Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Race Day in America

Dario now ranks as one of the best
Indy Tops Charlotte

Race day in America.  Eleven hundred miles of racing.  Add in the Grand Prix of Monaco and you have the perfect day.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner.  For a race fan, it’s the best day of the year. 

Wasn’t always that way.  Used to be Memorial Day was on the 31st of May, no matter what day of the week it fell on.  And the 500 was always run on Memorial Day, except when the 31st landed on Sunday.  Then the race was held on Saturday. 
All that changed when the Monday Holiday Act took effect in 1971 and the 500 moved to Sunday before the holiday.   The 600 continued to be held on a different day until 1974, when both were scheduled on Sunday for the first time.  Charlotte’s starting time was later moved to early evening and in recent years the 600 has dominated the television ratings as the most watched event on Race Day.
No word yet on which race won the 2012 TV rating battle but one thing is clear, the Indy 500 was easily the best race of the day, combining constantly shifting strategy with great racing and a record-breaking 35 official lead changes (changes at the start/finish line).  There were only 31 lead changes in the NASCAR race despite running twice as many laps.  When’s the last time that happened?
After getting spun in the pits and forced to restart last, Dario Franchitti raced his way back through the field.  Then he turned back the challenges of teammate Scott Dixon, close friend Tony Kannan and finally a banzai move by Takuma Sato, to win his third 500.  In sharp contrast to Marco Andretti, who led 59 laps early but faded in the second half of the race after some questionable pit calls and plenty of whining on Andretti’s part, Franchitti said nary a word while working his way back to the front.
If there was any doubt before, there shouldn’t be now.  Franchitti is among the very best modern-era Indy drivers.  His third win in six years, along with four IndyCar championships, may still leave him a notch behind A. J. Foyt and Rick Mears – but certainly on a par with everyone else in the past 50 years, including the Unsers, Andrettis and yes – even his hero Jimmy Clark.    
Ironically, many apparently don’t even consider Franchitti the best driver at Chip Ganassi Racing.  In an announcement made over the weekend, he finished second to Juan Pablo Montoya in an online poll of voters at the team's web site for the honor.  
In Charlotte, Kasey Khane claimed his first victory for Hendrick Motorsports and his third World 600 win.  Much was expected of Khane at the start of this season, his first for Hendrick, and while he struggled initially, he was been coming on strong in recent weeks.  All four Hendrick teams were headed for the Top 10 until a late race pit mishap put Jimmy Johnson at the end of the field.  Remember, it was the Johnson’s team that won the pit stop competition prior to the All-Star race.
And at Monaco we had our sixth different winner in six races as the Formula One season continues to be more interesting that we could have ever hoped for.
So it’s come to this:  Once upon a time on the Friday before Memorial Day Weekend, USA Today would run an auto racing special section (paid for by additional advertising).  Not this year.  There was a special section in sports, four pages devoted to the Ultimate Fighting Championship.  Reduced fan interest is only one reason for the change.  But reduced interest in newspaper advertising is the real key.  

1 comment:

  1. Art: Could you please drop me a note when you get a chance? EMauk@motorsport.com Thanks! Eric Mauk