Sunday, May 24, 2009

Legacy, graciousness and a cornfield in Indiana

Against my better judgment, I'm watching the Indy 500...

Since Mario won the Indy 500 in 1969, neither he nor any other family member (including brother Aldo and nephew John, as well as sons Michael and Jeff) has been able to drink the milk in the winner's circle.

Mike's son Marco is well on the way to extending the Andretti Curse. In his rookie appearance at the Brickyard in 2006, he finished second to Sam Hornish, Jr. in the second closest finish in race history (closest finish was was Al Unser, Jr. over Scott Goodyear by .043 seconds in 1992).

Today, well, the curse struck once more. Also following in the family tradition was Marco's response when interviewed after the crash that ended his race: It was the other guy's fault. Truly, in twenty plus years of following open wheel racing, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I've heard an Andretti admit that an on track incident may have been their own fault.

We carry forward more than just our names from our parents.

Graham Rahal is the son of driver and champion Bobby Rahal. Last year, he crashed only 37 laps into the race. This year, he lasted until lap 57. In the obligatory post-crash interview, he explained what had happened, admitting that he simply went too high in the turn while attempting to get around another car, losing tire grip on the marbles. He apologized to his team, mentioned his sponsors' names and kept all whining and self-pity out of his voice.

What a difference.

A cornfield in Indiana
A few more random observations:

- The cars run on high fructose corn syrup ethanol - does it smell like a corn roast? I caught a faint whiff of roasting corn from the Fair Park last week as the IndyCar teams were here setting up for next weeks race at the Mile.

- The difference in engine sound between the old turbo-charged, methanol-powered Champ cars and the normally aspirated Indy cars is striking. If you want to hear what the Champ cars sound like, rent the first Star Wars movie and fast forward to the pod race - Lucas used Champ car engine sounds for much of that sequence. By comparison, the IndyCars sound like scooters. Very fast scooters, but scooters nonetheless.

- Feel bad for Tony Kanaan. He seems to be under an Indy curse of his own.

- What the -?! Vitor Meira and the fire in the pit. If ethanol can be dispersed and put out by plain water, what were all the suds on the pit lane? Why didn't the medical team insist on checking him out - why on earth did they send him right back onto the track?

- Heh. During one of the prerace segments, they mentioned that Jimmy Vasser, one of the team owners for Paul Tracy (and a past series champion in his own right) and Paul sat down to discuss every aspect of the race. They decided to hang back and play it cool, not showing their hand until about lap 150. If you know anything at all about Paul Tracy's career, you know how funny that is. Yet after having the 2002 Indy 500 stolen from him by a spurious call by race control, you know he really, really wants to win. Eight more laps to lap 150...

- Helio Castro Neves Castro-neves Castroneves (Don't blame me - the first is actually the correct, Brazilian name. He changed spelling twice in order to get the American announcers and writers to get it right) is really as annoyingly cheerful and outgoing as he appears. I met him at a meet-and-greet at the Mile his first year in ChampCar, when he was driving for perennially underfunded Hogan Racing. He performed miracles with that car.

- Words cannot express how much I hate Eddie Cheever as an announcer. Almost as much as I hated him as a driver.

- Um, driver Alex Lloyd's wife is nine months and five minutes pregnant, and an hour ago was having contractions about ten minutes apart. Folks, she is at the track (needless to say, they haven't yet let her husband know she's in labor). Somehow, I don't think the trackside medical team includes any obstetricians.

- Worst commercial award is a tie between the Danica Patrick/female cycle cop/Go Daddy soft porn garbage and the "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" ripoff Indy heritage farce. What - almost 100 years of history, and you have to take another sports signature song? What happened to Back Home Again in Indiana?

- Congratulations to Helio. Let's just hope that this time, he remembers to pay the income tax on his winnings.

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