Indy Racing League Embraces 1980s Turbo Fad

Love it or hate it, you’ve gotta admit that NASCAR has been a pretty successful enterprise here in the good ol’ US-of-A these past few years. As recently as 20 years ago it was the nearly-exclusive domain of southern rednecks; the only names in racing I really heard as a kid were names like Unser, Andretti, and Foyt. Back then, kids outside the trailer park grew up dreaming of racing in the Indy 500 rather than the Goody’s Headache Powder 500.

Indy Racing League Push To Pass

A generation later, however, open wheel racing in the USA is on life support. Formula 1 has all but abandoned the country and if it wasn’t for Danica Patrick, nobody would even remember Indy racing exists. The races are boring, there’s no passing, and the sport’s governing body is clueless. Or rather, was clueless. But all that is about to change, now that the Indy Racing League has introduced the greatest innovation in auto racing since the internal combustion engine - TURBO BOOST!

Yes, turbo boost - that old 1980s automotive standby, has made its debut in honest-to-god auto racing. Someone in Indycar’s marketing department has either 1) watched too much Knight Rider, 2) played too many1980s racing video games, or 3) earned themselves a fat raise. WIRED covered the tech details, which we’re maybe not so much good at:

The cool new power up is a “push to pass” or “overtake assist” button on the steering car of every Indy Racing League car. Mashing it unleashes a sudden jolt of horsepower, giving drivers a strategic edge that’s brought back some of the side-by-side racing excitement from the Indycar racing of old.

“It was what we expected and hoped for,” Brian Barnhart, president of the Indy Racing League, said of the technology. “It certainly feels like the IRL is back.”

It’s a fun little gimmick and all, and one that is not at all different than the red mushrooms in Super Mario Kart (as noted by WIRED but totally approved by us), but it begs the question of why they don’t just make the cars faster all the time. It’s the racing equivalent of Jerry Seinfeld asking why they don’t just make the whole plane out of the black box, but it’s a valid question. Indy Racing’s problems go much deeper than anything a quick turbo shot can solve, but that doesn’t mean we’re not totally behind this. KITT, your day has come: