Game, Set, Match:|
The Emperor Has No Clothes
There's an old, familiar saying in racing: "When the green flag drops, the bullshit stops."
Well, the green flag dropped, and the bullshit can now stop. Team Ganassi and Juan Montoya have
showed the world what the IRL is all about -- an emperor without any clothes. Game, set, match.
The debate is over.
The IRL and their fans taunted CART for years. Bring them on, they proudly pounded their
chests. Leo Mehl uttered total nonsense one year about CART getting their tails whipped if they
dared to tread on the Brickyard. Even Al Unser, Jr., once a class act, resorted to bringing a
whole new meaning to his nickname Little Al by spouting off about this and that when
talking about Montoya. Words usually reserved for a sour puss.
So what happens after all this bravado from the IRL camp? Team Ganassi shows up at Indy
never having run an IRL program. They get in one day of pre-festivities practice, show up late
for the official first week due to the rain delay in Japan, and end up with the fastest time
three days. Then on Pole Day, they promptly place their drivers in the 2nd and 7th spots. Not
bad for a team who, according to IRL fans, would have loads of problems learning how to set up the
new cars, learning how to drive them, and for Montoya, learning how to handle Indy.
Wait for the race, they shouted, though no longer with much bravado. Reliability will be an
issue. Nerves will rattle Montoya. This team has never built their engines for the IRL before.
Surely, they can't possibly get it right the first time. So what happens? Can you say total
domination? Montoya leads for 167 laps. Turns in a 217+ lap right at the end without any
draft. Nobody was even close. Vasser stays in the hunt until the fuel gamble backfires. Team
Ganassi's pit work is faster than any other IRL team during the race. Both cars last 500 miles.
There's nothing more to be said.
Now, to be fair, there were some very good performances by other, mostly IRL, drivers. So,
let's give them credit:
Greg Ray: A Formula Atlantic champion, he made good on an opportunity in the IRL.
Grabbed the pole with a blistering lap, and was the only one who could go wheel to wheel with
Montoya. Then, he smacked the wall. A mistake everybody expected Montoya to make. To add insult
to injury, the ridiculous IRL rules give incentive to the team to fix the car in order to grab some
points, a la NASCAR. But, this isn't NASCAR. These are high performance race cars, and this type
of practice can be downright dangerous. Ray gets back on the track. Boom! Into the wall again.
(Also note that Ray has absolutely no sprint or midget experience.)
Airton Dare: Languished in the Indy Lights series for years never finishing better than
6th in the championship and thus couldn't find a CART ride, so he went to the IRL. Once he got
his car's handling problems solved, he was a man on the move. Then the engine broke. A failure
everybody expected Team Ganassi to suffer. (Also note that Dare has absolutely no sprint or
Buddy Lazier: A classic case of a driver able to use the IRL to save a career that went
no where in CART. Winner of the first IRL 500 in as gutsy of a performance you will see anywhere
despite the circumstances of that year, Lazier looked like he could challenge the leaders for the
win near the end. Unfortunately, he faded. (Also note that Lazier has absolutely no sprint or
Eliseo Salazar: An F1 and CART reject, he's been able to use the IRL for an occasional
boost to his career. Lucky to have A.J. Foyt on his side, he and his car looked good all month.
Then, in typical Salazar fashion, he pulled a somewhat dangerous blocking move on Buddy Lazier.
A move that Al Unser, Jr. expected Montoya to make. (Also note that Salazar has absolutely no
sprint or midget experience.)
Jeff Ward: After an extremely successful career motocrossing, switched to cars and
competed in Indy Lights with mixed results. Had some success with Pagan Racing, then jumped to
Foyt's team where he again ran a competitive race, but couldn't quite maintain Montoya's pace.
(Also note that Ward has absolutely no sprint or midget experience. But he does have dirt
experience! Oh, that was with two wheels.)
Eddie Cheever: Spent eons in F1 and CART never winning a single race. Then, he goes to
the IRL, and proclaims this series as the greatest thing in the world. And he actually wins.
Gave the Infiniti a fine run, but apparent gearbox troubles slowed him down. (Also note that
Cheever has absolutely no sprint or midget experience.)
Speaking of all that sprint and midget experience, let's check out the standings. We're still
looking ... still looking ... ahhh, here we are. Donnie Beechler in 12th place, two laps back.
There wasn't a single spring/midget driver who was even close to contending this year.
Just what was Tony George trying to sell us all these years? A South American driver with a
purely rear engine upbringing who thinks dirt is for gardening comes in, spends about two weeks
at the place, and kicks butt.
Indeed, the emperor has no clothes. Game, set, match.
Copyright © 2000 by Russell Jaslow and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.