IndyCar team criticized after ‘woke’ decision, change

Kyle Kirkwood, A.J. Foyt Enterprises, Indy 500, IndyCar - Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Kirkwood, A.J. Foyt Enterprises, Indy 500, IndyCar - Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

A.J. Foyt Enterprises changed one of their car numbers, a decision that drew criticism from many fans across the IndyCar community because of why it was made.

A.J. Foyt’s 88th birthday celebration hit somewhat of a roadblock this past week when his A.J. Foyt Enterprises IndyCar team announced that they will be changing the number of rookie Benjamin Pedersen’s Chevrolet, which was initially confirmed last week as a nod to Foyt’s age, from No. 88 to No. 55.

The reason for the change is not because Super Tex still looks like he’s 55, but because A.J. Foyt Enterprises already run Foyt’s iconic No. 14 on Santino Ferrucci’s Chevrolet.

The organization put out a statement saying that they were told that running cars with numbers No. 14 and No. 88 “carries certain ideology and symbolic references” that the team don’t support.

For the 99.9% of people who had absolutely no clue what this means until this decision brought attention to it, the ADL’s (Anti-Defamation League) “hate symbols database” states the following.

"“1488 is a combination of two popular white supremacist numeric symbols. The first symbol is 14, which is shorthand for the ’14 Words’ slogan: ‘We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.’ The second is 88, which stands for ‘Heil Hitler’ (H being the 8th letter of the alphabet).”"

For reference, the ADL also defines the No. 88 — alone — as “a white supremacist numerical code for Heil Hitler.” Yet it has been used across multiple forms of motorsport, including IndyCar, for many years without an ounce of issue. The same is true for the No. 14, which — alone — is also deemed “racist” by the ADL.

The blatantly obvious fact is that the reasons for A.J. Foyt Enterprises choosing these two numbers had nothing to do with anything related to those definitions. That holds true for any team or athlete in any sport.

So as you would probably expect, this decision, which has been dubbed by several to be a “woke” one, drew criticism from many fans across the IndyCar community.

Of course, there were some who praised the decision, noting that it shows they have “moved forward” and proven “beyond any shadow of a doubt” that they aren’t a white supremacy-supporting organization (as if white supremacy is really what they were going for when they picked their second number to honor their owner’s age…).

And at the end of the day, the team can pick whatever numbers they want (as long as they’re not already taken). There’s absolutely nothing wrong with using the No. 55, and as for the team, they felt that this decision to change to that number was, from top to bottom, in their best interest. More power to them.

As for the entire issue, once it starts, when does it stop? Apparently it doesn’t. How else do you think we’ve reached the point where we’ve cancelled bunny rabbits and pancake syrup?

Some are already pointing out that the new No. 55 looks very much like “SS”, which (obviously doesn’t, in this case) but could very well mean Schutzstaffel, the protection squads originally established as Hitler’s personal bodyguard. And that’s not the only potential 1455 connection to Nazi Germany, after all.

Oh, and others were quick to point out that 14 plus 55 results in another number with a rather interesting connotation, to say the very least.

Should the team be distancing themselves from this new number? Should the team be removed from the sport? Should IndyCar be disbanded?

Again, where does it end? When you set out to find the negative, you will succeed 100% (which is also apparently a hate symbol, according to the ADL) of the time.

It’s actually amazing how many numbers, many of which used in racing, supposedly have a “racist” connotation, even when used on their own. One such number is No. 18, which Dale Coyne Racing actually ran along with No. 55 in 2020.

Chew on that one, IndyCar fans, if you are capable of handling any more nonsense.

Simply because someone somewhere along the line decided to attach certain numbers to certain negative sayings and/or names, and because someone decided not to leave well enough alone and dig up those attachments which, again, 99.9% of completely unrelated individuals had never heard nor even thought of, certain numbers are now off limits in an open-wheel racing series.

There’s clearly no longer such a thing as context. Because, of course, anyone, including a race team, who uses any number with such obscure ties clearly must be aligning themselves with white supremacy, right?

At what point does that change? At what point does everything stop turning into a witch hunt? At what point does racing start to matter when it comes to racing decisions again? At what point do these so-called “fans” get back to being fans?

If the bad is what people want to find, that’s exactly what they’ll find. Because they won’t stop until they do, whether it’s IndyCar or something else.

The 2023 season can’t come soon enough.

On a serious (actually IndyCar-related) note, there were many who wondered why A.J. Foyt Enterprises chose the No. 55 over past numbers they’ve used, such as No. 4, No. 41, or No. 84. No further comment has been made by the team regarding that decision.

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The 2023 season is scheduled to get underway on Sunday, March 5 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding, which is set to be broadcast live on NBC beginning at 12:00 p.m. ET.