The 2009 Indy 500 is drawing mixed reviews from series insiders and media types. I think this is an example of people who are making their living off the series, shooting it (and themselves) in the foot. While there could have been more passing for the lead (only six lead changes), every major racing series is faced with that same issue right now. NASCAR is reportedly considering changing their restart rules for that exact reason. This is a symptom of equal cars and is the direct result of rules that have been put in place to put everyone on equal footing. If everyone is running the same car and approximate engines then everyone is generally the same speed and passing is much more difficult. But does little passing for the lead equal a boring race? I say, “No.”
This is especially true when Indy Car’s biggest stars are involved, as they were on Sunday. Helio Castroneves faced hard time for tax evasion, a charge that he was acquitted of, putting him squarely in the national media spotlight for this year’s race. Helio responded with a sweep of the Month of May. He won everything including the pole, the pit crew competition and the race. Bore-ring! Apparently, America suddenly hates stories of redemption that involve highly popular personalities overcoming the possible depths of imprisonment, only to achieve the highest honors in their field through dominating victory, followed by a genuine emotional outburst. I guess it happens so often we’ve become jaded. The final outcome of Sunday’s race was one that any person could understand and feel connected to. Thus, it could never be considered boring.
Then, there is the Danica factor. The sports most exposed star, drives to the front and collects her best career finish, 3rd, in the biggest race on Earth. She didn’t do it through strategy or trickery, but skill. It’s obvious the “new” has worn off Danica. Now that everyone has seen her mostly naked body, all that is left is a race car driver and the results she will produce. Well, she just produced the best finish ever by a female in the Indy 500, resetting her own record of 4th in 2004! Sorry, Bore-ring! Call us when she wins. If that is the standard we are now living by, we might as well find something else to watch because only one person gets to win The Indy 500 each year. Imagine if a female athlete in any other sport finished third in that sport's most important event that had been traditionally dominated by men? What if Annika Sorenstam had finished 3rd at the Masters or U.S. Open or if Serena Williams had somehow made the Men’s semi-finals at Wimbledon? That story could not possibly be considered boring. And yet, following the greatest Indy 500 ever run by a female, some are simply not impressed.
These observation’s bring me to one conclusion, maybe it’s not the story that needs work, but those telling it. If Indy Car’s brightest stars, performing at the highest of levels in their biggest race can’t get the sports own media excited, the problem is not the sport or the number of passes for the lead, but the people covering it.