Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Rubbin' is racin', but I'd rather rub than race

Good on ya, Indianapolis 500 tyro Danica Patrick, for becoming the first female driver (and the first rookie of either gender) to take fourth place in the annual Memorial Day weekend auto race. (I know I'm 48 hours behind on this bit of news, but you'll have to forgive me — I've been overworked and underhealthy the past few days.)

Now, I'll be honest: I couldn't care less about the Indy 500. I'd forgotten they were even contesting it this past Sunday. Auto racing is a spectator event (it isn't a true sport in my estimation, as I've written previously) whose attraction I have never understood. It's cars. Driving in a circle. For hours. Any Bay Area freeway offers a similar thrill every day during normal waking hours, if thrill in this you find. Why hundreds of thousands of people would turn out for such an event baffles me.

But then, I don't drink beer, smoke cigarettes, or crave country music, all of which places me securely outside the target demographic.

One thing that's changed about auto racing from when I was a wee lad is that race drivers always had some of the coolest names in sports: Gordon Johncock. A.J. Foyt. Mario Andretti. Emerson Fittipaldi. Many, especially on the drag racing circuit, had colorful nicknames: "Big Daddy" Don Garlits. Don "The Snake" Prudhomme. Tom "The Mongoose" McEwen. Shirley "Cha-Cha" Muldowney (whose 1983 biopic, Heart Like a Wheel, should be on your must-see list, even if you don't much care for auto racing — Bonnie Bedelia delivers a stellar performance in that film, earning a well-deserved Oscar nomination). And let's not forget the legendary Willy T. Ribbs, who not only had a cool name (which at the very least should have been parlayed into a profitable line of barbecue seasonings), but was also one of the few non-Caucasians ever to make a dent in the game.

Now racing is dominated by Jeff Gordons and Mark Martins and Rusty Wallaces. (Snore.) It's no surprise that a British driver, Dan Wheldon, won at the Brickyard this year. The Brits are accustomed to boring sports, like soccer and cricket. A Danica Patrick may just be what the old boys need to shake things up and put some interest back in the dull business of cars chasing one another's rear bumpers until someone gets killed, or everyone gets weary of public drunkenness and rebel yells and goes home.

Incidentally, the entire concept of drag racing never made sense to me. Who'd pay money to watch men stumble down the track in cocktail dresses and stilettos?

1 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger Lynda offered these pearls of wisdom...

You crack me up. And I completely agree - I have no idea how these car races are a "sport" at all. I can understand the high school races - whomever drives a certain distance faster is the big cheese. After all, most just got their license and it's still cool to drive, but the circles around a track...ZZZZzzzzzzzz

7:44 PM  

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