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The Callahan Report: The Magic of Indy Returns; Good Morning from the 84th Indy 500

28 May 2000

By Terry Callahan
Motorsports Editor, The Auto Channel

INDIANAPOLIS (9:00 a.m. ET): There has been a mood change at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since last year. Since 1996, there has been a relaxed approach to race day for the worlds richest auto race. This was due, in part, to the split between the Indy Racing League and Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART).

Many fans refused to return to Indy after Speedway President Tony George formed the Indy Racing League. Time heals all wounds. The time is now.

As the 11 oclock hour approaches for the 2000 running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, there is a noticeable change in the atmosphere. The crowds have arrived earlier. They is an obvious enthusiasm in their walk and talk.

The return of two-time winner Al Unser Jr. deserves part of the credit. After being released from CART powerhouse, Penske Racing, at the conclusion of the 1999 season, Unser Jr. headed straight to the NorthernLight Indy Racing Series. The reason was simple. He wanted to participate in the Indianapolis 500, a race he has won twice previously.

The fans of open wheel racing have welcomed Unsers return with cheers and open arms.

Another credit goes to CART regulars participating at Indy for the first time since 1995. The championship Target/Chip Ganassi Racing Team has placed a high priority on competing and succeeding at Indianapolis in 2000. The defending CART champion, Juan Montoya, thrilled race enthusiasts with his dramatic pole run last weekend. His 1996 CART champion teammate, Jimmy Vasser has also been welcomed by the numerous racing fans at Indy.

As the sun popped from behind the early morning clouds at 8:00 a.m. Sunday morning, the stage was set. The spirit of Indy has returned.

While the racing action of the past 5 years has been exciting and suspenseful, it was overshadowed by the bitter feelings between the two series. Give Tony George and the open-minded approach of a few CART owners the glory. Cooler heads have prevailed. Thanks to them, goose-bumps, tears, cheers, and rumbling concrete will be the theme as the command to start engines is given.

A complete wrap up of the days activities will be provided later today. In the meantime, sit back...turn up the volume...and enjoy racings oldest tradition. The 84th running of the Indy 500 begins at 12:00 noon ET. The unexplainable emotions that accompany this race start at the same time.

Editors Note: To view hundreds of hot photos and racing art, please visit The Racing Image Galleries and The Visions of Speed Art Gallery