I am ashamed, appalled, disgusted, embarrassed, disappointed, outraged, and downright irritated at the thought of guaranteeing entries into the prestigious Indianapolis 500. I don’t like guaranteeing spots in any form of motorsport.
Team owners Rodger Penske, Chip Ganassi, and just recently, Michael Andretti have made their opinions very clear. Teams that have committed to the IndyCar series on a full-time basis should be rewarded for their commitment.
How do you ask? By having a guaranteed spot on the 33 car grid.
Chip Ganassi is quoted saying “a commitment is a commitment, you know?” Rodger Penske sparked this thought last year after James Hinchcliffe failed to qualify his Arrow Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports Honda on Bump Day.
Yeah, we had an actual Bump Day!
We are talking about the three giants of IndyCar, teaming together, attempting to create an oligarchy within the confines of Gasoline Ally. As much as the idea of a guaranteed grid spot angers me, I do understand where they are coming from. The money that is personally invested into their teams, the endless promises made to sponsors, the potential of embarrassment and humiliation that comes from not making “The 500”.
Something Penske knows about personally.
Michael Andretti notes that this kind of system would be for the betterment of the sport. That, if there were guaranteed grid spots, it would bring more full-time teams with more sponsorship. I argue that what IndyCar has been doing in recent years has brought that to the series. The addition of Harding-Steinbrenner Racing and expansion of Carlin, as well as, the addition to NTT Data as the title sponsor is the validation of a racing series that is expanding into brighter horizons.
I’m not blind to the impact money makes in racing, but I fail to see why we need to alter tradition because of it. Since I was a boy, the allure of the Indianapolis 500 was that these men and women drove the fastest 33 cars on the planet for one magical Sunday of the year. Those men and women earned their rightful spot on the grid. That these teams, full-time or not, worked tirelessly to achieve a goal like no other in motorsports. That qualifying for this race meant just as much, if not more than competing in the race itself. This race isn’t something you get invited to. It isn’t something that happens but is earned. It teaches lessons to those that succeed and to those that leave the track in defeat.
To the teams and drivers that have the privilege of attempting the Indianapolis 500, you have the month of May to prepare. Make it count!