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The Edge - If Even Trump Won't Show Up For the 500, What's The Future Of Indy Look Like Now?


By Rick Carlton

I admit it. I am one of the four or five people in this country who thought that Donald Trump would have been a great, albeit bombastic, honorary pace car representative for the centennial running of the Indianapolis 500. After all, "Go Big Or Go Home," is my motto. In the end, however, I was apparently wrong, along with Trump himself. In the end, however, the Speedway decided to go with the true and tried in Foyt, but I think they missed a bet.


Lets face it, aside from making sure that all episodes of NCIS are run without news preemption, the next time one of our UCAVs convert a terrorist enclave into a smoking hole, what could be more important than global interest in the honorary Indianapolis 500 pace car driver? (Hey come on, CBS can at least let us watch Gibbs and Abby solve the next case before they bore us for the next hour. "Hey Cokie, is that a smoking hole in the ground?" "Yep Ted, the tribal leader says its a hole alright, and smoke is coming right out of it.")

Although history offers a long list of entertainment personalities at Indy, its not particularly compelling. Over the last 10 years we have had the following Indy pace car drivers along with my suggested level of promotional sizzle:

2000 - Anthony Edwards - Actor - "C'mon Mav lets get in there!"
2001 - Elaine Irwin Mellencamp - Wife of Indiana musician
2002 - Jim Caviezel - Actor - "I am the Count of Monte Cristo!"
2003 - Herb Fishel - GM Executive - "So, we're laying off how many this quarter?"
2004 - Morgan Freeman - Actor - I can't mess with Freeman, he's just too damn good
2005 - Colin Powell - General - Can't mess with Powell either, been there, done that
2006 - Lance Armstrong - Bicyclist - Sometimes associated with the Tour Du France
2007 - Patrick Dempsey - Actor - Knows the different between a damper and a wheel-hub
2008 - Emerson Fittipaldi - Race Driver - Won Indy twice
2009 - Josh Duhamel - Actor - "Bring in Sideswipe Octivus!"
2010 - Robin Roberts - ESPN Sports Commentator - "Where IS my basketball anyway?"
2011 - AJ Foyt - Won Indy four times - Eleventh hour substitute for Trump

Aside from Freeman, Powell, Fittipaldi and now Foyt, there's not much global buzz here, so I have an after-the-fact suggestion. With what's going on nationally, I think the IMS pace car committee should have offered Obama a chance to drive the pace car, although the event would have required some changes.

First, the centennial Corvette ZR1 would have had to be discarded in favor of a Chevy Volt running on electric power only. The change would have allowed the crowd to see Obama clearly, since the "electric car" only produces a top speed of 40 mph. This would also offer him an opportunity to give a speech on "alternative energy investment initiatives," along with leveraging IndyCar's Ethanol Council sponsorship. However, the organizers would also have had to limit the number of parade laps, due to mileage constraints associated with the Volt's battery system.

Second, since Obama seems to be on a "Bin Laden Non-Victory Lap, Victory Lap," these days, there would have been an opportunity to offer him an actual lap around the Brickyard; but this time, in running shoes. This would allow him to deliver a series of speeches related to "healthy alternatives," contrasting with on-going vehicular development. Since refined gasoline is about to hit $6.00 per gallon later this summer, and he can't seem to figure out how to produce a coherent national energy plan without throwing the baby out along with the bathwater, this could be an useful political mis-direction. As for the 500's direct value; well, since IndyCar keeps slowing the cars down, they could go ahead and get comfortable with the idea of slowing the cars waaaaaaaaaaay down. The drivers, of course, would have to get in better shape, since competitors would be required to push their cars around the track for 500 miles in 2012. But hey, as the old sales adage says, if you can't fix it, feature it!

Of course, these suggestions might be a bridge or two too far, but I'm old enough to remember what the Indianapolis 500 used to mean for international motorsports each May. Nonetheless, and with all respect due to Foyt, if Trump won't even appear at this year's show (and he'd promote a Port-a-Potty if it made business sense), it seems that anything is possible. Hey, I don't like it, but there it is......