Friday, May 13, 2011

2012 car unveiled

(by Obi wan 5-11-11)

The first time that O. Bruton Smith’s Speedway Motorsports Inc. (SMI) was the main support of the IRL (with oval races at Charlotte, Atlanta, Las Vegas, and two in Texas), Smith opined to the press that Indy cars needed bumpers to enhance both their safety and popularity. He implied that if the Idiot Grandson did not comply with his “suggestion” and put bumpers on the cars, that he might deem the cars too “dangerous” for his speedways. Of course the Pagoda was aghast about the NASCAR mogul’s sacrilegious demand but George and IRL director Leo Mehl were afraid to alienate the only member of the oval cartel supporting them; so they avoided making public comment themselves and trotted out unofficial IRL mouthpieces A.J. Foyt and Eddie Cheever to publicly shoot down the idea. Smith, however, wouldn’t give up on his notion and a meeting was held between Smith, George, and Mehl to discuss the matter. The public was never told the result of the meeting, other than a quick comment afterward by Mehl that “everything’s cool.”

Perhaps not so coincidentally, shortly after the meeting SMI track manager Humpy Wheeler – widely viewed at the time as Smith’s anointed successor – decided that the IRL was not a good “fit” for his Charlotte speedway and dropped their race from his schedule. Of course, plummeting attendance may have had a lot to do with it – Dover Downs dropped its IRL race for the same reason – but it was interesting timing, especially since Smith more or less simultaneously informed George and Mehl that henceforth his Atlanta and Las Vegas speedways would be track rentals. The only SMI track manager to stay on board with George and the IRL and actually pay the league a sanction fee was TMS’s odious Eddie Gossage.

This is the same Gossage who was part of the seven-man MORONIC rubber-stamp committee who “recommended” the 2012 car and who was no doubt delighted to pass on Smith’s “told you so” and possibly his renewed demands for bumpers on Indy cars. I don’t know for certain but Eddie probably reminded the Pagoda of what happened at Atlanta Motor Speedway during the IRL’s last race there in 2001. Specifically, a spectacular fiery crash on the 53rd lap that took out 11 drivers (and cars) at once, including the league’s Great White Hopes Al Unser Jr. and Sarah Fisher. Flying dentist Jack Miller’s car burst into flames and hurtled through the air, as did Casey Mears (minus the flames), and Robbie Buhl joined in the pyrotechnics when his car also caught fire when he slammed into the wall. The press proclaimed it a “miracle” that Miller was the only driver seriously hurt and transported to the hospital; where he was treated for a concussion and assorted bumps and bruises.

Amazingly (for anyone but the IRL), race officials decided not to bring out the red flag, even though debris was scattered all over the track. The yellow was out for 35 laps, slowing the average winning speed to 133.647 mph. At the end, only 13 of the 27 starters were still running. The next year Smith declined to rent his Atlanta and Las Vegas tracks to George and the IRL.

Now, flash forward and Smith and SMI have once again become the main oval cartel support of the League That Dares Not Speak Its Name – with races at their Texas, New Hampshire, Infineon, Kentucky, and Las Vegas tracks – and guess what? The new 2012 Indy cars have bumpers! Fancy that.


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