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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Time for a new winner at Indianapolis 500

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It’s almost race day in Indianapolis and the usual suspects are present and accounted for and are showing their fangs.

Much to my chagrin, the big-budget teams with their accomplished drivers and ultra-efficient operations are once again poised to win the famed Borg Warner trophy and all that goes with it on May 30 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Look, I get it, as in the entire 40 years I have worshiped the famed oval at 16th and Georgetown there is one thing I have reluctantly accepted, and that is there will always be the haves and the have-nots in motor sports.

But wouldn’t it be nice just once if a team with limited resources and equal talent pulled off a David versus Goliath-type effort and pulled their car into victory lane?

I mean can you imagine Team Penske, the greatest racing organization in the history of this storied event being outfoxed by say, Dreyer and Reinbold Racing, or maybe Panther Racing, who has come, oh, so close in recent years?

How about the likes of the all mighty Ganassi Racing being supplanted by someone like Dale Coyne Racing, who after 20 years of fielding an under-budgeted team finally tasted victory last year at Watkins Glen? I mean the dream scenarios for this race fan are endless, but in reality the probability remains highly unlikely. While there is still a part of me that speaks to the certain sense of injustice in all of this, I still have to salute the successful “Super Teams” as even in difficult economic times, they have been able to maintain their respective levels of excellence. They have won seven of the last 10 Indy 500s and while that in itself commands respect, it also makes it easy to look for another team to emerge and, with some luck and magic, wrestle away the victory from these powerhouses.

What would it take for it to happen? Well nothing short of mechanical failure, a total miscue in the pits or a crash that would eliminate them from continuing, and it is sad that those are the only ways someone from the lower tier can break the chain, or what I prefer to call a curse.

Sure there have been similar dynasties in the NBA and NFL, but even in those leagues with a good draft and a key free agent signing, you can make up a lot of ground and catch lightning in a bottle that will propel you to a title.

Racing is different in terms of the absorbent amounts of money it takes, and Penske and Ganassi have become the New York Yankees of open wheel racing; and that my friends is bad for the sport in terms of potential growth and fan interest.

Good luck to the underdogs on race day, as by my calculation there are 28 of you in the field of 33; too many for this scribe to ignore and, more importantly, way too many for this sport to survive long term.

Notes: Defending champion Helio Castroneves captured his fourth career pole on May 22. The new fast-nine shootout format provided a bit of drama but in the end, the cream rose to the top and took the pole. The pole sitter joins Ryan Briscoe, Will Power, Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti as the only drivers who I feel can win the Indy 500. Sad but true, race fans.

Danica Patrick capped off a miserable week (her words) and qualified dismally for the race. Patrick complained about an ill-handling race car afterwards, and was greeted by a number of boos from the crowd in attendance as she complained over the public address system. Suffice to say, the darling of most of the media and a lot of fans as well, seems to have fallen from grace.

Personally, I feel there has always been too much hype regarding this young lady, and with all the distractions she creates for herself with off-track activities such as endorsements and driving a partial NASCAR schedule, she needs to look no further than the person in the mirror for the root of her problematic year. Can she drive? Yes. Can she quit whining? Doubtful.

Hard to believe veteran driver Paul Tracy did not make the starting field. The affable Canadian star fell victim to an ill-handling car but unlike Patrick, made no excuses or offered no criticism of his team over the P.A., when interviewed.

The 94th running of the Indianapolis 500 will begin May 30th at 1 p.m. Tickets, starting at just $20, can be purchased at the Speedway box office.

For more information, call (317) 492-8500 or log on to indianapolismotorspeedway.com. Hopefully it will be a safe, caution-free event.

Danny Bridges, who longs for the days at Indy when a bumper crop of competitive teams could win the race, can be reached at (317) 578-1780 or Bridgeshd@aol.com.

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