Friday, May 14, 2010

Gentleman, Start Your Interest

At 9 a.m. Saturday, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway opens its gates to the public for the first time of its annual Indianapolis 500 presentation.

I don't know if it's me, or the situation, but the race just doesn't make for a lot of interest.

When I was younger, the whole month of May was devoted to the 500. There were two weekends set aside to qualify for the race, and many big names ran in the race; some of them were A.J. Foyt, Marion Andretti, and the Unser brothers.

This year, qualifications will only be one weekend -- May 22 and 23 -- and one of the biggest names who will participate is Danica Patrick, known more for her looks than for her racing prowess.

The change happened about the middle 1990s, when open wheel racing split into two circuits. One was the Indy Racing League, led by Tony George, the owner of the Speedway. The other one was CART, led by Roger Penske, a race car owner.

NASCAR drove right through the split on its way to becoming the major racing organization in the United States. I don't follow NASCAR that intently, but I know more of their drivers than I do most of the open wheel drivers.

Also, many of the big names had retired from open wheel racing, leaving little knowns to participate. Some are little known still.

Whatever the reasons, I'll follow it, if not intently, until the race, which is scheduled for May 30.

When it took up the whole month of May, much of the Indianapolis media made a big thing of the 500. It was called "The Greatest Spectacle In Racing."

But I realized that it was just another stop on the circuit one year when I noticed that many big drivers who were out of the race because of mechanical problems made no efforts to get back in the race to win it.

I realized this back in the 1970s, and this is the first time I've written about it.

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