I'm not going to pretend I watch IRL after the 500. Nor am I going to say that Dan was my hero, despite the fact I picked him to win last May. But the hurt was real, the tears did demand release. Anytime you lose a 33-year old with his life ahead of him and a family to support, it is tragic.
But tragedy has a lot of shades. Watching the Brickyard this year was about as exciting as if Dale Jarrett and his UPS friends were running the race in big brown trucks. Because Stock cars don't belong on a open-wheel track. They look stupid, and the result is boring. Conversely, having open wheelers on a NASCAR track is like hopping the starship Enterprise at FWA and jetting to Indy. I get that IRL was looking to "jazz up" its finale, literally going for broke in an attempt to get ratings up. But why not just have an IRL race at Charlotte, and the winner is the one who keeps from flying off the track the longest? Shouldn't take more than a half-hour, you can run it as a warm-up to the NASCAR race.
Apparently, the drivers were talking all week about the potential for danger in this race. I've heard two separate reporters say that every driver expressed reservations about this race. Now I'm going to ask a question we all know the answer to, and I wish that everyone involved in this race being held would answer this question in his own heart. If you all knew that something like this was likely to happen, why the hell didn't any of you say, "F this, I'm not doing it"? It might have only took one of you standing up to set off a chain of events that would have led to Dan Wheldon being at home with his wife and babies tonight.
Of course, the answer is that these are driven individuals that would compete in a parking lot if IRL decided that was the place for a race. I hear Franchitti and Kanaan are going to get the younger drivers together to tell them why this happened and what they can do to prevent things like it from happening. I also heard that Jeff Burton marched into the NASCAR Veep of competitions' office today to discuss safety concerns about this track. Bravo, gentlemen.
Did someone really have to die to get you to do this, though?
I know that NASCAR leads the world in working on safety. And I know that Wheldon himself was working with IRL to make their sport safer. But let me boil Sunday down to its simplest turns. The IRL ran a race on a track not built for their cars, a track they hadn't raced on in eleven years, laced it with incentives to be cutthroat in order to save their spot on ABC, and as a result a driver who was running in just his 3rd race all year died. I don't know that I have to watch it every weekend to think that might lead to trouble.
Add to this a comment I heard on the coverage late Sunday: "If you take all the ovals like Vegas out of the picture, the IRL is a road-race circuit with a highlight at Indianapolis." Sorry to hear it. Sorry you couldn't sustain your other Indy style tracks. But if you can't sustain your sport without putting your athletes at unreasonable risk, then maybe you should just say goodbye. People in NASCAR bitch about restrictor plate racing, but it saves lives. If they can do it right, IRL should too.
Just to lighten things up, here's the latest entrant in the "Least amount of effort put into a scam e-mail" category, and I'm not sure that anyone can beat this one. The "from " is a Mr. Water Bill (I kid thee not), and it goes like this:
Do you need urgent loan? if yes reply back
That's the whole thing, guys. It don't get more streamlined than that.