All Is Not Lost

SPEEDWAY, Ind. - Maybe it’s the summer heat. Perhaps it’s the inevitable burnout that comes from being on the road most every weekend from early February. Or maybe it’s just boredom. Whatever the reasons, I’ve noticed a tremendous amount of negativity flowing from my colleagues in the motorsports press lately.

Now I’m no angel. I’ve had my share of negative comments and criticism this season on a variety of subjects. Heaven knows it’s been a controversial, stressful and often frustrating year whether it’s NASCAR, CART, IRNLS, Formula One or even short-track stock-car racing. Tragedy and safety issues have permeated our sport on nearly every level for more than a year and it’s enough to fray the nerves of most any hard-boiled racing journalist.

But if you sit and listen to the conversations, comments and sometimes just plain rants that emanate from the media centers around the racing world, you would think all of motorsports is headed the way of the Jurassic period. There’s a variety of reasons that seem to point to the overall doom of the sport including:

  • Inept management among sanctioning bodies

  • Greedy speedway operators and promoters

  • Inadequate facilities

  • A lack of on-track competition

  • Cookie-cutter race tracks

  • Corporate takeover

  • Poor television coverage

  • Excessive travel

  • Escalating costs

    There’s no arguing that these are issues that do affect the sport and racing must address all of them. But I’m not convinced that auto racing is on a life-support system and, while I’m not suggesting we’re living in nothing but a blissful paradise, there’s a lot more right than there is wrong in my opinion, such as:

  • Just hearing “Gentlemen, start your engines” still gives me goosebumps, whether I’m at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway or a Saturady night short track.

  • My hometown, Chicago, has not one, but two first-class racing facilities that will bring 11 national touring divisions into the Windy City this season.

  • NASCAR’s phenomenal television ratings have demonstrated that auto racing was indeed ready for the mainstream and could compete with the established “stick-and-ball” sports.

  • Despite the CART-IRNLS split, the Indianapolis 500 still draws nearly 400,000 spectators; CART races in Mexico, Long Beach, Toronto, Fontana and Vancouver average almost 100,000 fans each; and IRNLS races in Kansas City, Nashville, Texas, Chicago, Kentucky and Richmond are major successes.

  • A dirt late-model driver won $1 million for a 100-lap race.

  • A 24-hour racing television network

  • No talk of labor problems, strikes or lockouts.

    The cynics in the crowd will call me a fool, a happy idiot who doesn’t realize the storm clouds on the horizon. But I’m not concerned by what others think. For all of its warts and blemishes, there simply is nothing in the world of sports that compares to racing.

    I wish more people could see the racing glass as half full than the other way around.
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