CART Needs to Step on the Gas
In Indy Car racing, speed is paramount. Unfortunately, the lords of that discipline are nothing if not overly deliberate.
On June 25 Al Unser Jr. appeared to win the Budweiser/G.I. Joe's 200 in Portland. However, the victory was nullified when a postrace inspection showed that Unser's winning car had less than the minimum of two inches of ground clearance. Team Penske, for whom Unser drives, immediately filed a protest, claiming that because a part fell off the car during the race, officials couldn't accurately determine the clearance.
In the intervening months the bosses at CART, the organization that oversees Indy Car racing, have not adjudicated the protest and named an official winner. The foot-dragging left the season's points race undecided, thus disrupting the strategy of Jacques Villeneuve, the series' top driver, in the last few races of the year—including Sunday's finale at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, Calif.
Some smelled a setup, arguing that CART wanted to help Unser win the driving title. Why? To ensure that next year the series would have a defending champion. Villeneuve, a French-Canadian who won this year's Indianapolis 500, had already announced that he will be leaving the Indy Car circuit for the riches of Formula One.
As it turned out, Villeneuve rendered the Penske protest moot when he clinched the series title with an 11th-place finish on Sunday. But even CART president Andrew Craig, while calling the conspiracy scenario "complete rubbish," acknowledges his organization's embarrassment. And to avoid such conflicts in the future, he promises to appoint a permanent appeals committee.
We hope that this time CART makes its move without the brakes on.
Iron Men Ozzy and Cal
Is it mere coincidence that during the same week Cal Ripken immortalized his honorific, Black Sabbath's 1971 song Iron Man was recognized in an exhibit at the new Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum as one of the genre's most influential tunes? About the same time Ripken's streak began in 1982, Sabbath's former lead singer, Ozzy Osbourne, cut a remake of the droning ballad on the album Speak of the Devil. Ozzy, often suspected of occult tendencies, appears in an authoritative heavy-metal encyclopedia under the eerily anagrammatical listing number of 2310, and he may have been foreshadowing the Ripken-as-throwback revitalization of baseball when he sang of Iron Man: "He traveled time for the future of mankind."
Then again, considering that Ozzy struts about in various stages of undress both on and off stage, he probably has a different concept of a streak.