This weekend begins the road to one of the best sporting events in the nation, The Indianapolis 500. The signature Izod Indycar Series race will take place as always on Memorial Day.
The 2011 edition will mark the 100th anniversary of the race, but with everything that has happened in the sport during the past two decades: Does anybody care anymore about the race?
Looking at last year's race won by Williamson County native Dario Franchitti, and the television ratings, The answer would be no. The ratings were the lowest in the race's history since ABC started showing it live back in 1986.
However, the series has taken several steps thanks to its new leader, Randy Bernard, who helped the Professional Bull Riders tour gain national attention under his leadership. The series and the race itself is making the right choices that will hopefully bring the event back to its must-see status that it once enjoyed during its heyday.
Even with a lack of experience about open-wheel racing, Bernard has listened to the right people and truly cares about the sport's past, present and future.
This year also marks the 15th anniversary of the darkest events in the sport's history. 1996 was the year that changed the sport forever with the split between the IRL and CART. The two leagues finally merged back together in 2008. However, the effects are still being felt today, and it is going to take a lot of work to bring the fans that were engaged in their own civil war back together. However, like I said earlier, the series is making the right moves, but hopefully it's not too late.
I know most fans want to forget those 12 editions of the race that took place during the split, however, my favorite Indy 500 was in 1997 while I was an eighth-grader.
The race was red-flagged on that Sunday and Monday of Memorial Day weekend. However, the race resumed on that Tuesday, but I had school that day. In the meantime, I do not remember why exactly a lot of my classmates were out that day. That meant only a handful of people were in each class. Back then, I had some of the best teachers ever and they taught me a lot of life lessons that I still use these many years later.
On that day, they let me watch the finish of the race. I would go to each class and ask them nicely if I could watch the event. Each of them said yes. It was one of the coolest things ever. Unfairly, I do not think this generation's students could get away with it, today.
As for the race, Arie Luyendyk was trying to repeat his 1990 Indy 500 victory, when he drove the awesome looking Domino's Pizza car. It is still my all-time favorite looking Indycar.
With two laps to go, Tony Stewart, yes that one, hit the wall with Luyendyk leading his teammate and current ABC commentator Scott Goodyear right behind him. However, the starter displayed the white and green flag at the same time, unexpectly and neither driver was ready for it. Luyendyk then pulled away and got to drink the milk in victory lane for the second time in his career.
The finish was terrible, but it is still one of my all-time greatest Indy 500 races to watch.
As for 2011, my pick to win it has one of the best names in all of racing, Will Power. The Penske Racing driver has been very dominate in the short time he has been in the series. So far, he has won two of the four races this season and leads the points over Franchitti.
He makes driving look so effortless and his car control is breathtaking. He also drives for the winning est car owner, Roger Penske in the history of the race.
Will history be made this year? and Will the race and series start to gain back their respect that was lost in the past few years? I hope so.