Sunday felt funny because I couldn’t go out and play a round of golf and I couldn’t watch two races on TV where the grandstands were filled at one and nearly full at the other.
This isn’t going to be a golf column. It’s also not a partisan op-ed. However, you have to wonder why the pandemic seems to be under control in the country to our south but not so much up here. Some states have size quotas for sporting activities (the Detroit Tigers can accommodate 8,000 fans at a time), while others do not.
Vaccines appear to be the solution. According to the US, any completely vaccinated American citizen will travel to Europe this summer.We placed a large order and received very little. The ones we got back then weren’t properly administered.
I got a shot (the one where you’re supposed to get the second one 21 days later, but I’m scheduled to get it in July; strange), but I had no trouble registering for an appointment or arriving at the hospital on time. In and out in under 30 minutes. Then I turn on the TV and see people sleeping outside in order to be first in line at a clinic the next day, and I’m like, “What the hell is that?”
The bottom line is that 135,000 people — or around 40% of capacity — will attend the Indianapolis 500 next month, but it is highly doubtful that any major spectator racing will take place in Ontario this summer, despite the fact that races are still on the schedule.
Those who were fortunate enough to get a ticket (or tickets) to either of the races that went to the gate on Sunday, however, were treated to two stunning performances.
Colton Herta won the NTT IndyCar Series race in St. Petersburg in front of around 25,000 fans, while Brad Keselowski won the Geiko 500 at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama in front of what was supposed to be 35% (of 80,000) capacity, but looked like a packed house.
97 of the 100 laps were led by Herta. While Herta was getting gasoline, Alex Palou, who won the season opener, led two laps, and Simon Pagenaud, who finished third, led a lap at the leader’s second pit stop. Second place went to Josef Newgarden. While it might not sound thrilling, there was some excellent racing along the way.
Our two Canadians didn’t have the best of luck. Oakville resident James Hinchcliffe must have felt like he was driving around with a target on his back. Takuma Sato collided with him early in the race, forcing him to stop and change a tyre, and Ed Jones did the same late in the race. Hinch managed to avoid pitting during the second attack. He started 12th and finished 18th at the finish line.Dalton Kellett of Stouffville had an electrical problem, and the car was rendered useless for the day. He was 24th at the start and 23rd at the finish.
Now, pay attention. This is critical. IndyCar no longer has only one TV competitor in the United States; it now has two. And it is up to him to do something about it. Quickly.
Tony Kanaan kissed the brick yard on his hands and knees after winning the Indy 500 in 2013. In a column, I suggested that someone should have approached him at that precise moment and kicked him in the buttocks.I predicted that the media would treat the 500 as if it were just another car race, but if anyone had followed my advice, it would have been the top storey on TV newscasts that night and on front pages around the world the next morning.
I’m not joking. These guys consider themselves to be club racers. When I wrote another column a few years ago in which I quoted Paul Tracy saying the series needed a Black Hat, Helio Castroneves said it in so many terms. “We’re not like that,” Castronever said during the Honda Indy in Toronto. “We have a thing for each other.”
That takes us to today, Sunday. After a brawl between Graham Rahal and Alexander Rossi, I would have attempted to punch the other guy if I had been Rahal (or Rossi, depending on your point of view). If he or anyone else had challenged me, I would have said something clever like, “Your mother wears Army boots,” and if he or anyone else had challenged me, I would have said, “‘Hit Man’ Tommy Hearns couldn’t beat me, you want to try?”
Did we, on the other hand, have that? No, no, no. Rossi and Rahal, both of whom were extremely pleasant, could not have been nicer. In reality, they’re best friends. Which is terrifying. I’ll explain why.
F1’s Grand Prix at Imola drew 906,000 viewers on a US cable channel (ESPN) a week ago, who witnessed a major crash between George Russell and Valtteri Bottas, during which Russell slapped Bottas’ helmet and Bottas gave Russell a one-finger salute. And it was Max Verstappen, not Lewis Hamilton, who took the victory. Meanwhile, IndyCar was shown on NBC, one of the Big Three in the United States, and drew 921,000 viewers, only a hundred more than F1 on cable.The IndyCar audience was treated to a parade, which was won by a driver who is only in his second year of racing but who no one has heard of.
NASCAR, of course, was racing at Richmond last week on the same day as Formula One and IndyCar, and several million people tuned in to watch. It was bad enough that IndyCar was second to NASCAR, but if F1 continues to rise in the ratings game when IndyCar falls to third, you have to wonder about the sport’s future.
Isn’t there another Paul Tracy somewhere?
On the telecast, they mentioned it, but there was no reason for IndyCar to hang Jimmie Johnson out to dry the way they did. Johnson slipped off the track and into the fence, and IndyCar simply ignored him. They may have been waiting for him to back up and get moving again, but even a seasoned IndyCar driver can struggle with this. It’s difficult to put one of those cars into reverse without causing it to stall, and even if you can, Johnson will be backed up into traffic, which is unsafe for everyone. They eventually threw the yellow, but you couldn’t help but wonder if it was done to annoy him.
Is it possible to shave him down to size? Is there a big NASCAR driver coming in here and getting all the attention? We’ll demonstrate. Whatever the case might be, they should not have acted the way they did. I’m hoping Chip Ganassi, who is driving him, tells IndyCar not to do that again.
The major speedway in Dallas will host a double-header of IndyCar races next weekend. They’ll race at 7 p.m. on Saturday and again at 5 p.m. on Sunday. Since the races will not be shown on NBC, we’ll have to see how Rogers handles the situation.
NASCAR is a racing series that takes place in the
I’ll confess that I didn’t pay attention to much of the Cup race from Talladega. I saw Joey Logano flip over at the end of the first round, and then I saw Matt DiBenedetto make the wrong move and lose the race in overtime to Brad Keselowski, who obviously didn’t get much sleep the night before. Please click here for a detailed account. Saturday’s Xfinity Series race was won by Jeb Burton. After his car caught fire following a crash in the ARCA race at Talladega, driver Derrick Lancaster remains in critical but stable condition in the hospital.
Notes & News
If someone ever tells you that rallying is a safe sport, smack them in the face.Last week, three athletes were killed in the Targa Tasmania. Vehicle rollovers killed drivers Shane Navin and Leigh Mundy, as well as navigator Dennis Neagle. An inquiry has been launched by Motorsport Australia.
This week, Vancouver residents will vote on whether or not to allow a Formula Electric race to take place on city streets. At least one of the promoters is someone I know, and I wish her the best of luck. I also wish the best of luck to Vancouver, which is anticipating a tourist boom similar to the early Molson Indy races that were held there, according to the most recent news report I read. I’m hoping they finished their assignments.Meanwhile, at the F-E races this weekend in Spain, the first race was a tragedy, with most of the cars running out of gas on the last lap (the races are timed events), and the second race came dangerously close to repeating the first. The first race was won by Nyck de Vries, and the second race was won by Jake Dennis (who?).
Dave Darland, a member of the US National Sprint Car Hall of Fame, had a minor stroke over the weekend and is recovering in the hospital. He won the National Midget Championship in 1999 (again in 2001 and 2003), the National Sprint Car Championship in 1999, and the USAC Silver Crown Championship in 2007. In USAC history, he is just the third driver to win all three championships.
Charlie Glotzbach, a four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, passed away at the age of 82. He won races in the ARCA Series despite never being a full-time driver. He worked full-time as the owner of a truck dealership in southern Indiana.