Physical advantages

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Drivers are complaining that Danica Patrick has an advantage at the Indy 500 because she only weighs 100 lbs:
"The lighter the car, the faster it goes," Gordon said. "Do the math. Put her in the car at her weight, then put me or Tony Stewart in the car at 200 pounds and our car is at least 100 pounds heavier.

"I won't race against her until the IRL does something to take that advantage away."

The IndyCar Series does not consider the weight of the driver in its race specifications. The car has to weigh at least 1,525 pounds before the fuel and driver are added, and teams in Indy have estimated that Patrick will gain close to 1 mph in speed because of her small stature.

No doubt the weight advantage is real, but so what? Sports are full of situations in which one competitor has a physical advantage over another. Presumably, Gordon's current position is at least partly due to his good reflexes. Should he have to put some kind of damper on his steering wheel so that I have a shot against him?

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8 Comments

I'm afraid I find your argument is a little too facile. Would you, by the same logic, require the elimination of weight divisions in boxing or wrestling? It seems like there is a simple fix: mandate a minimum weight for the car + driver. In fact, this is exactly the rule in place in Formula One racing.

You can't compare weight requirements in Boxing to auto racing. Boxing has weight divisions for safety. With out them little guys would get killed. The same isn't true with Patrick. Gordon is complaining because he thinks he's at a competitive disadvantage. You wouldn't and don't hear him complaining about guys that way more then he does. Maybe if he mixed in the occasional salad and don't guzzle so much beer...

First of all, nobody would get killed in wrestling/boxing even if you had no weight categories. The guys who'd get killed would simply not compete. Second, what I pointed out was that the argument saying "you cannot create any rules to level the playing field" is incorrect because many sports do have such rules. What you think of those rules, and whether you like them, is a matter of taste.

You're right, nobody would get killed without weight classes in boxing because little guys would never compete. But you're wrong in suggesting that weight classes "level the playing field" They merely make a league for smaller people to play in.

An example of leveling the playing field in Boxing would be if heavier players, when playing against lighter players would be forced to wear a device to limit the strength of their punching. That would be levelling the playing field, and that would be absurd

I discuss this further on my blog.

I'm not saying that you can't create any rules to level the playing field. I'm saying that the rules that people create to level the playing field are sort of arbitrary and less a matter of fairness than of making competition more interesting. In such an environment, whining about something that gives someone a slight edge (and I do mean slight; look at Patrick's record ), is fairly silly, unless you're prepared to give up whatever your edge is.

When I read this, I thought immediately about horse racing. On TV, the jockeys are weighed with their saddles right before each race, and weights are added to even everybody out. (I'm assuming that the depiction was accurate.)

I don't pay any attention to racing, but I know that Indy 500 races often have problem with racecars running out of fuel. One hundred pounds in a 500 mile race is a HUGE advantage.

I read about this over at Kevin Drum's blog, I think. Amidst all the NASCAR-dad/RedState bashing, there were a couple of interesting points made:

Indy racing doesn't handicap for weight. NASCAR does - all drivers under 200 pounds have to add ballast to make up 200 pounds. Drivers heavier than that just have to go on a diet.

While weight does confer an advantage, so does upper-body strength. Ms Patrick will likely find it harder to operate her car than other drivers will their cars.

The driver who made the statement is apparently a notorious loudmouth whiner in Indy racing. This is his version of trash-talk.

They say "Once is commentary. Twice is coincidence. Three times is a flame war." :-) Nevertheless, I'll post my final remarks here. I agree with most of EKR's comments but differ with him on the conclusion. My blog says more.

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