Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Indy 500 Reflections
By Jon E. Easter
Nothing political here for those of you looking for it. Today, I want to react to the 2010 Indianapolis 500. I have not had a chance to do so as yesterday was Memorial Day.
The Indianapolis 500 still is the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. It's still the world's largest one day sporting event. It still has the ability to inspire wonder and awe, and I think it's still the greatest race in the world.
Indy humbles man, woman, and machine. Indy makes heroes and keeps heroes from winning the ultimate accolade. For some, success comes easy. For others, success comes not at all. But, as a sports fan and a journalist, I love the stories.
Rarely does the best car win the race. On Sunday, the best car won the race. Dario Franchitti was the fastest and best car all day on race day, and he deserved to win. The fans got an amazing show from Tony Kanaan as he charged from worst to nearly first only to finish 11th. Team Penske was humbled as Ryan Briscoe and Will Power both found trouble. Helio found the lead late, but he had to pit for a late splash of fuel. Danica fought her way to sixth. The little guy teams got good finishes in Dan Wheldon, Alex Lloyd, and Justin Wilson. These are the stories Indy provides unlike any other race in the world.
At the end, it was a big crash that decided things. A yellow ended it as Mike Conway and Ryan Hunter-Reay tangled in turn three. Conway nearly ended up in the seats. While disappointing that things didn't go to the finish, that's part of what makes Indianapolis unique. There's no manufactured green-white-checkered NASCAR finish. It's the Indianapolis 500 not the Indianapolis 505. Who knows if Franchitti really had enough gas to finish? Who knows if Dan Wheldon would have sneaked by him in time? Maybe Marco could have found his way to victory lane for the Andretti family. Again, all these stories are unique to Indy.
It wasn't the best race of all time, but it was a darn good one. It was far superior to anything NASCAR has done this year, and the individuals that experienced it in person, on television, or on the radio were entertained.
In 1992, Al Unser, Jr. was emotional in Victory Lane after winning by the narrowest margin in Indy history. ABC's Jack Arute made mention that it sounded like there was some emotion in his voice. Al chuckled and said, "Well, you just don't know what Indy means."
No one knows what Indy means to me because it means something so personal. Indy, to me, means family. On Sunday, I spent the afternoon listening to the race with my mother. I can think of so many times spent with my father or my paternal grandmother listening to races. I worked the race with my mom and my aunt. I can remember being at a family picnic in 1988 at Forest Park in Noblesville and listening to Rick Mears win. I was eating KFC at the table in the dining room in '89 when Little Al and Emmo battled in '89. Indy means family to me, and that's why I love it. It is a race that has always brought our family together in one way or another.
That's why I think, more than anything, it endures today. For all the history and pageantry and tradition, it's the personal memories that make Indy come alive for us all. That's what Indy means to me.