Indy on skids

May 20, 2008 7:00 PM

Finish Line by Micah Roberts |

Roberts Top 5
At Indy 500
1. #26 Marco Andretti 8-1
2. #9 Scott Dixon 9-2
3. #10 Dan Wheldon 9-2 
4. #7 Danica Patrick 12-1
5. #3 Helio Castroneves 7-1

Memorial Day weekend is one of my favorite weekends of the year, filled with pleasant memories of my family and friends that I’ll always cherish.

I remember good food, being taught how to respect and honor our soldiers who died in service, and then of course there is the Indianapolis 500. The race is a must see event on the day and always compliments the day’s festivities.

It’s the 92nd running and it is about as American as any event we have in this great country. However, the importance of the race has waned considerably. What used to be a highly anticipated event because it featured the best drivers in the world is now one using tradition as its selling point. I’d prefer it the way it used to be, but I’m still buying what they’re selling however diluted the product is.

Without getting too deep into the root of the Indy 500 demise, let’s just say it all begins with Tony George, owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He was so bad for his series that he helped another thrive. The myriad of poor decisions he has made in hindsight almost make you believe that his initial intent was to sabotage open-wheel racing as if he had a monetary interest in NASCAR’s stock rising.

When George took over the track, his first major decision in 1994 was to bring stock car racing to his track. Everyone who loved and respected the track was shocked. Many became angry citing that the Bricks will forever be tainted if those cars with fenders were allowed and that the prestige of the track would be diminished severely.

The drivers, owners, and fans didn’t approve. They treated the track with reverence, while Tony George treated the track like a business. Can you blame him? It’s his track, he can do what he wants with it! It doesn’t make good business sense to use a facility only once a year and to continually shut NASCAR out.

What George could have never imagined is that those Indy fans didn’t just get over it, they also got NASCAR fever. George opened the doors to the entire country and opened their eyes to the great racing of NASCAR.

Something else also happened during that race that captured an audience. A young driver named Jeff Gordon won the inaugural race and began what would be a great career. The way he drove to victory, it was apparent to many people that he was going to great from that moment.

The final nail in the coffin for Open-Wheel racing was in 1996 when George formed the Indy Racing League and used the Indy 500 as his bargaining chip. His league consisted of cast-offs and drivers who would have never started a Champ car race. Meanwhile, the other series, CART, took all the good drivers, but slowly faded away and attendance dipped everywhere.

And guess whose attendance and TV ratings increased?

What used to be considered the highest level of skill driving is now a mere training ground for future NASCAR drivers. The most talented drivers in the world obviously want to get paid the most they can and they it’s not in open-wheel racing.

Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, and Ryan Newman all made the choice early as to what series gave them the best opportunity to maximize their profits. Juan Pablo Montoya, Robby Gordon, Sam Hornish Jr, Patrick Carpentier, Dario Franchitti, and A.J. Allmendinger all followed suit and saw the light.   

The rant on George is more a matter of me just being disappointed at what happened to my race. There is no drama and nothing to debate. Only eight drivers have a shot at winning that are part of three teams. End of story!

Roberts Top 5
At Coca Cola 600
1. #48 Jimmie Johnson
7-1
2. #99 Carl Edwards
6-1
3. #20 Tony Stewart
10-1
4. #18 Kyle Busch
8-1
5. #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr
7-1
EVENTS
WINS
TOP 10s
15
9
49 of 80

Coca Cola 600

The race will be run later Sunday night and will be wide open. There are so many questions and variables because of the distance, the recent Charlotte testing, and how the All-Star race unfolded Saturday Night. Kasey Kahne wins? Are you kidding me?

This guy couldn’t even beat the slugs in the qualifying race. He had to be voted in by the fans and then holds off all the best cars in the series for the win!

That blew me away.

I’ve seen some out of the ordinary stuff before, but that win was a definite shocker. There was no way to see it coming from every piece of data accumulated which is why I am very apprehensive about the Coca-Cola 600.

All the data says it should be Carl Edwards, Dale Earnhardt Jr, and one of the Gibbs Toyotas. However, that All-Star race definitely threw a monkey wrench in the formula. Good luck this week, have a great holiday, and a special thank you to all the veterans around the country who put their lives on the line for us.