Indianapolis 500 Win By U.S. Driver Could Give IndyCar Series Much-Needed Jolt
The Indianapolis 500 being won by any of the 11 American drivers entered into Sunday's race could "deliver a needed jolt to an Izod IndyCar Series," whose popularity "still lags well behind NASCAR," according to Nate Ryan of USA TODAY. Crowning a U.S. winner "would cement a resurgence for homegrown talent in IndyCar." In addition to a "third of Sunday's 33-car field being comprised of American drivers, seven are running for the 2013 championship -- a five-year high." A win by Marco Andretti would "reawaken links to legendary names and storied history," while drivers Conor Daly and Josef Newgarden "represent hope for developing Generation Y stars." A win could "launch any of them on the road toward becoming a household name." Repucom, which tracks the exposure of drivers and sponsors across several sports, noted three-time Indy 500 champion Dario Franchitti, a Scot, received "twice as much media value last year as series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay" (USA TODAY, 5/24). In L.A., Louis Brewster notes Andretti and fellow Americans Ed Carpenter starting on the front row leads ABC analyst Eddie Cheever to "believe it could be a good day for this country." Cheever, who won the race in '98, said, "There is a whole new guard of drivers that are on their way and the Americans are, I would say, very well positioned to win this 500. We might be starting a brand new dynasty on Sunday" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 5/23). RACIN' TODAY's John Sturbin wrote under the header, "The Yanks Are Storming Gasoline Alley" (RACINTODAY.com, 5/22).
THE NEXT GENERATION: The AP's Michael Marot wrote drivers like Andretti, Graham Rahal, JR Hildebrand, James Hinchcliffe and Simona de Silvestro are "bold, budding stars," and they "represent a whole new kind of IndyCar driver -- the guys and gals who could finally become this series’ cornerstone fixtures for a generation to come." They are "getting chances to prove themselves and they seem committed to hanging around for a while." Incoming IndyCar President of Operations & Competition Derrick Walker: "Who can't see the future? We need more of them. We need to make sure that when they come up through the ranks, there's a future for them." Marot noted the new faces are "challenging the grizzled vets ... and it's given the series a new look." Franchitti: “It’s a cycle isn’t it? It was the same way when Mario and A.J. were transitioning out. This group is no different. That’s what happens" (AP, 5/22). SI's Lars Anderson notes this IndyCar season has been "one of the most compelling in recent memory," with three different winners in the first four races. Hinchcliffe said, "I truly believe the sport is turning a major corner. The quality of our on-track racing right now is higher than any other form of American motor sports" (SI, 5/27 issue).
NEED FOR SPEED: In Cleveland, Elton Alexander writes there has been "a lot of talk about getting more speed at the 500," and IndyCar claims the "initiative is front and center." Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles said that one of the first duties for Walker, who officially takes his new role on Monday, will be "getting cars to faster speeds." Walker: "In the short term we'll look for incremental changes to our cars through components such as aerodynamics, horsepower and tires." Alexander notes IndyCar has "dialed back the mph since Arie Luyendyk set the record of 237.498 mph" in '96. Safety issues and financial concerns "outweighed all others." But with new and safer technology, IndyCar is "ready for teams to look for more speed" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 5/24).
NOT THE SAME: In San Diego, Bill Center writes he believes the Indianapolis 500 is "still the No. 1 event in motorsports," but it "no longer is ... compelling." The race is "not close to being the event it once was." The field is "weak," as the back rows "are packed with survivors rather than drivers who raced their way into the race with last-hour runs." The "sad thing is, the Indy 500 is no longer must-see-TV" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 5/24).