Bits And Pieces - Radio Days, Rookies And One Car Teams
By Rick Carlton - Senior Motorsports EditorIn my view, this year's Month Of May, capped by the race itself, was the most positive illustration of Indy's event value in a long time. In an era where the delivery of radio/television advertising appears to be more important than the show itself, the last two weeks managed to create a number of honest motorsports highs and lows in the midst of today's rank consumerism.
It is unlikely that the Schmidt/Tagliani story line will be forgotten any time soon, since the zero to hero result came at a perfect moment to overcome the boring dominance of Penske and Ganassi, while avoiding the train-wreck known as Andretti Autosport. However, even in the latter worst-case, there was empathy enough to go around based on sadness (Conway/Hunter-Reay miss the field), suspense (will Patrick get in, or will she have to stay home and count her Prada's for an entire weekend), scandal (Hunter-Reay back in the field, thanks to the racing icon incest network), and ultimate redemption (Patrick back in as well, fashionistas rejoice while breathing heavy sighs of relief).
Another bit of good news came on the media front as I was unable to watch the race on TV, and instead "listened" to the event broadcast, (yes, children there used to be a technology called "radio" back in the day. People actually sat down in front of a "radio set", and "listened" to live sports broadcasts). With the exception of Paul Page's attempts to remind the audience that HE used to anchor Indy on a regular basis, the ESPN radio show was technically bulletproof and well produced, while the commentary was both aurally evocative and exciting,(note to the reader: If one hasn't listened to a live sports event in awhile, give it a try. The experience excites all kinds of nostalgic synapses worth experiencing).
Finally, there was J.R. Hildebrand's last lap/last corner crash, and Wheldon's sudden ascendency from a sure P2, to two-time Indy 500 winner. Unlike Marco Andretti's 2006 rookie FUBAR, which in the event was more about running out of talent, Hildebrand faced three serious problems on the way to trying to win the race. First, his Panther mount was sputtering from fuel starvation, second there was slower traffic at the apex of four and the obstacle forced him wide in the wrong place, and finally there was no way that J.R. could overcome all the rookie voices in his head. Any of these distractions alone could have pitched him in the wall; but all three simultaneously? So, give the rookie high marks for not losing it entirely, since in the end, he was still good enough to pull it together and drive over the line in a broken racecar.
As for Wheldon winning out in the end, there isn't much to say except to suggest that the fact that he's only a part-timer this year is a shame. As much as Hildebrand would have been appreciated as the centennial Indy winner, Wheldon will do an even better job, since he is genuinely liked and respected. So, calling all sponsor prospects; get your checkbook out, call Herta Autosport and put YOUR brand logo on the Indy winner's race car - you'll be happy you did.
And there you go, Indy is done for another year. But I would be remiss in mentioning all the obvious work that the IndyCar folks put in to make this year's event the most impressive 500 in 16 years. Way to go folks, you done good. Now, get over it. You have another event in two weeks, so you'd better get going.