to “show it to them”?

  30. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by Chaparral4 View Post
    For someone with a road racing background that makes sense but when on an oval they preach just the opposite and that's the whole point. That's what the veteran drivers tried to tell Smiley as they could see his road racing background in his style of driving. Bottom line, he refused to listen and look what happened. It's not as simple as saying the car sometimes sticks and sometimes it doesn't. He wasn't even on the right line entering the turn. He then attempted to drive it down when the back end started to come around. It was driver error from the start. The car was doing what it was supposed to do.
    The idea that Gordon Smiley didn't listen is an apparent myth that percolated up through the rumor-sphere and took root over the decades. Politics was said to have played a part in the evolution of the apparent myth. Multiple interviews conducted after the crash with nearly all of the people who would later claim that Smiley refused to listen revealed just the opposite.

    Smiley's car had not been doing what it was supposed to have been doing not only during the month but during the season, according to the driver, to members of his team and to veteran drivers.

    Ground effects cars of the period were known for sometimes sticking and sometimes not sticking.
    Last edited by editor; 01-10-2018 at 04:55 AM.

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