Q: I’ve read about and watched that 2002 Indianapolis 500 finish, and I honestly think that Paul Tracy won that race over Helio Castroneves. However the Indy Racing League at the time said no. Tony George said that it wasn’t the case. Was it the correct call, or was it a screw job because Tracy was with Team Green (a CART team during the split series era?).
RM: Screw job. I was working at ESPN and they had the tape that showed the light was green when PT took the lead, and Sam Hornish even said “Tracy just won” on his radio. Barry Green spent a lot of money in proving his case, but was finally told that he couldn’t appeal the chief steward’s decision. Green said he should have taken it to a higher court.
Q: As you’ve stated, Tulsa is already one of IndyCar’s best TV markets, therefore it makes a lot of sense to leverage that interest by marketing the series there during the Chili Bowl. I hope the new marketing regime will have the patience for a little history lesson, because it backs up the idea that having a presence there could do a lot for the event in nearby St. Louis. In the ’60s, when Dick Colvin was the promoter, the Tulsa Fairgrounds hosted the highest-attended weekly racing show in the U.S. For several years between 8,500 and 10,000 people showed up every Saturday night at the 3/8 mile oval. Sadly no longer there, it was nirvana for fans of controlled drift dirt racing.
In addition to the weekly programs, special events also drew large crowds: USAC sprints and during the State Fair, IMCA sprint and stock car events. (I still remember the spectacular sights and sounds of Ernie Derr’s Hemi Dodge on that almost round oval… but I digress.) It isn’t just the fact that the Chili Bowl packs them in now, there is a long history of major support there for racing of all types. I would also point out that the connection between Tulsa and St. Louis is longstanding, as many people from Oklahoma made the trek regularly to support the Cardinals since for decades the Tulsa Oilers were St Louis’s AAA farm club. A show car and perhaps some of the growing list of IndyCar drivers who are racing there each year could do wonders for the series. A built-in (almost captive) audience… where else would it be that easy to get great advertising?
Steve C., Ithaca, NY
RM: IndyCar’s presence at the Chili Bowl was thanks to WWTR’s Chris Blair and David Byrd. Blair put up the signs advertising the IndyCar race in August and Byrd got Conor Daly, Santino Ferrucci and James Davison rides. I think IndyCar still needs a booth with driver autographs and free hats all week. Tulsa is an open-wheel town and IndyCar needs to embrace it.
Q: Hey Miller, some guy on the RACER.com forum was giving you grief for calling out IndyCar to support the Chili Bowl and then not going to the races or writing anything about Daly, Ferrucci and Davison. What gives?
Arthur K., Oklahoma City
RM: Well, I haven’t gone to the Chili Bowl the past three years since I got cancer because I can’t walk all those miles anymore, and I have no immune system so I always get a terrible case of the “Chili Bowl flu.” But I’ve bought the RacinBoys streaming service the past three years and covered each night from my home computer, and it works out fine. I wrote a story before the races started about the IndyCar guys and I mentioned how those three fared after Saturday, but didn’t write a feature and I probably should have because they all had a story to tell. Conor was kinda dejected because he’d run so good in Arizona in December, while Santino and Davison were fired up to try more dirt races. They showed the kind of moxie that race fans love, and I think they want to run the BC39 in July if David Byrd can pull it off.
Q: I just watched five races from the Chili Bowl on YouTube. It’s easy to understand why you like it so much. Super-good racing, and their throttle is stuck open. As for Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell, I can only say they were visibly the smoothest dirt drivers I have seen.
One question, though: Is tire management a big deal in midgets? As an example, Bell had everyone covered for the whole week and looked like he was going to walk away with the Saturday A-main. About two-thirds distance, it seemed like he had a different car as Larson passed and easily (sorta) drew away. Were Bell’s tires done? The track was pretty shiny and the cushion was all but gone, so was this the case? Anyway, loved the film of the races, and look forward to the next one.
RM: Larson used traffic to get the lead and keep it, and both he and Bell had to call on their skill set to negotiate that top shelf that was violent. But tires weren’t a factor unless you got a flat. Those two guys are very special.