Still trying to assimilate
all the information and spin coming out of the world of F-1, the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Michelin after Sunday’s USGP debacle.
Undoubtedly it will be days if not weeks before we know all the
ramifications of the misguided decision by Michelin-shod F-1 teams to
bring their cars onto pit road and into the garages before the start of
Sunday’s event at Indy.
While I make no claim to being an expert on the FIA or Formula One, my
phone hasn’t stopped buzzing since I left the broadcast booth at
Portland International Raceway after our Champ Car telecast on CBS
Sports. It appears there’s plenty of blame to go around, since reports
from Indy indicate the teams knew well before Sunday’s start that
Michelin did not want to risk racing on the tires that had been brought.
I doubt that the Speedway should face much if any criticism here. It’s
clear from Joie Chitwood’s remarks that the Hulman family and everyone
at IMS is hugely embarrassed at what’s taken place. I suspect that the
Speedway will move as quickly as possible to make amends with the fans
who were affected. But the F-1 poobahs, from Bernie Ecclestone to
Charlie Whiting on down, should be ashamed.
While no one expects
drivers, teams, or fans to face undue danger, it surely appears some
compromise could have been reached that would have allowed fans to see
mostly what they’d paid for. It’s important for any racing series to
follow its published rules and procedures. But under these circumstances
it seems logical that F-1 should have allowed a chicane to be placed on
the short chute between oval turns 1 and 2, that the Michelin teams
should have been allowed to use a replacement tire with appropriate
penalties against the cars and the manufacturer, or that the Michelin
cars be allowed to change tires frequently during the event again with
Ecclestone has repeatedly thumbed his nose at US fans and American
racing; Sunday’s debacle was the second time during Indy week Bernie
tripped over his money clip and stepped on his ego. His uncalled-for
ripping of Danica Patrick should be reason enough for US fans to cross
anything Ecclestone-related off their list. One hopes the IMS management
and the Hulman family waste little time sending this ridiculous series
back where it belongs….far from these shores.
Champ Car, meanwhile, has made a shrewd move by inviting USGP ticket
holders to attend this coming Sunday’s CCWS Grand Prix of Cleveland at
no charge, just by presenting a ticket stub from IMS. Hopefully a couple
thousand race fans will take advantage and get an up-close look at what
Champ Car is becoming. Sunday’s successful show at Portland combined
gains in attendance and sponsorship with fine weather and a surprise
winner in Cristiano da Matta.
While Cristiano would have
been expected to win at some point this year, rolling the dice on pit
strategy early under the leadership of Jim McGee was a surprise. As with
any gamble da Matta could have lost big but the PKV bunch rolled nothing
but sevens on their way to Victory Lane. Good medicine, to be sure, for
CCWS principal Kevin Kalkhoven who is still on the mend following a
second round of shoulder surgery.
For us, it’s off to Syracuse for a World of Outlaws Late Model telecast,
then on to Cleveland for Sunday’s Champ Car show in conjunction with
Trans Am. See you Sunday afternoon on CBS.
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