Danica, not Danny
Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist
When it comes to putting spin on something, the denizens of Washington, DC have nothing on the Indy Racing League.
In the wake of this year’s Indy 500 scoring higher TV ratings than NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600, Indy winner Dan Wheldon cranked the spin machine up to about 16,000 RPM.
“I don’t know many people who come to one of our races and don’t come to more,” said Wheldon between practice sessions at Texas Motor Speedway. “If I was the NASCAR people, I’d be getting scared. There’s a series out there that might be set to take away some of their fans. So watch out, boys.”
Of course, Wheldon conveniently left out the fact that the main reason Indy drew a 6.5 rating and 18 share (up 59 percent from last year’s race), was a young lady named Danica Patrick. The Coke 600 scored a 6.1 rating and 13 share, which would normally blow the Indy number out of the water. Wheldon’s next statement was so far-fetched that he just may be angling for a White House Press Secretary job when his racing career is over.
“The thing about the IRL right now – and that’s why we blew off the NASCAR numbers – is that it’s so competitive,” Wheldon said.
No, Danny boy, the reason was the aforementioned Ms. Patrick, who is now being followed to the porta-potties by the paparazzi after appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated and the sports section of most major newspapers from Atlanta to Zanzibar.
Tell you what, Dan. Let’s check out the TV ratings after this weekend’s match up between the IRL at Texas and NASCAR at Pocono and see if your party is still ahead.
Speaking of Texas, if Kyle Busch were trying to do the “triple” (Craftsman Truck, Busch Grand National, and Winston Cup) as he did at Dover last weekend, he’d be racking up the frequent flyer miles! Unlike Dover, all three series are running at widely separated tracks this weekend.
Craftsman Trucks ran Friday at Texas International, with local hero Mike Skinner (Susanville native and former competitor at T-Car, now Champion Speedway) finishing fourth to Jack Sprague who scored his 25th series win. The Busch series ran at Nashville last night, and since this is written prior to the green flag, you’ll have to check elsewhere in the Nevada Appeal for results.
Today’s Nextel Cup race is at Pocono, the “roval” (combination road course/oval) track in the mountains of Pennsylvania. A few years ago one prominent Cup driver, asked what his favorite part of Pocono was, answered, “The tunnel.” When the interviewer expressed disbelief, noting that the infamous “tunnel turn” was almost universally despised, the driver corrected a misapprehension. “Not the tunnel turn – I meant the tunnel itself, leaving this place in my rental car!”
The second big race of the season at Indianapolis is this coming weekend. The Grand Prix of the United States, one of only two North American stops on the Formula 1 circuit, takes place on Sunday. F1 has regained some interest for me this year.
First, it’s no longer a Michael Schumacher/Ferrari benefit, and second, the new rules regarding qualifying, impound, and tire usage have made things a lot more interesting. There are more on-track passes for position than at any time in the past 10 seasons, for one thing. I’ve been following Formula 1 for 40 years, and I have to say that I’m more interested this year than I have been in a while.
Even my daughter and son in law, who aren’t big fans of other forms of racing, have become big F1 fans this year. If you haven’t checked out the series coverage on SPEED TV, this coming weekend would be an excellent opportunity to do so without having to get up at 4 a.m. to watch it!
Finally, I want to extend my personal congratulations to local racer Mackena Bell, the 14 year old who won her first Legends main event at Champion Speedway last Saturday night. I’ve been following this young lady’s career since she started in karts four years ago, and I predicted that she would go far. Just think, Carson City may be grooming the next Danica Patrick!