Race Control director Beaux Barfield won near-universal praise for halting the Indy 500 following
Townsend Bell’s late-race crash. That allowed the
safety team to clean up and the final six laps to be
run under green, making for an epic finish.
SEIZING THE CHANCE
Could the Indy 500’s first American winner in eight years
help provide traction for the IndyCar Series as a whole?
This year’s thrilling 98th running of the
Indianapolis 500 is being seen as a golden
opportunity for the Verizon IndyCar Series
to boost its profile, following American
Ryan Hunter-Reay’s epic victory.
Fans and longtime experts have noted
that Hunter-Reay’s determination in going
for gaps, and even creating ones that
didn’t look to be there, during his battle
with Helio Castroneves was an allegory
for the opportunism that needs to shown
by those in charge of promoting IndyCar.
Even the winner himself has said it.
“I am absolutely ready to help push
IndyCar,” said Hunter-Reay. “I want them
to wear me out with all the promotional
work they’ve got lined up! I grew up
loving Indy car racing; I looked up to the
Andrettis, the Unsers, Foyt, Mears. So I
want to see it succeed, absolutely.
“This series has so much going for it, in
terms of the amazing closeness of the
competition – closer than it’s ever been,
I’d say. Then there’s also the quality of the
drivers from the front to back of the grid,
which just seems to get better every year.
And then, obviously, the thing that this
branch of the sport has had going for it
for decades now is the diversity of the
tracks and venues.
“We race short ovals, street courses,
superspeedways and road courses, and
we’re the only series in the world like that.
That’s what makes the IndyCar Series a
true drivers’ championship. That’s what I
love most about it. And if we get the
message out, we’ll discover a lot of people
feel the same way; we’ll make new fans.”
Both Hunter-Reay and team owner
Michael Andretti were eager to emphasize
the patriotic side of the victory, but also to
highlight a point of differentiation from
the almost-all-American NASCAR grid.
Said Andretti: “Going up against the
best drivers in the world, not just the
United States, is a big deal to me. That’s
why it’s more precious when an American
wins the Indy 500 – because he won
against an international field. That’s when
we should feel really proud.”
And it’s now up to the series to sell that
viewpoint and turn it into a marketing tool.
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