OPINION: The map for motorsport’s future
At its zenith, especially from 1910 to the 1940s, nearly every new innovation in the auto industry came from a desire to win at the racetrack. The enthusiasm around the automobile, and the excitement around those who were brave enough to race one, captivated our culture. The men who drove were international heroes.
From transmissions to suspensions and disc brakes to safety features, innovation in consumer automobiles happened on track. And as a result, fans flocked to the sport to see what was coming next. The sport rode that wave of popularity even into the 1980s and 1990s when auto innovation started shifting from the racetrack to the engineering lab.
Racing also produced heroes whose bigger-than-life personas broke through mainstream consciousness and rose to the status of real cultural icons, like Earnhardt, Andretti, Bernstein, Rutherford, Petty, Foyt and Prudhomme. We can debate whether the sport made them or they made the sport. However, their impact on the sport’s soaring popularity and commercial success is indisputable.
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