Gentlemen, Start Your Remotes! I don't know what the big deal is about Robby Gordon running the Indy 500 and the World 600 in the same day. I've been strapped into my recliner for both races every year for as long as I can remember. It's an exhausting grind, but as long as I don't run out of beer and snacks, I can make it.
Last week was not one of my finest at predicting events, and I've taken my crystal ball into the shop for a complete overhaul. The IRL did manage to field 33 cars for Indy, with some last minute prestidigitation (and some cynics might say cash infusion and/or arm twisting by Speedway president Tony George). There was even eleventh-hour hype involving Tony Stewart and an A.J. Foyt backup car, which came to naught. Then there was my prognostication that Michael Schumacher would win his sixth race in a row and sixth Monaco Grand Prix. Even before the bizarre incident behind that pace car that took Michael out, he was a long shot to get past Jarno Trulli for the victory. It's a good thing I didn't predict the winner of the Nextel All-Star race. Given my record, I'd have probably picked Casey Mears to come through from the Open and win it all!
Events leading up to today's races have been a mixed bag. The once-fraught "Bump Day" one of the most excruciating ordeals in all of sports, has been reduced to a joke. Four laps at any speed got you into the race this year, and the only mildly exciting aspect of the day was the hoax perpetrated by Tony Stewart and A.J. Foyt, sending the ABC announcers into a tizzy of speculation about Stewart making a qualifying run. Hey, they had lots of dead air time to fill. Carburetion day held no surprises, with most teams just doing a few final shakedown laps. Robby McGehee and Greg Ray, who have had precious little track time this month, turned lots more laps trying to get things in shape for today's race.
Next year, drivers and teams may not have to spend so much time preparing for the Memorial Day classic. The Speedway's board of directors is scheduled to meet in the near future to discuss permanently shortening the event's schedule by a week. Given the minimal activity during the second weekend of qualifying and the dwindling spectator count, it makes economic sense to ax some time from the race's calendar. It would also free up the IRL to insert another race into the schedule prior to Indy.
I hope the Guinness Book of World Records is on the story that NASCAR has finally admitted a mistake! If you caught last Friday night's Craftsman Truck race at Lowe's Motor Speedway, you probably noticed the commentators remarking on Carl Edwards' spotter making an error by calling a caution when there was none. Well, NASCAR has issued a statement that the caution lights "were unintentionally illuminated momentarily on Lap 130" of the 134-lap race. The sanctioning body further explained that "the switch that controls the caution lights in the flagman's stand was momentarily triggered."
Edwards actually saw the caution lights while in the lead and slowed. Dennis Setzer, who apparently didn't see the momentary yellow, passed for the lead and went on to win the race. Although NASCAR has apologized for the error, it does Edwards precious little good, as the race result was left official as it stands. In my humble opinion, this is just another example of the unintended consequences of "freezing the field" that NASCAR has implemented since it eliminated racing back to the yellow flag. The policy has been controversial and problematic at best, and NASCAR would be well advised to come up with a less judgment-oriented method for the 2005 season.
As you watch the Indy 500 on the tube today, contemplate the fact that the race has been broadcast on ABC since 1965, with live coverage beginning in 1986. The tradition will apparently continue, as the Indy Racing League and ABC have extended their contract through the 2009 season. Unfortunately, that probably also means that we'll have to listen to Paul Page's inane commentary for another five years.
Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal motorsports columnist. Contact him at Racytalker@aol.com