'Back-breaking' work

 by Steven N. Levinson
May 10, 2002

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After the smashing and crashing of the IRL's "Spring Crash-a-thon" tour from Homestead to Nazareth, with brief stops at Phoenix and Fontana before a total, of perhaps 40,000 actual paid spectators, the IRL was looking forward to the three weeks of May at Indy.  This would be payback time for all the IRL bashers, like myself, who lambasted the circuit for lack of spectators, questionable grids, and the serious injuries to Buhl, Lazier and Salazar. Those were surely, either bad luck or racing accidents. Just wait to the month of May and the ensuing PR Bonanza known as the Indy 500.;

Guess what? It got worse! Two more broken backs, and yesterday another concussion.  The Motorsports Media, at least the ones who have not been "Co-Opted" by Tony George and his faithful companion, Roger S. Penske.  They have been deathly silent about the injury toll at Indy.  And we have yet to see the last weekend of qualifying and bump day, notorious for "trimming out the car and desperate banzai attempts to make the Indy 500 grid.

Let us pray for our drivers safety. There has already been enough of a well-worn path from 4500 West 16th Street to 16Th and Senate, the emergency entrance to Methodist Hospital. If traffic gets any heavier, they'll need a mono-rail with direct service. Most doctors in Indy would like to keep up their golf game and their stock portfolios in May, but Terry Trammel, much to his chagrin, has been working overtime.

The IRL transmission sticks out the back of the cars and acts like a battering ram, transmitting loads through the engine and into the drivers back.
Photo Credit: Ron McQueeney/IMS

It is patently obvious that the current IRL Chassis is "THE PROBLEM". The answer is not "SOFT WALLS"...But "SOFT CARS" (see related article). Infantry Tank Style rear transmissions just don't give way against rock solid concrete walls. I think this lesson was taught in 3rd grade science classes in grade school. Somehow that simple deduction has eluded the IRL Chassis designers and the IRL brain trust.

Anyone on gasoline alley who has seen the apprehension on the drivers faces can well appreciate the anxiety now pervading the garage area. Yet, the IRL reaction has been stone silence. It's business as usual, and anyone who does criticize them will be ostracized and excluded.

I'll be happy to stand in that group and pray that no more drivers will be injured this May in Indy because Tony George believed that Indy Car racing was too expensive and you could cut the cost of chassis construction without sacrificing safety. In my view there is no such thing as Budget Indy Car Racing. It's nonsense, but it's become dangerous nonsense. The IRL's usual Month of May Public relations coup has become a nightmare. who said "Nero fiddled while Rome burned"?

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