See images from the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500.
The story of this year’s Indianapolis 500 was supposed to be a feel-good tale about the end of a decade-long civil war that split the sport into rival leagues and so damaged both that they wound up sucking on the fumes of NASCAR as it zoomed past in popularity and prize money. Instead, the 92nd running of what was once called “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” turned out to be one of the sloppiest.
There was eight cautions, 10 crashes and way too little racing. The best maneuver of the afternoon was the one that winner Scott Dixon pulled to beat then-leader Vitor Meira out of the pits with the yellow flag still flying and 29 of the 200 laps left to go. The New Zealander never faced a serious challenge after that.
As far as suspense, that ended on the same lap and in almost the same place. Danica Patrick, the sport’s glamour girl, saw her day ended when Ryan Briscoe pulled out of his pit box too quickly and skidded into the back of her car, wrecking the suspension. After climbing out, a steamed Patrick began striding purposefully down the lane, yanked off her gloves and looked ready for a second collision with Briscoe — this time between her fist and his face.
But after she brushed past one uniformed speedway official, a plainclothes security officer persuaded Patrick to climb over the pit wall and back in the direction of the garage. She stormed past a few waiting TV cameras and into a sponsor’s hut but eventually cooled off and reappeared later.
“Probably best,” she conceded, “that I didn’t get down there, anyway.”
It’s tempting to blame the mess on the 11 rookies in the field, but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate. There were 13 in the field in 1997, the second year of the split created when speedway owner Tony George chased off most of the top drivers and teams and started his own Indy Racing League, and even that race was more entertaining than this one. True, the rookies gummed up traffic all over the oval, but six were still running at the end and none was involved in the mishaps that decided the outcome.
After Briscoe’s parking lot-caliber mishap, the second-worst move probably belonged to Marco Andretti, heir to one of the great names in the sport. The grandson of Mario, the patriarch and only Andretti ever to win one of these, pinched teammate Tony Kanaan on the low side while passing him on Lap 106 and caused a spinout that ended the Brazilian’s day.
In just three years of racing, Andretti already has a well-earned reputation as a daredevil. He hardly needs to add reckless to his resume.
“Stupid? I don’t know about stupid,” Andretti responded. “Last minute, maybe. I had an awesome run on him. Maybe I dive-bombed him too late. I don’t know. I’ll have to look at the tape. If so, I completely apologize.”
There’s no chance the people in control of open-wheel racing will follow suit. The product and personalities are nowhere near as compelling as they were before the split. Then again, compared to the last dozen years, the sport is on a roll. Patrick finally won a race earlier this year to justify some of the hype that surrounded her, Helio Castroneves won on “Dancing with the Stars” and drew a few new fans to open-wheel racing, TV numbers are inching up and some new sponsors have come into the fold.
Take a look at the history and records of the Indianapolis 500.
Indy 500 traditions
In a race celebrating its 92nd running, there are a number of traditions.
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