The Razor’s Edge
October 27, 2011 by staff
It was not always so, and the reasons for the decline of the sport is certainly not the point right now.
But in reality the number of casual fans did not even know that the IndyCar season finale taking place in Las Vegas, the championship was being decided between Will Power and Dario Franchitti, who most famous face in the series – although has won precisely one race – Danica Patrick, was driving his swan song before moving on to the big leagues of NASCAR, or Dan Wheldon, of England, winner of the Indianapolis 500 this year, second career victory in the brick factory was included in the field only as the result of a promotional gimmick something strange and desperate?
Originally IndyCar organizers had hoped to persuade the three well-known drivers from other series to participate in this first race with a prize of 5 million on the line in case of winning.
But nothing recently. If they had, Wheldon had not been running on Sunday.
Instead, he became the trick. The series champion in 2005 had been only in Indy this year, reduced to doing TV color commentary, because I had a walk. Wheldon would start 34 in the field of 34 cars, and in case of winning the race would split the $ 5 million and with a range chosen by lot.
Before the start, in front of a crowd dispersed in a race track in the Nevada desert, brown and empty, but only a stone’s throw from the Strip in Las Vegas, Roger Penske, the car owner is legendary asked about the race to come. That would be fast, agreed – the practice times had beaten 225 mph. In the banked corners, the cars can go three wide.
Dangerous, dangerous madman, by definition.
But these days, so great has been the technical advances in racing, so sure are the driver’s cab, the angel of death will not float as it once did – in the days when the great columnist Jim Murray wrote the famous phrase that the generations of racing fans despise him, “Gentlemen, start your coffins!” (It was also noted in 1982 that a quarter of all that had led to Indy since the race first 500 miles in 1911 had died in accidents, there or elsewhere.)
The wreckage of several cars in Las Vegas on Sunday was fierce and horrible – but we all used to seeing the horrible, and then see how drivers walk unharmed.
This time, he knew how to react safety equipment, knew the faces of the pit crews, knew long before the official announcement was that this was different, that this was serious, that this time would not would be a miracle.
NASCAR fans remember the day Dale Earnhardt died, the biggest star in the sport, his life went out in an instant in an accident that seemed harmless. Many Canadians think of the CART race in Fontana, Cali, almost exactly 12 years ago -. Another end of the season – and remember a brilliant kid friendly, fun named Greg Moore, the heir, the next generation of large modern open-wheel drivers produced by this country, Scott Goodyear, Paul Tracy and Jacques Villeneuve. For some of us, the day he died was the day I decided to take away from the sport despite its visceral appeal.
Forget about blame. Racing is a sport as safe as can be in the cars are moving so fast in such a limited space, and which drivers are not scheduled for training, but by their DNA, to fight to be first.
Not like the rest of us.
Runners race. They hug the edge of the knife. They understand the risk to spectators, with deaths so rare now, it has become abstract, almost like a video game. Those who are behind the wheel knows what is real, and therefore wept openly when the sad news became official, why was not good face, not pretending that the show must go on, why they returned to their vehicles only for a period of five tribute back, will surely be the saddest picture in the sport this year.
In an as-told-to column for U.S. produced Today last week, Wheldon spoke about the challenges of getting your car to speed on the chances of moving past the entire field to win the race, then closed with these final words:
“Whenever I can find some speed and keep up with the package, I will do everything possible to mount a show.”
Death has been part of that program, more than any other thing to consider sport. Not like it was before, thank god not with such regularity. But there’s no pretend otherwise.
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