If It Ain't Indy, It Ain't Racing
Regular readers of Deep Throttle know Angelo Lisuzzo. His fantastic photos appear on this web site, as well as on motorsport.com and, along with Steve Rossini, in Car and Driver for their annual One Lap of America coverage. What you most likely don't know is that Angelo is related to Andy Granatelli.
That's right, Mr. 500 and our own Angelo Lisuzzo share common blood. Granatelli is Angelo's mother's cousin. So, that makes Angelo and Andy cousins of some sort -- I never was one to understand types of cousins beyond first cousins.
Angelo's great uncle, upper left, standing next to Angelo's cousin, Andy Granatelli, with other members of the STP Indy crew. (Photos courtesy of Lisuzzo family.)
It is that relationship that laid the seeds for Angelo's love of racing. Angelo's great uncle was a crew member for Granatelli at Indianapolis. When the family had their summer get together, Angelo was provided with a 16mm movie of that year's Indy 500, which Angelo and his two brothers would watch over and over again in the basement while the rest of the family were picnicking outside.
Angelo's dream was to be the next great Italian-American race car driver, following in the footsteps of one of Granatelli's drivers, Mario Andretti. Angelo did race karts, including some events that took place at Watkins Glen.
However, lack of money (of the cubic sort) prevented Angelo from becoming the next Mario. Thus, already heavily involved in picture taking, Angelo set out to be the greatest Italian-American race photographer.
When the IRL was first being formed, Granatelli was in town. He invited Angelo and his relatives out to dinner. Naturally, the conversation turned to the prospects of Indy car racing being split and thoughts on the IRL. Needless to say, Granatelli was in favor of what Tony George was doing, slamming CART throughout the conversation.
You see, Andy Granatelli, Angelo's uncle, and all the folks of that ilk always had one belief when it came to the Indianapolis 500. As Angelo conveyed their attitude to me one day -- If it ain't Indy, it ain't racing.
Angelo, on the left, with his two younger brothers and their first "race car," a push kart.
(Angelo, on the other hand, has the complete opposite attitude. He will cover everything, much to the chagrin of Deep Throttle. Angelo has covered IRL races (not for us!) and even a threat from me that Angelo will be barred from ever working for Deep Throttle again if he goes to the Watkin Glen's IRL event won't deter him -- a threat I'll never be able to carry out anyway because Angelo is just too nice of a guy.)
Granted, that might seem odd coming from Granatelli who was involved in many forms of racing -- hot rodding, drag racing, land speed events, and stock car racing. Yet, despite that and how many players of the day were involved in various types of racing outside Indy, their general feeling was that nothing really mattered except Indy.
And for the longest time, that was essentially true. Until the apple cart got upset when Dan Gurney issued his now famous white paper. Gurney wasn't asking for a revolt, but rather to have Indy and USAC work with the car owners for the greater good of the sport. However, to the establishment, there was no greater good of the sport because if it ain't Indy, it ain't racing. To them, everything was just fine, thank you very much.
Thus, a revolt is what ended up happening. Even though the tragic plane crash that killed the majority of the USAC leadership is considered to have been the end of the last opportunity of peace between the team owners and Indy, I believe there would never have been an understanding even if those officials had not perished on their way back from Trenton.
The mind-set was too ingrained. Therefore, the owners did eventually revolt and set out to expand the sport beyond just the Indy 500. And of course to reap the benefits of such a move. However, Indy also benefited as the sport grew each feeding off of each other. Crowds at races got larger and larger, the sport was brought to the people with street events, and television ratings went up.
Despite this, the old establishment was not happy. To them, this all didn't matter. After all, if it ain't Indy, it ain't racing. So, they patiently waited their turn, and when the time was right, when they had someone in place who was willing to lead the effort, they fought back. They claimed that CART's philosophy was to diminish the Indy 500's importance and thus had to protect the great track.
Whether this was true or not, what they were unable to see through their blinders was that CART and Indy together were far superior than either one of them on their own. Again, that didn't matter because with their hell-bent attitude that if it ain't Indy, it ain't racing they were unable to see what everyone else anticipated -- their move would destroy the sport and more importantly, the race they thought they had to save.
Many have pointed out that the IRL has morphed into what CART was when this split all started. Why aren't the IRL faithful upset with this? For starters, that would mean admitting they were wrong. There is a stronger reason -- the IRL may be CART II, but this time Indy is in control. Just like it was back during the USAC days.
Why is Roger Penske bad in CART and good in the IRL? It's not just because he is now on their side. It is because now he is under the control of Indy. Just like the "good old days."
Tony George, Andy Granatelli, J.C. Agajanian, Chris Economaki, Dave Despain, and all the others who always believed if it ain't Indy, it ain't racing couldn't accept that Indy was no longer at the center of the Universe. Even if it meant that overall, the sport was better off. Even if it meant destroying the sport to get it back to those days.
This had nothing to do with oval racing vs. road/street racing, engine leases, foreign drivers, or all the other reasons and visions for this whole mess. It had to do with one philosophy and one philosophy alone -- If it ain't Indy, it ain't racing.
Copyright © 2005 by Russell Jaslow and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.