Time To Turn The Page From Indy
Christmas afternoon is probably the year’s biggest letdown. After what has become a three-month buildup to St. Nick’s arrival, we all sit that afternoon and wonder ”Now, what do we do?” A close second in the massive deflation department, is the week following the Indianapolis 500. Now, what do we do?
For weeks we have cheated at work; having that mythical spreadsheet ready to pop open if the boss walked by, while we kept an eye on practice via the internet. We checked any possible website several times daily, to see who might get that last minute ride in a second car. Travel plans were made and pennies were skimped – all in anticipation for the big weekend in central Indiana. When the moment finally arrived, it was a euphoria that is hard to describe to anyone who hasn’t gotten the fever. Monday comes and we’re tired, but still riding a high as we travel back home and start to digest everything that went on over the big weekend.
And then it is Tuesday — Christmas afternoon, all over again. Not only that, but it’s back to the routine of life. Reality doesn’t creep in – it smacks us in the face. The buildup, the anticipation, the excitement…it’s all over. Now what do we do? I guess there’s always the rest of the season to talk about. As much as we hate to…we’ve got to turn the proverbial page. So…on to Milwaukee!
At least this year the week has been chocked full of surprises; ranging from the unlikely pairing of AJ Foyt and Paul Tracy, to the family squabbles at 16th and Georgetown.
The Paul Tracy-AJ Foyt storyline is an interesting twist. This is a volatile combination that could either produce great success or tremendous failure. If I had to guess, I’d say that AJ Foyt’s team could have it’s best run in years – that is, if the two of them can keep from getting into a shouting match before the car is unloaded from the transporter. Milwaukee is a driver’s track. No driver in the field has won at Milwaukee more times than Paul Tracy (4). Granted, he was with better teams than Foyt’s but AJ also has four Milwaukee wins under his belt, so he knows a thing or two about getting around the Milwaukee Mile. Plus, Foyt’s team is slowly making gains under Larry Foyt’s direction. It should be interesting to see how PT does in the famous #14 on this historic track.
Of course, the most followed storyline will be the newest three-time Indy 500 winner. If recent history holds true, the 2009 IndyCar champion will be clad in day-glo orange and white with a big smile and a Portuguese accent. Buddy Rice was the last winner of the Indy 500 to not go on and win the series championship in the same year. On Sunday, Castroneves joined a select group of nine drivers who have won Indy at least three times, yet there is one smaller group that he hopes to escape from. Helio Castroneves is in the undesirable club of drivers over the last fifty years to have won the Indianapolis 500, yet never to have won a major open-wheel championship at some point in their career. There are only six other members of that small group…Buddy Rice (2004), Eddie Cheever (1998), Arie Luyendyk (1990 & 1997), Mark Donohue (1972), Parnelli Jones (1963) and Jim Rathmann (1960).
Helio heads to Milwaukee this Sunday, trailing Dario Franchitti by just five points in the championship standings – this after missing the first race of the season due to his overly documented legal problems. You would have to say that momentum is on his side, but he’s going to need it. Milwaukee is a track where Castroneves hasn’t had much success. His first year at the Milwaukee Mile in 1998 was his best when he finished a surprising second, as a CART rookie driving for Tony Bettenhausen. Last year, he finished fifth. Between those two races were a string of disappointing finishess for Castroneves at the Wisconsin State Fair Park.
He has finished dead-last twice. He appeared headed for victory in 2007 when his rear wing collapsed late in the race on the front straightaway. His car took a frightening and sudden turn head-on, into the inside wall. Fortunately he was unhurt but it ruined a promising day, nevertheless.
If Castroneves can escape West Allis, Wisconsin with the points lead, in a place where he has had such bad luck…then I’ll be ready to jump on the “Destiny” bandwagon.
It’s fairly obvious that I’m a big Castroneves fan. The one knock that has followed him throughout his entire career however, has been that he’s never won a championship beyond his karting days in Brazil. In Indy Lights, Castroneves led most of the 1997 season, only to lose the championship to longtime friend, rival and teammate Tony Kanaan. In CART, he was the other guy to teammate Gil de Ferran, as de Ferran won two CART championships in a row for Roger Penske. In the IRL Helio watched teammate Sam Hornish win a championship in 2006. He’s come close but has yet to close the deal. Helio needs to get past this hurdle in Milwaukee this weekend. He doesn’t need to win, but he needs to have a good finish and not lose distance to Franchitti.
If he can do that, I’ll start cautiously whispering the “D” word.