(Photo credit: IndyCar) – This is one of the biggest, “SERIOUSLY?!” moments we have had in a while around here because it’s just one of those things where the idea, the people involved, and the whole mentality seems so jacked up we cannot believe that it has made it this far. Basically Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi, the two premier owners in the IndyCar series want the series to guarantee qualifying spots for the teams that run the whole racing season. Perhaps the biggest story of the 2018 Indy 500 and a place where this idea gained more steam was when James Hinchcliffe failed to qualify for the race and then decided with his team that they would not buy one of the other spots from a smaller (and qualified) team. That whole buying the spot thing is another kettle of fish but this is about making the race itself.
With about 20-22 full time teams and more than 30 spots available on race day, this is not a situation where 90 cars show up and all of these dedicated series regulars get pushed out. This is some pure protectionism that runs counter to the very nature of racing itself and we’d have to believe runs counter to every fiber in the being of both Ganassi and Penske. These are likely two guys who cry about kids getting participation trophies and now they looking for the greatest participation trophy of all, a guaranteed spot into the biggest race of the year. What?!
Of course this is business related and we get that. The Indy 500 is the central pillar in the sponsorship packages of the majority of the teams on the tour. Without that race and without participation in that race, things change drastically for teams and not for the better. It likely make selling sponsors easier when you can guarantee them that you’ll be in the show when the time comes in May but holy smoke, this would be the last straw in the dismantling of the Indy 500’s mystique. The fact that Hinch did not qualify was shocking and listen, we were not rooting against the guy, no one roots against that guy, but it proved the point that it CAN happen and that’s what sport needs to be exciting. That a guy CAN miss the show, he CAN come back from three laps down, he CAN spin and win. It has to be done on ability. That’s what we’re all watching. The ability of people doing things that we ourselves don’t think we can do. (I’m perfectly happy telling you that I’d never have the guts to drive around that place at 200+ mph!)
Roger Penske is one of the most iconic figures in the history of American racing. A guy who has won everywhere and won everything. Done things to win that others never even conceived, worked harder than virtually anyone in racing to build and empire and a legacy the likes of which will never be duplicated. How is it THAT guy who’s trying to remove risk and reward from the Indy 500 qualifying process? What the hell, Roger?
As one guy on Twitter said, “If John Force has the risk of missing the show every week, these guys should too.” He’s right.
IndyStar.com: Penske and Ganassi agree on guaranteed spots in Indy 500