Sunday, May 24, 2009

Indy 500 Needs to Re-Embrace the Coca Cola 600

Today is one of the biggest days for racecar fans. The Indianapolis 500, the premiere auto race in the country, and the Coca Cola 600, NASCAR's longest race, pop off today.

Now, I'm not a gear head. But I flip over to the Indy 500 every once in a while to see what's going on. I'm also interested in the Coca Cola 600 since it is in my hometown of Charlotte. I enjoy the pageantry that comes with both events.

I just wish the Indy 500 went back to the old days where they began their race at noon. That way, some of those double-duty drivers could race in the Indy 500 in the afternoon and the Coca Cola 600 in the evening. That would help bring some star power back to Indianapolis.

The Indy drivers used to be the racing stars. Mario Andretti, Emerson Fittipaldi, Al Unser and Bobby Rahal were very well known. And while there will be an Andretti and a Rahal competing in today's 500, there aren't too many stars out there anymore. Oh, there's Danica Patrick who is known more for her ads than actually winning anything. And you have Helio Castroneves, who is more known now for Dancing With the Stars and getting off on tax evasion. After that, no one knows these cats.

But we know Tony Stewart. He used to race in the Indy 500, get immediately on a plane heading to Charlotte, land and take a helicopter to Lowe's Motor Speedway in time for the Coca Cola 600.

Because of Indy's decision to start their race later, there is no way that Stewart can compete in both events. And that is a shame. While the Indy 500 holds more prestige, the Sprint Cup Points are just so much more valuable to Stewart.

NASCAR has star power now. Dale Earnhardt Jr is the face of the sport even though he isn't winning that much. People know who Jeff Gordon is. Who Jimmie Johnson is. Wouldn't allowing those Sprint Cup guys the ability to compete in the Indy 500 be beneficial?

I know it didn't happen a lot, but I loved the double-dippers. Not only did is show their ability to drive two different types of cars in two very different kinds of races, it also showed some of the most interesting feats in sport. How can a man sit in a tiny Indy car for three hours, then sit on a plane for about two hours, then a helicopter for a spell before sitting in a stock car for another three hours. Don't give me that crap about "all they do is sit down and steer" when driving one of those cars takes it out on you -- physically and mentally. I love it.

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