Wonder Boy

It’s been a couple of days since Helio Castroneves' victory at the Indianapolis 500. Many writers and fans are still talking about the fact that the first six finishers drove cars prepared by CART teams.

The simplistic view would be to say that CART trounced the IRL. I don’t think it’s that simple. In fact, I’ve got more issues than answers.

With due respect to Andy Rooney, the famous reporter from the 60 Minutes newsmagazine, the ironies of the race left me with some questions. He used to put it "Did you ever wonder…?"

Here goes:

Did you ever wonder why CART fans and IRL fans continue to keep up a war of words against each other? Will they ever get it? Their biggest rival is NASCAR, not each other.

I’ll agree with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s contention that the erosion of the fan base started before 1996. The split between CART and the IRL just moved things down the road faster. NASCAR, with its date equity and familiar drivers, has benefited from this type of civil war in the open wheel series.

Did you ever wonder why CART’s best performance this year came at an IRL sanctioned event?

More people watched three CART teams, Penske, Green, and Ganassi run a virtually flawless race, only it wasn’t on the CART schedule. Even a novice spectator had to agree that those teams had their acts together.

Did you ever wonder why the current best oval racer in CART, Kenny Brack, was in Sweden and not at Indy?

Brack, the winner of the 1999 Indy 500, was a co-owner of one of A.J. Foyt’s cars last year. This season he has started from the front row in every race except Japan. He won the race at Motegi and may have also scored a victory in Nazareth if not for a pit miscue.

Did you ever wonder why one of the biggest sponsors in CART, Marlboro, can’t advertise the victory and one-two finish of its cars at the biggest race of the year?

Due to the Master Settlement Agreement between tobacco producers and the organization of States Attorneys General, Marlboro had to remove its logos from the race cars and drivers’ uniforms. Are the Attorneys General going to allow Marlboro to advertise this win in light of the most recent development? I can’t image how they would.

Did you ever wonder why Castroneves final (and best) challenger in the closing laps was powered by an Infiniti 35A engine, a powerplant with only two months of development?

Robbie Buhl chased Helio but never overtook him. Still, considering this car was only one of three cars, out of a total of 33 cars, powered by the Infiniti, which has only one win since being introduced in 1997, you wonder what happened to the other Oldsmobiles.

Did you ever wonder why the Indy Racing League speaks in one voice with the same vision while CART seems divided amongst its 16 different owner groups?

Every racing series has something going for it. In the case of the IRL, the philosophy of stable, easy to understand rules, makes it possible for this series to grow in stature each year. The general principles of the IRL look better and better to me each day. Whether you agree with the IRL philosophy or not, they seem to be pretty clear. Since top management at CART changes more often than Olympic venues, there is no continuity and the 16 owners aren't interested in having someone direct them.

Did you ever wonder why, with television ratings up 18 percent over last year, the Indy Racing League still isn’t a happy camper?

On one hand, the Speedway has to be delighted with such a big jump, even if part of it is due to last year’s three-hour rain delay. On the other hand, they’ve got to wonder if the pickup wasn’t more due to NASCAR fans wondering if Tony Stewart was going to get to the Coca-Cola 600 on time or if it was the CART raiders.

Did you ever wonder why 19-year-old Scott Dixon beat all those CART guys less than one month ago?

I’m still wondering about a pit stop strategy that made Dixon the youngest winner in open wheel history. While Castroneves can brag that he beat all of his rivals, wherever they came from, Dixon can say he beat the top five finishers at the Indy 500 four weeks ago at Nazareth.

Race Center

Auto Club 500

@ Auto Club Speedway
Saturday, October 19, 2013
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