INDIANAPOLIS - After a
three-hour rain delay the Indy 500 got off to a bang-up start with a chain-reaction crash that began just a few feet beyond the start finish line. Jimmy Vasser, the 1996 CART Champion, was fortunate to escape uninjured from his demolished Indy car. He had hit the wall hard as a result of contact with other cars at the frantic start of the race. Later, after leading the field for the first 36 laps, Vasser's teammate, reigning CART Champion Juan Montoya, was also forced to retire due to a faulty gearbox. The Y2KGanassi Indy experiment had failed.
If you missed the race and subsequent news reports I should tell you now that the headline and account you just read is complete fiction. But for all of you Indy 500-watching professed CART fans who have been running with the bragging rights since The Great Juan pumped his fist at the checkered flag, please come down to earth for a second and acknowledge that it could just as easily have turned out the way I wrote it in my bogus report.
Other than acknowledging Juan Pablo Montoya to be among the all-time great open-wheel drivers and recognizing that Chip Ganassi is the strongest management force to be reckoned with in modern motorsport, what are you actually bragging about?
Most of the glory from this "victory" accrues to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and, hence, to Anton George, its owner. He has never stopped smarmily saying that it is, after all,
"it's the race that makes champions - not the other way around."
George has continued telling us that the Indy 500 is still The Greatest Spectacle in Racing, despite his knowledge and our contrary belief that it has become merely a watered-down version of its glorious past because the very best drivers and teams have been excluded from participation as a result of the Inheritor's self-serving dictatorship. Or had you conveniently forgotten that amidst the hoopla?
People - my own astute colleagues included - have been listing the ways that our side has benefited from Chip Ganassi's foray back to Indianapolis. When I see CART's dismal TV ratings jump as a result of Montoya- recognition perhaps I, too, will realize that there is some beneficial byproduct stemming from Sunday's hollow victory.
I could be completely satisfied with a Lazier or Salazar win at the Indy 500 if one of those drivers was victorious by virtue of outstanding performance against a complete field of championship caliber open-wheel pilots. I have always advocated for a return to Indy after either a negotiated accord or the acquisition, somehow, of the deed to the Speedway.
But until Juan Montoya can say that he beat Michael, Paul, Dario and Roberto along with Buddy, Al, Eliseo and Eddie I am sure that even he would admit that The Greatest Spectacle in Racing is merely the Biggest Payday in Racing. I certainly don't begrudge Juan Montoya his paycheck. In fact, it is too small a price for the Inheritor to pay for a much-needed credibility fix.
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