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Harris: Three Is Not A Crowd

Mike Harris | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 21 2010

A.J. Foyt and grandson/driver A.J. Foyt IV take a trip through the pits at Indy. (Photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

Much as I hate to disagree with my esteemed colleague Larry Woody, I believe his criticism of the IRL’s multiple championships is wrong.

I covered the now-defunct CART/Champ Car World Series for many years and was firmly convinced it was the toughest racing series in the world.

The drivers had to race on road courses, street circuits, short ovals and long ovals and anyone who could master all of them was obviously incredibly talented because every different type of racetrack takes a slightly different set of skills.

But I always thought that CART should have given drivers separate credit for their successes on the tracks that have right and left turns, as well as the ones where they just turn left. It takes plenty of skill to win or run up front, no matter what the shape of the race circuit.

Now the IRL is doing just that: Giving credit to the drivers who master a certain type of track.

To me, that shouldn’t take away a bit from the overall championship, which in the IZOD IndyCar Series, often comes down to the last race and the last lap.

Larry is right that no series should cheapen its product by giving too many trophies. I hated it when my son was  in middle school and came home with a ribbon for a science project, only to find out that every kid who entered the contest got a ribbon. Kids and everyone else should know that it takes extra hard work and discipline to win a prize, not just entering the contest or the race or the game, whatever.

But I see nothing wrong in giving a champion’s trophy to the driver who has the most points on street and road courses, as well as giving one to the top oval driver. It’s a long, tough season in a very competitive series.

And why not give open-wheel  fans another reason to read the  weekly points charts? Are they going to be upset because Danica Patrick  or Dario Franchitti or Ryan Hunter-Reay or Scott Dixon is running better than everyone else on ovals? I doubt it. I think it will enhance the series.

One thing I definitely agree with Larry about, though, is that taking the race away from Nashville was a mistake – a big one. And, as Larry points out, the chiefs at the IRL have made a habit of making big mistakes and going the wrong way.

But there is a new sheriff in town in the IRL. His name is Randy Bernard, the new CEO of the league.

He is a man with ideas and a kick-butt attitude that should help the struggling IndyCar series head in the right direction. And, though I have yet to deal directly with Mr. Bernard, who won his spurs as an executive in rodeo,  I understand he returns phone calls and emails – a major improvement over his predecessors in both the IRL and CART.

Next on the agenda for the IRL is its showcase, the Indianapolis 500 on May 30.

The 500 winner is often the driver to beat for the season title, but there is plenty of season left to run and three titles yet to win.

That’s just fine with me. Sorry Larry.

– Mike Harris can be reached at mharris@racintoday.com

Mike Harris | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 21 2010
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