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Keeping It Off the Wall
by Ed Donath

Fighting
(for survival)

8/2/06

Athens, NY—Fighters fall into two distinct categories—winners and bums.

Our beloved speed sport has produced its share of winners over the years and, thankfully, they have outnumbered the bums by a pretty fair margin. For every Joe Heitzler there has been a Mauricio Gugelmin, a Wally Dallenbach, Sr., and a Jon Beekhuis, plus a host of straight-shooters in the stands who not only know the difference but appreciate their work ethic and the civility of their process.

Great examples have been set by "super subs" Roberto Moreno and Oriol Servia—drivers who fought hard to seize the rare, fleeting opportunity of an upgraded temporary ride to earn breakthrough victories.

Kids like Michel Jourdain, Jr. and Nelson Philippe matured before our eyes into contenders after respectfully paying painful dues as back markers. "Most Improved Driver" doesn’t quite say it all. The hard work of these men makes them excellent role models for our kids and grandkids.

An underdog by the name of Dale Coyne has earned the admiration of knowledgeable fans by continuing to launch and rescue careers; fighting on with his under-funded team despite the harsh reality that there may never be a trophy cabinet in the entryway of its headquarters. The bar for gentleman racers and sportsmen has been set pretty high by this 22-year veteran fighter of the Champ Car wars.

And of course there is no human being on this planet who better personifies the phrase "winning fighter" than Alex Zanardi. Everyone’s favorite Bolognese doughnut maker absolutely epitomizes perseverance and optimism.

Nonetheless, as this renegade scribe has often ranted over the last decade, the collective Champ Car community seems always to be fighting merely to survive and not for the success and glory that such an incredible technology and talent pool should, long ago, have achieved.

It’s pretty tough living a life in which nearly every day is Bubble Day so it isn’t surprising that the nerves of otherwise safe, sane, ultra-precise drivers will occasionally fray. This was the case in San Jose last Sunday when Alex Tagliani and Paul Tracy exchanged more than epithets after an on-track incident.

While it certainly isn’t difficult to understand how a pressure cooker situation like this can be the catalyst for occasional bad moves (Tracy) and/or bad behavior (Tagliani) our empathy and forgiveness in no way negates the rule book, the Good Book, or the Champ Car Company employee handbook.

But you’d never be provoked into considering the ethical side of sports if you read nothing but redneck drivel like Robin Miller’s latest commentary. Miller criticizes the producers of NBC’s race telecast for not milking what he refers to as the "San Jose Smackdown" for all the redneck Jerry Springer Surreal Life seediness and future TV ratings potential it would be worth.

"It was really good to talk [to Paul Tracy after Sunday’s incident]. Both of us were frustrated and we feel bad about what happened in the pits," Alex Tagliani is quoted in an 8/1/06 theglobeandmail.com by Jeff Pappone.

Spoken like a winner Tagliani added: "Two guys having problems on the racetrack is one thing, but we're smart people. We can let it go and keep going."

Not if bums like Robin Miller ever get to direct the show, Tags.

Road Rage! An op-ed feature by Ed Donath.

Copyright © 2006 by Ed Donath and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

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