It is without a doubt my favorite time of the year, the opening of the greatest race track in the world.
The memories I have from the last 40 years at 16th Street and Georgetown Road are ones I will cherish for the rest of my life. Now if I could just get a little competition on race day, that’s all I need to be happy.
Somebody please step forward and relinquish the stranglehold that Team Penske and Team Target Ganassi have on my beloved oval. They have won seven of the last 10 Indy 500s between them and that number looks to increase on May 30.
In a time where technology and ingenuity have never been more prevalent in open wheel racing, the aforementioned have turned this event, and the series as a whole into a yawn festival, and as a purist, I am both disappointed and concerned.
Before you say I am just a graybeard living in the past, let me please say that you have not experienced racing until you have seen upwards of 10 or 12 drivers who can win this hallowed event dicing it up at over 200 mph. I mean as a teen, I would skip school just to watch the practices (sorry, mom) and would mark the days on the calendar until I could count on my dad throwing the lunch cooler into that big Plymouth he drove so we could head out early on race day to make our annual trek to the infield.
In those days, you could count on Andretti, Foyt, the Unser brothers, Johncock, Rutherford, as well as Mears, Sneva, and Rahal battling it out all day. While we have a vast number of talented drivers today, the gap between the haves and have nots that will always exist in motor sports has grown so wide, that I am not sure if it will ever be reduced to the point in which a team as talented as Andretti Motorsports, who has won this event two times, can once again challenge the big two competitors. Although the drama that once could only be found at the Indianapolis 500 seems to have diminished greatly, there still are some great story lines for this year’s event.
Can Tony Kanaan finally break through and capture his first victory? Will Danica Patrick be able to handle all the distractions she herself has created by participating in Nascar and Indy Cars in the same season? Can Paul Tracy exorcize the demons of the 2002 Indy 500 (I still say he was robbed of it) and finally park his car in victory lane? And just how weird will it be to see Tony George at the race as simply a team owner and not the president and CEO of the Speedway corporation after his less than graceful ousting last May by the board of directors, comprised primarily of his family? Stay tuned race fans, as things are just starting to unfold and despite my doubts about competition, I will indeed look forward to reporting it, and I hope to see you at the track this month.
Notes: The Indianapolis Motor Speedway will open for practice on May 15. Practice will continue through the 21 and pole qualifications will take place on May 22, with the completion of qualifications being held the following day.
I must give IMS a lot of credit as they are doing all they can to entertain those in attendance with a variety of free concerts.
For dates and times go to: Indianapolismotorspeedway.com.
Finally, in a matter far more important than any sporting event, I must say that I was indeed saddened to learn of the passing of the legendary Lena Horne. I was about 15 when my older cousin turned me on to her records and her rendition of “Stormy Weather” still sends a chill up the spine of this jazz fan.
She was an elegant lady, an incredible talent, and the world will miss her golden voice. Heaven has indeed brought an phenomenal singer home.
Danny Bridges, who forgot to wish all the great Mothers in Indianapolis a happy Mother’s Day last week and now seeks their collective forgiveness, can be reached at (317) 578-1780 or Bridgeshd@aol.com.