As good as the Long Beach race was this weekend, I seem to remember most some of the surreal television moments from the weekend…The Senile/Drunk Irish preist delivering the…Prayer??...Invocation??...Sentimental Rambling??? Taylor Dayne showing us that plastic surgery can do a lot of things…but perhaps improving the singing the anthem aint one of them. Robin Miller and the quest for the missing drivers…All these provided humorous “Huh?What?” moments for the pre race show as MrsJPIndyCar and I shared bemused looks across the room. WOW this is a horrible paragraph…
But anyway, another similar moment of note happened the day before. The first round of KO qualifying was over and it was time to cut to IndyCar’s official curmudgeon. Robin Miller in a tone somewhere between a whine and a cry of desperation lamented the fact that neither Graham Rahal nor Marco Andretti had advanced in qualifying and “How’s the sport ever supposed to grow if these young stars don’t start winning races” or something to that effect. Fortunately, MrsJPIndyCar survived the tirade that followed…
This has nothing to do with the merits of either driver, they both are at least solid journeymen at their trade...but if IndyCar is relying on these two to save the series, it’s doomed.
In much the same way I believe that a series will not succeed if it’s most famous ass crack doesn’t win races, a series is also not going to thrive if it relies on second generation drivers to carry the banner forward into the future. That’s not to say there weren’t/aren’t second generation drivers of note, some of them achieving true greatness. But A series needs to have a set of stars that links itself to the perception that a normal person with talent and persistence can rise to the upper echelons of the sport.
It’s sappy and sentimental, but it is also the “promise of America”. Aristocracy, Landed Gentry and inherited nobility are European concepts, they are not ours.
I won’t argue that Graham hasn’t had his struggles along the way in IndyCar, but keep this in mind, both he and Marco are age peers to Hinch, JR, Kimball, John Edwards or Jonathan Summerton. Yet both arrived on the IndyCar scene years before Hinch, JR or Kimball. And despite sucess in the Jr formula the others have left single seaters for sports car rides…Entitlement and access to opportunity sped the way to the series, and a healthy dose of skepticism will always follow them until future accomplishments drown that out.
I have never been a big fan of Sam Hornish, but I believe the IndyCar series feels his loss tremendously. Take some time to ponder the change in TV ratings or attendance at the non Indy ovals before vs after he left. Like Tony Stewart before him, he provided proof that the kid racing at the Dirt track at the fairground or the Kart track down the road could rise and get to the top. The local kid could succeed.
Instead what we have are Graham and Marco, each making bonehead moves that tested the durability of the DW12 chassis and created a twitter kerfuffle that escalated to involving pops and grand pops.
Lost in this “spat of the entitled” is the fact that JR made his first fast six at Barber and finished 5th at Long Beach. Josef Newgarden was the Second fastest Honda at Long Beach, starting from the front row. Hinch made his first podium and sits 5th in points. The stars are rising and they will bear names previously unknown to the casual sports fan.
The IndyCar series’ strongest asset is a stable of compelling talented young drivers. JRH, Hinch, Josef, Kimball, Bryan Clauson, Simona and YES, Graham and Marco. But in truth, success from the first 6 of these drivers is more likely to build the grass roots fan base this series needs to move forward. I hope the promoters, media members and broadcast partners of the sport see it the same way…