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May 29 2016

The 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500

Wait. How can that be? Didn’t it start in 1911?

You are correct, but you are not accounting for the years of 1917 and 1918 (The Great War) and 1942, 1943, 1944, and 1945 (World War II) which is six years all together. Of course the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a 2.5 mile white elephant constructed in 1909 by Carl G. Fisher (so poorly that it led to 2 deaths in the first two races) kind of elides that bit of history and much else and declared the time period between 2009 and 2011 a “Centennial Era”.

White Elephant? Since the track opened it’s been bleeding spectators even though, face it, there’s just not a lot to do in Indiana. This year in fact will be the first year ever local residents will be able to avoid a TV blackout because the seats have sold. For many years it was an enormous pile of masonry in the middle of a vast wasteland of parking lots except for Memorial Day Weekend. Enormous pile? 3.2 million bricks which while many bricks short of a pyramid or even a modest mastaba is a substantial amount.

This made the track somewhat survivable though as anyone who has driven on cobblestones knows massively uncomfortable and the first Indy 500 was won by cheating.

Ok, so taking advantage of an omission in the rules is not technically “cheating”, but they were sure quick to mandate the ‘riding mechanic’.

It attracted teams with a relatively high purse and instituted its own rules for which cars qualified, but what you have to understand is that this was a sport built around a building. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has well over 350,000 seats to fill and still bills itself as the largest venue in sports.

So for many years the strategy was to use it only for the 500 and during the 51 week off season the wind whistles, the weeds grow, and tumbleweed, well… tumbles.

Starting in 1994 Tony George (just as big an asshole as Bernie Ecclestone) who had inherited this monstrosity decided that was not the best business plan and opened up ‘The Brickyard’ to other events (the bricks had long since been paved over except for a 1 yard strip at the Start/Finish line). He set up a road course in the never full infield and basically let anyone run who wanted to, including Formula One for a time.

So now the marquee events are the Indy 500 and the Brickyard (Indy, duh) 400.

Now I’m actually a big fan of United States open wheel racing, or I was. In the 80s and 90s CART rules were actually looser than Formula One and resulted in cars that were much faster than their European counterparts.

When CART got taken over by IndyCar (told you Tony George was an asshole) that all changed and now it’s nothing more than a Turn Left festival of flaming chunks of burning metal.

Only more dangerous because they’re not built like Bumper Cars.

So I don’t follow it and have no idea who Simon Pagenaud is. I won’t be live blogging because that takes a lot more effort than you think (which is why I only do Formula One at Stars Hollow).

I’ll check in periodically, but it’s a hollow echo of what I once though great but has degraded to the point I wonder why in retrospect, much like many things have.

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