While viewing a few YouTube racing clips for nostalgic purposes one of the suggested related clips was the ‘Outside the Lines’ episode entitled ‘500 Miles Apart’ from ESPN released and aired shortly after the Indianapolis 500 in late May, 1996. This goofy pundit had not seen it in a few years so why not? Based solely upon on-camera performances the interviewees and participants can easily be classified into two groups, which is even easier now given the added benefit of hindsight:
- Most Stupid, Clueless, Bitter, Hypocritical, Hostile and/or Arrogant People on Earth at That Time.
- Most Sensible, Rational Thinking People on Earth at That Time.
Group 1 features (in roughly order of appearance on the program):
Dan Gurney. When asked whether the winner of the Indianapolis 500 in 1996 could take away the same satisfaction as any champion, Dan answered ‘…no, absolutely not, and he will know that.’ Somehow, Dan, as much as we love you I doubt that Buddy Lazier, actual winner of an Indianapolis 500, knows a little more about that feeling than someone who did not win and chose not even to compete when your idea was disrupted. Dan continued: ‘…it isn’t about trying to help out the little guy; it’s for control of what has the potential of being an enormous business, and the rest of it is so much hooey.’ Or…’I’ve known A.J. a long time…one of his modus operandi is to put words in other peoples’ mouths first and then tell them why it’s wrong, and that’s a no-win situation.’ ‘…(Tony George) and his palace guard and schemers decided that they would pull it off this way.’ Personally I really do love Dan Gurney and respect what he has done over the years in terms of innovation. But with regard to the ‘split’ he comes off like a petulant little dick.
Scott Pruett. ‘…It’s not the same level of competition you’d have otherwise.’
Bobby Unser. ‘…Tony George’s thing, he’s gonna make stars overnight. OK? I say he won’t.’
U.E. Patrick. ‘…to do what he did down there…which is part of America, to me it’s like apple pie and motherhood…it’s something you just don’t mess with and I think he’s gonna screw it up.’ Even ‘ol U.E. eventually formed an IndyCar team.
Andrew Craig: ‘…they said he wanted the world to stand still or perhaps I’d put it another way, they want the world to revolve around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.’ ‘It would be really difficult to bring the two sides back together.’
Roger Penske: ‘…Tony George, he’s the one who’s going to have to make a move. At this particular point our people want to go to Indy but at the end of the day we wanna go on a level playing field.’
Paul Newman: ‘…We’re being shut out of Indianapolis. We have 26 or 27 drivers here and 8 of them would have been allowed to run Indianapolis. Well, what do we do with the other 20 guys? Send ‘em home?’ ‘I promise you if Mario thought what was best for racing would be the IRL he’d be sitting down there right now.’
Rick Mears: ‘…When they started to regulate who can and who can’t run in the Super Bowl that’d be like going to the Dallas Cowboys and say hey you guys can’t play this year.’
Al Unser, Junior. Evidently ‘…you just don’t know what Indy means’ was a lie, as evidenced by his presence in Michigan. He regrets it, as almost everyone there that year. That regret hit some harder than others. Had Al Junior done the right thing it is not difficult to wonder whether his domestic and substance abuse problems might have been minimized by a clearer Indy Racing conscience. ‘…the gist of it is, uh, the best drivers in the world and the best crews in the world are, a , racing in Michigan this year.’
Emerson Fittipaldi: ‘We are doing right to be here. I’m very happy and, um, I’m going to stick to this group.’
Bobby Rahal: ‘….all 19 owners are unified.’
Bryan Herta: ‘…it hurts not to be there but you know I think that uh we really didn’t have any choice and so since we can’t be there I’m glad that we’re here at the US500.’
David Letterman: ‘…it would be great to be in Indianapolis if you had the Greatest Spectacle in Racing you deserve to have the best race and this year that’s not what they have. The best race is here in Michigan.’
Paul Tracy: ‘…I’m not a traditionalist. I’ve been to the Super Bowl, I’ve been to the Stanley Cup playoffs, I’ve been to the World Series. I don’t go to look at the stadium. I want to compete against the best drivers.’
Mario Andretti. ‘Indianapolis represents the theatre but the players are someplace else.’ ‘…to have a totally oval series you almost have to go back to the 50’s. Why do we want to go back to the 50s? Times have changed guys.’
Steve Potter, then Mercedes-Benz Marketing Manager, distinguished himself as one of the bigger douchebags on the program. ‘…tradition is important and it’s worth something but they have to be valid traditions. They have to be traditions that have continuity. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway made a decision about the qualifying rules and they cut the tradition. They cut its head off. They cut the head off it and it’s dead. That tradition no longer has a business value to Mercedes-Benz and that’s why we’re here.’ ‘….Wake-up calls for the Speedway? I think they’re sleeping pretty soundly.’
Robin Miller: ‘…the month has been a disaster. People have not showed up. And…they’re gonna blame the weather but I’ve been out here when there’s been a hundred thousand people waiting in the rain for ten hours hoping for qualifying to open.’
Phillip Morris and Valvoline, who decided to place all their sponsorship into the US500 and cart.
Robby Gordon: ‘…Best sponsors, best drivers, best cars, best teams. Right here. I guarantee our race will be better.’
Bob Tossel, a veteran of 51 straight 500s in that year, who compared the Indy field to the Toledo Mud Hens and the US500 field to the New York Yankees.
Paulla Weinberg, a chunky gal who started a group ‘Fans United To Save Indy’ and got 1300 signatures on a petition well before social media was the norm. ‘…We don’t recognize it as the Indianapolis 500. It’s the IRL 500. The Indianapolis 500 doesn’t exist this year as we’ve known it.’
Dan Kidwell, who made anti-IRL T-shirts and went to Michigan for the US500 instead of being with his brother and his new wife, who got married at the track the day before the race.
Brian Brown, a decades-long fan who dumped his family to attend the race in Michigan instead.
¾ of the field of ‘stars n’ cars,’ who failed to make it to the green flag due to crashing each other into an extended red flag. Idiots. Compare that to a field half filled with rookies who put on a great race.
So-called fans adorned in T-shirts with anti-Indy messaging, often expressed in crude fashion usually referencing human excretory functions.
Whiny ticket scalpers who bemoaned a drop in value of tickets they were trying to scalp. Poor bastards.
Group 2 features (in order of appearance on the program):
Johnny Rutherford, whose words ‘…you don’t buy tradition; you build it…’ were brilliant. ‘I can assure you all those guys wish they were here.’
Tony George: ‘…I want to have some input into the direction of where the sport goes. That’s paramount. I think this institution has to have some input.’ After being informed of many of the nonsense epithets being hurled his way Tony replied: ‘…I didn’t just fall off a turnip truck…I’ve been around a little while and I’ve had a lot of interaction with a lot of the drivers and car owners. I’ve gotten to know their personalities pretty well. A lot of it is not surprising to me.’ ‘I don’t think there will ever be an accord whereby cart as a unit comes to compete at the Indianapolis 500. They as individuals are going to continue to be welcomed here.’
A.J. Foyt: ‘…the big Roger Penske. Where in the hell was Roger Penske made? Right here at this goddamned race track. He damned sure did not make this place like A.J. Foyt didn’t or Wilber Shaw or whoever. I’m sick and tired of hearing their crap and I’ll tell you why. Because…like Mario…like they made Indianapolis…they made shit.’
Johnny Unser. ‘…I never thought I’d be the only Unser at Indianapolis, especially in my first year.’
Derrick Walker, who was smart enough to run cars at both races.
The Disney family o’ channels: The Indy 500 on the big OTA network; US500 on cable. Editorial bias, however, remained clear as long as cart clung to existence.
Jack Long: ‘…we’re talking about two different philosophical approaches to business and to the sport.’
The Keith Brown family with the exception of son Brian. The family did the right thing on Memorial Day weekend in 1996. Brian did not.
Jim Nabors, Dan Quayle, Florence Henderson and other regulars who put politics aside and never wavered in their respect for IMS.
Creative T-shirt wearers at Indianapolis with slogans such as ‘Crybaby Auto Racing Teams’ and such.
Now that nearly twenty years have passed and knowing all that has followed, it is really easy to observe the differences between arrogant and rational. It is too bad Group 1 wasted our time for a few years before the inevitable occurred. The best part about their whiny boycott was quality racing when the IRL schedule was painfully thin. Unfortunately they managed to keep the then-best young talent away from actual IndyCar fans who never got the chance to see folks like Alex Zanardi or Greg Moore in the 500. What a waste. Imagine the potential sponsorship opportunities. It is really telling to evaluate Group 1 in terms of who returned without adherence to their original terms.
Is anyone else craving release of the 2015 schedule? We could use it.