Wilson wrote an article that ran in the Sunday May 25th race-day edition
of the Indianapolis Star titled "Foreigners know their limit' and
subtitled "Drivers understand race's popularity could suffer if
majority of drivers weren't American". REALLY? You mean we've all
just been imagining that the decline of "Formula Indy", as
the Brazilians call it, was triggered by decades of internal dispute
that led to the formation of competing IRL and CART circuits?
mean it wasn't REALLY exciting to see Hélio Castroneves shoot
for an unprecedented "three-peat", or to see the Brazilians come
in 1-2-3 in the closest ever three car finish at the "Greatest
Spectacle in Racing"? Whatever happened to the good old American
anthem that "competition is a healthy thing"?
Tony George is an astute businessman, and I believe he is, he might
consider erecting a new flag-pole at the track to fly the flag of the
nation from which the winning driver hails. Let everyone see that flag
fly for twelve months and spark a little more drive to field an American
driver who can win the next year and have it replaced with the Stars
and Stripes. Don't you think we can do that? Where's our confidence?
we have the confidence; I just think Wilson is selling us short. Wilson
leans on a Kenny Brack quote saying that "if you had a 500 with
all Swedes, nobody would pay a damn dollar to see it". Well, no
kidding! If you had an F1 in Austria that only fielded Swedes is
seems likely that no one in Austria would pay a damn Euro to see THAT
me a break! If Formula Indy ever became as big internationally as F1
we'd all be in racing heaven. The best thing that has happened to racing
at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in years has been the emergence
of the approachable, entertaining, enthusiastic and immensely talented Brazilian
drivers. Kudos now too to the equally approachable Japanese. I'm sure
it's only a matter of time before they'll begin to excel, given the
backing they're getting from Toyota and Honda.
back to the Brazilians; Hélio's fence climbing antics and
'Spiderman' moniker have literally ignited the imaginations of
children across the country, all future Indy500 fans. He and Gil de
Ferran have also ignited the interest of older fans. When I went to
a pre race Penske dealership autograph signing for Hélio, I found
the dealership locking fans out an hour early because the line inside
was already so long they didn't anticipate getting everyone already
inside an opportunity to get a signature.
"foreigners", as Wilson refers to them have been a breath
of fresh air. I remember seeing a wire service regular at a press conference
try to bait Gil de Ferran into criticizing Hélio for showing
emotion after winning the pole. Gil deflected the criticism and had
the honesty to show a little of his own, after edging out Hélio
to win the race. What a thought; talent, determination, work ethic AND
certainly can't have that, now can we? Lets all take a deep breath,
acknowledge that Roger Penske and the "Boys from Brazil" have
given our sagging Memorial Day classic a lift, invite them and the Japanese,
English, New Zealander, South African and Swedish drivers back next
year and thank our lucky stars that they'll likely want to return.
we really need media headlines hinting at an anti-foreigner sentiment?
Even if it exists to some extent, and given the increase of jingoism
since 9/11 I'm sure it does, it clearly isn't a primary factor determining
Formula Indy popularity and it shouldn't be encouraged. Open all doors,
let anyone and everyone who can compete do so and if you don't like
it go out and secure more sponsorship, build more competitive cars and
train better drivers.
recollection is that here in the USA we promote the idea that we want
the cream to rise to the top, and we don't lean on propping up "our
guys" when it isn't warranted. We have more pride than that!
Congratulations to Tony George, Roger Penske, Penske racing president
Tim Cindin, Gil de Ferran, Hélio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan for
putting on a great show on race day at Indianapolis!
was composed as listener input to the nationally syndicated Jim
Wagner is a regular contributor to Brazzil, covering the Indianapolis
500 for the 3rd consecutive year for the magazine. Contact
Phillip at firstname.lastname@example.org