Certainly few people would have predicted a rookie named JR Hildebrand would be in the position he was in nearing the end of the 2011 Indy 500. Through 499 and 1/2 miles, and 799 out of 800 turns he, and his crew, had been flawless. As the sub-plots of the race played out, Hildebrand found himself staring at winning the crown jewel. He had a big enough lead where he could have run out of fuel and cruised to the finish line, donned his laurel, drank his cold milk, and been forever enshrined as a winner of the greatest race in the world.
Then something unforeseen happened. He crashed coming out of turn 4 on the last lap. At that, even on 3 wheels, his wrecked car had enough momentum to cross the finish line and finish second. Considering the racers behind him were closing at well over 200 MPH, that meant he had a pretty decent lead So who shot JR? No wait, that was something different. Scratch that. Yet something happened. Did he celebrate too early with the checkered flag oh so close and lose his concentration? Who knows, but given the ramifications between winning Indy and finishing second, the millions of dollars in endorsements and the fame a win would have brought, it's a safe bet Mr. Hildebrand will spend a lot of sleepless nights thinking about what could have been. It may be cruel, but sometimes a person only gets one shot at such a thing in a lifetime, never to get close again.
On another note, at some point in time, the media decided that Danica Patrick would be the face of Indy car racing. Nevermind she's only won one race in her entire career, and that in Japan, which by the way is where all the Honda engines, yuk, Indy racers run these days, come from. Here's a little known tidbit -- those ever-so trustworthy people at Honda Motor Co. supply the engines but only on the condition that, no matter what happens, they are not to be taken apart and/or inspected/repaired by foreign pit crews. If one fails, they'll supply another one, but what's really going on inside those things seems to be a secret. How they can pass tech-inspections under such a mandate is a very good question, but if they're putting out more HP, and all the car owners want them, it shouldn't be a complete surprise that the governing bodies of open wheel racing look the other way.
Yet which team gets which engines? Are some ever so slightly better than others? The HMC people know, but seemingly nobody else. Over there, they treat their women as second-class citizens but a lady American race car driver shows up in their country and wins a race when she's barely even been competitive before. Think about that what you will.
On to the predictable. Danica's main sponsor is GoDaddy.com. By sheer coincidence, I'm sure, ahem, this year's Indy 500 was primarily sponsored by -- yup -- GoDaddy.com. So who did you think was going to get the most coverage during the race, and whose mug would you expect to see on a lot of commercials for this or that product? You just had to know that somewhere along the line Danica would be leading the race and, sure enough, with about 20 laps to go, she was. Nevermind that all the faster cars in front of her had taken a necessary pit stop to get enough fuel to finish the race, and Danica either had to stop eventually for the same, or run out of "gas"; she was then in the lead for a few laps. Danica leading late in the race will be what many will write and talk about, but it was a mirage. After she "came in" for fuel, and the superior cars zoomed past and reset the leader board to where it should be, short of a miracle, unless they all crashed or blew up, she had ZERO chance of winning.
I think comparing Danica Patrick to Tiger Woods might be fun. Let me throw a few things out at you, and you decide which they may have in common, and where they might differ a great deal.
Air time during an event they're competing in.
Air time during an event they're not competing in.
"Minority" status. See media darlings above.
Which you'd rather see on TV for a serious interview by an unbiased hard-nosed reporter..
Which you'd rather see hooked up to a polygraph for the same interview.
Which you'd rather see trying to sell you a used car.
Which you'd rather have as a next-door neighbor.
And on a personal note -- which one would you rather ride next to, Henry? Careful. That answer could get you in trouble. :-)
Idle thought. Why do they still call the Thursday before the Indy 500 carburetion day? Those cars haven't had carburetors for a couple decades. Shouldn't they call it "injector" day? Then again, that word might lead me back into saying some things about the aforementioned Tiger Woods that would get ME in trouble. Henry and I have bosses of a different sort (they both start with the letter "K", what are the chances of that?) but there comes a time when it's best to just shut up.