Unfulfilled Dream

I admit it, I'm a sucker.

Once again I fell for the talk that the powers in charge of open wheel racing realized the errors of their way and would find a way to bring the sport back under one roof.

Tony George and Kevin Kalkhoven said not to expect anything too fast, but I was dumb and like a lot of others thought that an announcement of at least a tentative agreement would come at Indianapolis on "Carb Day."

But all we have on this Friday before the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500 is a whole lot of nothing.

A small crowd gathered at the Brickyard to watch the final practice session, but the only buzz around Indianapolis is the sound of a few early season bumblebees.

Even the sport's savior of a year ago, Danica Patrick, seems muted this year and the excitement that spawned "Danica Mania" has died down to a quiet hum.

As the 11th edition of the post-split 500 gets ready, the future of open wheel racing is murkier than ever.

Not only has there been no talk about a possible merger between Champ Car and the Indy Racing League, both series are close to announcing new races for the prospective schedules in 2007.

The IRL will add the new Iowa Speedway outside Des Moines to its slate with a street circuit race in San Antonio also expected to be announced.

Champ Car is feverishly working on potential street races in Phoenix, Las Vegas and Philadelphia.

And just when you think things can't get any worse, there you go.

Rather than working to combine the events already in place into a cohesive and successful schedule, both sides are off trying to add more races into an already watered-down version of the sport.

A look at the field for this year's Indianapoilis 500 shows just how bad things have gotten. While Sam Hornish, Jr., Helio Castroneves, Dan Wheldon, Tony Kanaan and of course, Patrick have some name recognition outside the core racing community, the balance of the field isn't exactly a "Who's Who."

But imagine having Paul Tracy, Sebastien Bourdais, Bruno Junqueira, Justin Wilson, Alex Tagliani and Mario Dominguez on the grid rather than the likes of Thiago Medeiros, Jeff Bucknum, Roger Yasukawa and Stephan Gregoire. While still not registering high on the name recognition scale, the addition of the top Champ Car drivers at least brings the 500 field up several notches in talent.

Even with the addition of the unretirement tour trio of Al Unser, Jr., Michael Andretti and Eddie Cheever, the general public couldn't identify an IndyCar driver in a police line-up.

But ask just about anyone who Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne or heck, even Scott Riggs is and you'd most likely get a correct answer.

The time has passed the critical juncture to save open wheel racing and the Indianapolis 500. What was once the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" isn't even the biggest race in Indianapolis any longer with the Brickyard 400 long ago passing the 500 in popularity.

The speedway can thank the Formula One defectors from last year's U.S. Grand Prix for making that race a laughable debacle or the 500 might have dropped to third in the pecking order.

If Tony George and Kevin Kalkhoven have any last piece of passion for the sport they say is dear to them both, they will announce a merger post haste.

If not, IndyCar racing will join the likes of drive-in movies, full service gas stations, World Series day games and in-flight meals as a golden memory of our past.

Race Center

Auto Club 500

@ Auto Club Speedway
Saturday, October 19, 2013
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