It’s sometimes interesting the way some blog posts will set off a firestorm that go off in the strangest directions. On Wednesday, Susan Scruggs wrote an article that she felt strongly about – how she prefers ovals over road courses. All Susan knows of the open-wheel split is what I’ve told her or what she occasionally hears on television. Like most, she was not even aware of the sport in the nineties and knows nothing nor cares about all of the political posturing that took place fifteen years ago.
Being a longtime follower of the sport, I knew such article would create a lot of traffic. It did. The angst in the voices of both sides didn’t surprise me. But she has gotten to the point that she actually dreads watching a road course, yet she loves watching ovals. Susan knows enough about the new regime and what Randy Bernard is trying to do, that she felt it was important to lend a voice of the casual fan to this site. Hers is a fresher voice than mine because she has only been following this sport for about seven or eight years – not almost half a century, like me. I’m glad she has enough interest to take the time to voice her opinion and having the guts to take on a subject that I knew would be cheered by some and would irritate others. The traffic and amount of comments didn’t surprise me.
What did surprise me was the direction that the comments took on Wednesday afternoon. Susan and her pro-oval stance were quickly forgotten. Instead, a battle started brewing between two readers about American sports in general. One side said that today’s society places way too much emphasis on winning in sports. Huh?
Before we look at the upcoming IZOD IndyCar Series race at Chicago, I must throw in my two-cents worth. Winning is the purpose of having athletic competition. It’s that simple. Has our society now been infiltrated with the ideas from academia that says that competition is bad and our world would be much better if we could all co-exist peacefully without competing against one another? Dear God, I hope not.
To quote that immortal philosopher Herm Edwards – “You play to win the game”.
Is Vince Lombardi now considered that much of a dinosaur for uttering “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing”? How about all of the quotes on winning from AJ Foyt and Mario Andretti? Do you think winning mattered to them? Would Bobby Unser have had the same level of success if competition and winning wasn’t important to him?
The Tee-Ball mentality in today’s society dictates that we shouldn’t keep score and we should all get a trophy so we can all feel good about ourselves. Why don’t we bulldoze Victory Lane at Indianapolis, not count laps and when Brian Barnhart decides everyone has driven around enough, he’ll pull them all in and all thirty-three drivers will get their own bottle of milk? It sounds silly doesn’t it? Not to those who think we place way too much value on winning in sports.
The absolute in sports is what attracts us. We spend all week at work dealing with the bureaucracies of corporate America, that we sometimes don’t know what, if anything was accomplished. Sometimes you find yourself meeting to decide whether or not to have a meeting. It makes your head spin. Like the Monday Night Football commercials – we look forward to weekends, just to get some sanity to our lives. The beauty in sports is that there is black & white. There is very little gray. There are winners and there are losers. Winning should be celebrated, while losing should be something to learn from to prevent it from happening too often.
I don’t normally single out readers and pick on them. I appreciate the readers and their comments on this site. Without them, there wouldn’t be much of a reason to keep doing this. Unfortunately, this particular reader happened to hit one of my biggest hot buttons, and I just had to vent. I apologize for the rant.
Now, about Chicago…
The IZOD IndyCar Series returns to the ovals this weekend, which is a relief to many and drudgery to others. The next two tracks have historically played host to some of the closest finishes in IRL history – Chicago and Kentucky.
Chicagoland Speedway is located in semi-beautiful Joliet, Illinois. I’ve never been to the track, but I’ve been to Joliet. Probably the best thing I can say about Joliet, is that it is nicer than Gary, IN. I’ll leave it at that. The track itself falls into the cookie-cutter category, meaning it is a 1.5 mile tri-oval – very similar to Kansas and Kentucky – and a larger version of what Nashville once hoped it would be.
Chicagoland Speedway is not to be confused with Chip Ganassi’s ill-fated Chicago Motor Speedway, although both were built around he same time. CMS was located in Cicero, IL on the site of a horse racing track. It was a one-mile tight paperclip type track similar to Milwaukee and New Hamphire, but the track produced racing with no passing. The track ceased operations in 2002 and demolition of the track began in 2009.
Unlike recent races at Kansas, the racing at Chicagoland Speedway has been fast and furious. There is no doubt that we’ll have to endure multiple replays of Ryan Briscoe’s hideous crash there in 2005, when his Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz was ripped in half in the catch-fencing. After his recovery over the long off-season, Briscoe was told that Ganassi was scaling back to a two-car team and he was the odd man out. I would say things have worked out well to this point for him, but I hope he doesn’t squander his opportunity at Team Penske.
One thing about returning to the ovals, it brings Will Power down to the level of mere mortals. I’m not opposed to Power winning the championship I just don’t want him to run away with it, like he is currently doing. Curt Cavin predicts that Power will win one of the four remaining ovals. I’m not so sure. Although he has been close a couple of times, he has never won on an oval. I’m just not sure how hard he pushes with a fifty-nine point lead in the standings.
Power won’t win this weekend, but neither will either of the Target boys – although Dario Franchitti needs to. Since I rambled on so much in the earlier part of this post, I’ll wrap this up and make it short. The winner of this year’s race at Chicago will be…Helio Castroneves.