Monday, October 21, 2013

Dixon's never-give-up attitude pays again

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website – via the “GALLERY: Reviews of new cars” link at

Sacramento, California – Another year, another IndyCar series gone.

And in what has become an annual tradition, a Team Penske driver lost the series title after having a virtual hammerlock on it late in the season.  It’s a pretty amazing thing from a team that has all but defined perfection for decades, especially in the Indianapolis 500.

I can’t argue with Scott Dixon (pictured) winning the IndyCar title for a third time.  He’s relentless.  He never gives up.  And yet, he might be the nicest bulldog in all of sports.  He put together some great drives in 2013 and shrugged off crushing setbacks that might have wilted other drivers.  Cheers to you, Scott.

Two things I’ll remember from this year, besides Dixon gutting it out to the last lap:

For one, yes, you can still get hurt in an IndyCar racer, despite the incredible advances in car safety.  Three-time Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti demonstrated that in dramatic fashion recently when his car was launched into a temporary fence in the shadow of the old Houston Astrodome.

Happily, Franchitti emerged with “only” broken back bones and an apparently nasty ankle break.  It wasn’t all that long ago that such a spectacular crash would have taken off limbs, or worse.  Kudos to the car designers.  And I’m really glad fans who were in the way of debris were not seriously hurt.
I still think current catch fences fall short of the mark.  The cars still get shredded.  As I’ve said before, putting a clear, bullet-resistant “wall” between cars and fans would likely keep debris out of the grandstands.

Second thrill of the year was being on hand to watch longtime sentimental favorite Tony Kanaan finally win the Indianapolis 500 last May.  I’ll always remember the thunderous roar of the crowd when it became apparent that “hard-luck” Tony was going to win the crown jewel of American racing.  His Indy run, amid record lead changes and an all-time record speed for 500 miles, was the drive of the year in the series.

And next year, Kanaan joins Dixon and Franchitti on the Chip Ganassi Racing team.  Can you say Super Team?  Certainly stacks up that way.

IndyCar will again make a run at wrapping up its season by Labor Day in 2014.  It has been tried before, and I think it makes sense.  The Indy 500 draws media attention at the end of May, and by Labor Day, football is ruling the roost.  For this particular series, I think it makes sense to have competitive races in the summer months and then clear the decks by Labor Day Monday.

And yes, I like the idea of a road race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway a couple weeks before the Indy 500.  I don’t know what kind of crowd it will draw in 2014, but I kind of like the idea of restoring the whole “month of May” atmosphere at IMS.  Yeah, those old-school feelings die hard.

One other thing to ponder over the long winter: How fast will the IndyCar racers go with the proposed spec changes?  I have long believed IndyCar to be the edge of the envelope when it comes to high speed and close-quarters racing action.  Faster is better in my view.  And I think the construction of the cars provides the necessary margin of safety.

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