Attention all Historians: IndyCar Need Us, A Call to Action

There is no place like Wikipedia on the web. For better or worse, it is the largest public information repository to be found anywhere; all user created and maintained. In some eyes, wiki has a poor reputation with good reasons. Its issues with rampant page vandalism are well publicized and continue to be the number one issue for editors of any level associated with the site. These bad eggs often ruin any shot at legitimacy Wikipedia can hope to maintain. Although this is always a main worry for new editors, it is really a non issue, but more on that later.

Although Wikipedia is open source, it could be the first experience many people have when looking for information on a new subject. Google anything indycar related and Wiki pages are almost certain to appear very near the top of the returned results. Unfortunately, many of the indycar articles are in poor condition, and often have been unedited for months, or even years. I find this painfully difficult to stomach given the sites profoundly public visibility on the web.

Some pages are worse offenders than others. Take the 2011 season review page for example. It should be one of the more complete indycar offerings wiki has, but right off the bat there are two cleanup requests. One is for a poor introduction and the other for incomplete summarization of the subject as there are not even race reports written for six of the year’s races.

The page, for the most part, is well written and informed. But imagine a casual channel surfer who wants to learn some basic, recent history of indycar after watching the sure to be incendiary Iowa race this summer? They Google indycar and stumble across the Wikipedia page. For good or bad, this is where most novices will begin their journey through indycar history and statistics. If this is our first offering, is there any question why indycar is sometimes viewed as second tier, or minor league?

Many driver bio pages are short, outdated or just plain wrong. Track pages are NASCAR slanted even if indycar has a rich and storied history there. Event reports are missing. Entire early seasons of AAA racing are totally unaccounted for. And the picture selection is poor at best, if even present in some articles. The list could go on, but suffice to say, indycar is not well represented.

Keeping these pages updated and accurate is certainly not a league reasonability. In fact, INDYCAR, driver PR, team officials or anyone who takes any kind of payroll due to indycar racing are asked to refrain from editing due to a conflict of interest. Wikipedia doesn’t want socioeconomic underpinnings to taint history as is actually occurred. Operation: beautify indycar Wikipedia begins with us, the fans.

I challenge you to take ownership of our history. Wikipedia is here to stay whether we like it or not. We are some of the most knowledgeable students of a sport to be found anywhere, even in the stick and ball world. Our history is important to us, and we make no apologies for it. Each one of us can make a difference.

Once you have created an account, head over to the WikiProject American Open Wheel Racing and introduce yourself. The group is somewhat lifeless right now, so we need to inject some new historians into the mix. There are extremely friendly and helpful editors associated with the project that are more than willing to answer questions and I have even seen a few floating around on trackforum.

Diving into the world of Wikipedia can be daunting. Stick to your strengths. Are you interested in a track? A particular driver? A certain event? Head there first and fill in any missing pieces of information. If everyone hardcore indycar fan who visits Wikipedia on a regular basis watched and updated a single page, there would not be a missing hole to be found. Peruse the NACSAR and F1 sections to get an idea of how good some of these pages can be written.

Each and every page also has a talk tab attached to it. This is where conversation about content, scope and completion can be found. Most articles don’t have much in terms of activity here, but I promise you someone is watching and will answer you if you ask something.

I have a watchlist, and you should too. A watchlist is a your collection of pages that you have a vested interest in. When edits or changes are made to any page in your list, they are populated in an easy to read timeline you can access once signed into Wikipedia. After I check my email in the morning, I sign in and check my watchlist. 99.999% of the time the changes are worthwhile and no action is needed.

Remember, vandals want to be seen. They are not going to intentionally destroy the race report about Texas 1 from the 1998 season because the masses simply are not reading that page, but to us its content is still important. In the minutes after the Las Vegas wreck, Dan Wheldon’s page was locked from edits and reverted to the last agreed upon revision from a few days prior. A discussion was created in the following days to determine what to include, and how to proceed with an unbiased entry about the events.

Once you gain a bit of comfort in editing, then have at it! Only edit with good intentions, correct information and an unbiased viewpoint. INDYCAR is aware of the decrepit state of its collection and has actively asked historians to help contribute and cleanup some of the mess. Unless we start fixing this stuff it never will be done and each year that passes is one more year of misinformation we will have to live with. If you need help or have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me through the usual routes. Let me know if you are taking action! Let’s use the amazing pool of historical knowledge we have and create the most complete indycar encyclopedia we can.

Eric Hall

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