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"After months of hype, neither the Indianapolis 500 nor the competing U.S. 500 proved to be a classic event. But the Indy 500 may have bested the rival race by avoiding a calamity," writes Bill Koenig of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR-NEWS. The U.S. 500 in Brooklyn, MI, was delayed for more than an hour after a pace- lap accident wiped out 12 of 27 cars (INDIANAPOLIS STAR-NEWS, 5/27). U.S. 500 officials announced an attendance of 110,879. Indy officials never release attendance, but it was estimated at 400,000 (Ken Denlinger, WASHINGTON POST, 5/28). Tickets to Indy were not in as high demand as previous years. Scalpers were getting less than face value, and $125 penthouse tickets, which were going for $40, had gone for up as high as $1,000 in the past (Eliot Alexander, Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 5/27).
Auto racing writers and columnists reviewed the IRL's Indy 500 and CART's U.S. 500. Here's a sampling: WHO WON: The N.Y. TIMES' Joseph Siano notes if there was a winner, "it was probably" IRL President Tony George, with a "clear but inelegant decision" over CART (N.Y. TIMES, 5/28). In DC, Ken Denlinger writes Indy "fared better than CART had hoped," while the U.S. 500 "went worse than Indy 500 admirers had dared dream" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/28). In K.C., Jason Whitlock gives the edge to Indy, adding "perhaps now athletes will realize that the event (or league) is just as important -- and in many cases, like Indy, more important" (K.C. STAR, 5/27). In San Diego, Nick Canepa writes, "Sure looks like Indy to me" (SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE, 5/27). In Philadelphia, Bill Fleischman: "Indy proved it can run a successful race without CART's marquee drivers" (PHILA. DAILY NEWS, 5/28). In Milwaukee, Dale Hoffman: "You would have to say Tony George won the first round. You just wish there didn't have to be a rematch" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 5/27). In Miami, Gary Long writes the day "belongs to George," adding the IRL founder "didn't gloat" over the rough start in MI (MIAMI HERALD, 5/27). In Orlando, Brian Schmitz notes the IRL won "a monumental upset victory," because there were no "deaths or disasters, as everyone feared" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 5/27). In Indianapolis, Wayne Fuson: "Chalk one up for Tony George and his Indy Racing League" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR-NEWS, 5/27). In Tampa, Holly Cain: "The Indy 500 didn't turn out to be as bad as people predicted and the U.S. 500 didn't necessarily end up being reflective of the sport's elite. The lesson in all this is that tradition won out" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 5/27). In Dallas, Cathy Harasta notes Indy was "legitimate," adding that Buddy Lazier's "valor allowed the Indy 500 to stay intact and asterisk free" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 5/27). In Detroit, Terry Foster: "Although Michigan provided the best racing ... Please make the inaugural U.S. 500 a one-hit wonder" (DETROIT NEWS, 5/27). In Boston, Michael Vega noted Indy went off "without a flaw" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/27). In Toronto, Jim Hunt gives the nod to CART, adding "it was pretty pathetic watching ABC trying to make names out of the drivers at Indy" (TORONTO SUN, 5/28). In Atlanta, Steve Hummer: "Neither Indy nor the upstart U.S. 500 made particularly strong cases to their fractured audience" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 5/27). ESPN's John Kernan called Sunday's battle "almost a draw." But, he added, due to the crash, U.S. 500 drivers "did little to back up their claim that the best drivers were in Michigan" (ESPN, 5/27). NEXT MOVE? The N.Y. TIMES' Siano notes Sunday's race was more of a "sideshow" than a "decisive battle," as the task facing George and the IRL is to expand their schedule and widen their exposure. The next IRL race is August. For corporate sponsors "who don't want their product's name to evaporate in the summer heat, CART suddenly looks a lot better after Memorial Day" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/28). CART President Andrew Craig didn't rule out CART drivers being at Indy next year and George said he would welcome them (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 5/27). ESPN's John Kernan said George "appears to be sitting in the cat bird's seat." Kernan reports if the IRL can "beef up" its '96-97 schedule with a 14 to 15-race series, "many experts believe that would force CART's hand and lead to a compromise" (ESPN, 5/27). In Philadelphia, Bill Fleischman notes George and the IRL have "other problems," as tourism in Indy was estimated to take a $10M loss for the month (PHILA. DAILY NEWS, 5/28). CART's Craig said he was disappointed at the poor start to their race, but added, "I regard them (IRL) as a competitor, an honorable competitor" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR- NEWS, 5/27).
On ESPN's "Sports Reporters," Mitch Albom noted the superiority of NHL overtimes compared to other sports: "You watch 10 straight minutes of overtime in hockey before you get a chance to take a breath and have to see a commercial (ESPN, 5/26)....Tryouts for the women's ABL began in Atlanta. Over 550 players were expected (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 5/27)....In Ft. Worth, columnist Gil LeBreton on the NBA playoffs: "I'm not down on the NBA. I'm just distressed that commissioner Stern and his apostles seem to think the league is in its ascendancy. Yeah right. Them and Prince Charles" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 5/26). In New York, Bill Madden with MBLPA Exec Dir Don Fehr's failure to counter MLB negotiator Randy Levine's recent "movement," there is a "growing belief" that the only way to get a labor deal in baseball "is if the agents get involved from the union's side" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/26).
U.S. Senator Phil Gram will bring NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to Houston today to begin talks "aimed at easing the testy relations between the city and the league," according to John Williams of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. The two will meet with Mayor Bob Lanier and Harris County Judge Robert Eckels. A "key to the discussion" will be U.S. Rep. Martin Hoke's (R-OH) Fan Freedom and Franchise Protection Act, currently before Congress. That bill would require leagues to restore teams to abandoned cities within five years. Gramm has been "unwilling to support the bill," but an aide said he might change his mind if Houston does not get a team to replace the Oilers (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 5/29). In Nashville, Rep. Ed Bryant (R-TN) said he has had talks with GOP House leadership and believes the Hoke bill will be "quickly killed" (Penny Bender, Nashville TENNESSEAN, 5/24). NEWS & NOTES: ESPN's Chris Mortensen reports, in addition to a $500,000 fine for any contact between an owner and another city over relocation, other sanctions, including the loss of draft picks, could be levied ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 5/28). In Baltimore, Vito Stellino writes in his column ("Tagliabue's no- move edict has no teeth") that the Commissioner "seems to have forgotten that action speaks louder than words" (Baltimore SUN, 5/26)....In Tampa, Nick Pugliese writes "straw polls" at the latest NFL meetings in Charlotte showed that "old-guard owners still have enough votes to block changes" to the league's cross- ownership policy -- "hardly good news" for the Dolphins' Wayne Huizenga or the Seahawks' Paul Allen (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 5/26).