Amateur drivers are wrecking Indy 500 Don’t blame Mother Nature. She didn’t ruin the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500, a race that desperately tried to make open-wheel racing relevant again.
Yes, her teary eyes dampened spirits before the race, stalled the event for three hours a little more than halfway through — just when things had become really exciting — and eventually handed Dario Franchitti the Borg-Warner Trophy about 85 miles short of 500.
Blaming it on the rain would miss the bigger story.
The Indy 500 didn’t recapture any of its luster on Sunday for the same reason it lost it 11 years ago: Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Tony George’s Indy Racing League can’t recover from its split with CART.
The amateur, talent-deficient drivers filling up the back of Indy’s 33-car starting grid, the drivers who wouldn’t stand a chance of qualifying if Champ Car drivers participated in George’s event, kept slamming into the speedway’s walls for absolutely no good reason, repeatedly slowing the race to a crawl.
Of the race’s last seven qualifiers, the boys and girls holding down starting spots 27 through 33, only Richie Hearn avoided trouble.
Jon Herb, Jaques Lazier, Milka “Airbags” Duno, Marty Roth, Roberto Moreno and Phil Giebler all rammed the wall with virtually no provocation. The constant, prolonged yellow flags for unforced errors destroyed the flow of the race and opened the door for Mother Nature to cut the competition short.
It was truly embarrassing. As a lifelong Indy fan, I can’t remember a race that featured seven, single-car wrecks. We’re not talking about side-by-side dueling or tires touching or NASCARlike bumping and rubbing.
We’re talking about Moreno (lap 37), Herb (lap 52), Duno (lap 66), Giebler (lap 107) and Roth (lap 161) simply losing control of their cars in turn 1. Lazier (lap 156) ran into the outside retaining wall exiting turn 4. And John Andretti, who qualified on the outside of row 8, hit a wall in turn 2 on lap 99.
The race’s final collision, which handed the title to Franchitti, occurred on lap 163 when contenders Dan Wheldon and Marco Andretti tapped tires during the doomed final restart. Marco’s car flipped spectacularly, but the 20-year-old walked away from the crash with only bruises.
The Indy 500 ran three more laps under yellow before Mother Nature stopped the proceedings, probably out of frustration and fear of seeing someone get seriously injured.
There are a thousand reasons the Champ Car-IRL feud needs to end, but the 91st running of Indy should stand as exhibit A. More at Kansas City Star