Woody: The Fate Of IndyCar Rests In Pair of Very Petite Hands
By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
As I watched the Indy Racing League’s 20-car field romp through the Iowa cornfields Sunday, I couldn’t help thinking:
How long could it last without Danica?
I’d give it about 10 minutes, in terms of general public interest.
OK, maybe it’s not quite that grim – yet – but it’s getting there.
Twenty cars? They had a bigger field in the Clinker Division last Saturday night at Fairgrounds Speedway.
The four most interesting things in Sunday’s IRL race were (1) Danica Patrick’s taped pre-race segment, (2) Danica Patrick’s early-race lead (3) Danica Patrick’s steamy in-race commercials and (4) Danica Patrick’s post-race interview.
If/when Danica jilts the IRL for NASCAR, the former may pine away.
The IRL was wheezing on life support when Danica hit the scene a few years ago and almost single-handedly revived its pulse. Today, despite having won just one race, she’s the league’s star attraction, generating more interest than all the other drivers combined.
Open-wheel racing’s Great Unification fizzled. Maybe the economy’s to blame, but for whatever reason the formerly lean race fields remain as skimpy as Danica’s SI Swimsuit bikini. The open-wheel times remain rough, and without Danica they’d become Depression Era.
Last Sunday’s race is a case in point: Start out with only 20 cars and lose two or three at the outset – and suddenly it looks like a glorified go-kart race.
That’s not a rap on the rest of the drivers, but how many of them would be recognized on the street? Helio, perhaps, due in equal parts to his tax/dancing/Indy exposure. And maybe Dario, back home in Leiper’s Fork, Tenn. – at least before his shaggy new ‘do.
During the IRL’s eight seasons at Nashville Superspeedway I became a fan of the league. The drivers are personable and unfailingly accommodating, unlike the trend in NASCAR (no IRL winner ever smashed his trophy guitar in Victory Lane.)
The drivers are terrific; trouble is, there’s simply not enough of them.
Last Sunday’s field withered to 20 cars and half of them weren’t competitive.
If Danica departs, the IRL could become a one-pony show – that May deal in Indianapolis.
Right now the league consists of Danica and A Few Guys We Might Have Heard Of.
Lose Danica, lose the interest, lose the league.
As Ms. Patrick continues her flirtation with NASCAR and the IRL runs on hope and ethanol fumes, one thing becomes increasingly clear: the latter can’t afford to lose its Tattooed Lady.
– Larry Woody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments