Formula 1; the U.S. Grand Prix at Indy; twenty-two of the best drivers in the world.
And the first lap like the start of a novice bomber race at a quarter-mile bullring.
By the end of the race the field was perilously close to the six racers that started last year's debacle. Only nine cars were running at the checkered flag. The saddest part of the first-lap accident is that Scott Speed, the first American to appear in a U.S. Grand Prix since Eddie Cheever in 1989, was taken out in the accident and had no chance to show the home fans what he can do.
The good news is that F1 czar Bernie Ecclestone had backed off of his antagonistic approach to contract negotiations with the track. Of course, that was before the race. With the crowd estimated at something under 100,000 by open-wheel guru Robin Miller, Tony George may not want to bleed cash by hosting the event any longer.
"Boogity, boogity, boogity" will be heard no more until 2007 as Darrel Waltrip and his FOX compatriots hand over Nextel Cup race coverage to the NBC team for the rest of the season. I have mixed feelings about the changeover. I was initially turned off by the brash FOX style, and I still have some reservations about some of their methods.
But I have to say that either FOX has matured or I've gotten younger over the last few years, because I've found myself enjoying their broadcasts more this year. The NBC style is a bit more staid and traditional, but I think they've stepped up the pace to compete more with FOX. Anyway, we'll see how it does today at Chicagoland.
NASCAR's new rule about the number of teams that can share ownership (four) has not yet gone into effect. So Jack Roush, who feels his five-team operation is the target of discrimination, is giving NASCAR a subtle poke in the eye by fielding no fewer than six teams at Chicagoland. Roush Racing's Craftsman Truck pilot Todd Kluever qualified the No. 06 Ford Fusion with Post-It sponsorship on Friday, and will make his Nextel Cup debut today. The chassis is an ex-Mark Martin piece, so Kluever has the tools to work with.
Speaking of Roush, Jack himself was in our local area on Thursday, taking part in the Great American Race. Since the coast-to-coast rally-style event is sponsored by the National Guard, there was a Greg Biffle National Guard sponsored show car on hand as the competitors stopped for lunch on Esmeralda Street in Minden. Channel 8 caught Roush, always the engineer, under a World War II-era Ford army staff car, adjusting a faulty clutch.
For those of you who have enjoyed those clever UPS commercials with Dale Jarrett, fear not. UPS announced last week that the company will sponsor Jarrett's Toyota when he switches to Michael Waltrip's team for 2007. Jarrett, 49, plans to run in the Nextel Cup series for at least two more years, and UPS felt that the brand identification with the popular driver was too strong to pass up. The Waltrip team is now in an enviable position, with solid sponsorship for Jarrett (UPS), Waltrip (NAPA), and commitments from Dominos Pizza and Burger King to sponsor a third car with a driver as yet unnamed.
When asked about possible candidates, Waltrip, 43, said, "I don't know yet, but it'll be somebody younger than Dale and me."
When young Champ Car driver A.J. Allmendinger was fired by the RuSport team a few weeks ago in mid-season, little did he know that it was the best thing that ever happened to his racing career? Picked up by Team Forsythe almost immediately, Allmendinger put on a dominating performance to win at Portland in his new ride, followed up with a come-from-behind victory at Cleveland a week later.
As this goes to press, Allmendinger had captured the Friday pole position for today's Toronto round of the Champ Car series. Who said getting fired was necessarily a bad thing?