Driving Today

A Tale of Two Races

Bahrain GP canceled, while IndyCar adds a season-ending race in Las Vegas.

Apparently there are forces even the nearly omnipotent Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone cannot control. And among those forces are the unruly mobs in the streets of Bahrain that have forced the cancellation of the March 13 Bahrain Grand Prix. As reported here last week, Formula 1 organizers were hoping that the crowds in the street seeking a more open and democratic government could be cleared away so that the F1 race could be flagged off on schedule, but no such luck for Bernie and his minions. In a rare display of magnanimity, Ecclestone also decided to waive the standard F1 cancellation fee -- an amount you or I could retire on -- because of the unusual circumstances surrounding the cancellation, namely a revolution in the streets. We’re certain that embattled Bahrainian King Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa will appreciate Ecclestone’s generosity, especially if he is forced into exile and is reduced to living off the money he has gathered as self-proclaimed king, which we have to admit is a pretty cool title.

While F1 was cancelling a race, the IndyCar circuit decided to add one, and it is a race that, oddly, may attract a disaffected Formula 1 driver or two. The final IndyCar race of the year will take place at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on October 16. As the season finale, it will also be a key race in crowning the series’ overall season champion, and Las Vegas is a great place to do that. But in an effort to further stir the pot and gain his series some much-needed publicity, IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard announced an added fillip to the final race. Any driver from outside the series who wins that race will receive a $5 million bonus, put up by the IndyCar Series itself. But before you show up on the weekend of October 14 with a racecar on a trailer and a helmet in your hand, you should know this: IndyCar reserves the right to determine which additional drivers, if any, compete in that final race. You can bet that they will need to have some open-wheel racing credibility before they make the grid. Further, to win the race, they have to have a competitive IndyCar Series racecar, and you can’t get one of those by logging onto the Hertz #1 Club and punching in your VISA card number. Again, race cred is imperative.

What will be very interesting to see come October is if anyone will even attempt to take IndyCar up on its challenge. Where I come from, $5 million is still a lot of money, so the offer could turn heads -- but chances are the possible contestants for the big money will be few in actuality. On the other hand, it would be interesting to see some celebrities from other disciplines compete for the $5 million -- even if they were to have no chance at all of winning. Say, hasn’t David Hasselhoff had some driving experience? And by that time King Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa might be looking for work too.



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