Ken Severson column May 30


This was the 100th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

The old Brickyard, as it’s called. It was the 100th running, and it had one of the best scripts ever written.

Nothing in Hollywood could even touch this.

This was a race for the ages.

Rookie Alexander Rossi (who?) rolled the dice with his team, Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, and came up with one of the great wins in Indianapolis 500 history — maybe even racing history — and took first place as his car was running on fumes as it crossed the finish line, a clear four seconds ahead of teammate Carlos Munoz of Columbia.

Tears flowed. From Rossi for winning and from Munoz for not winning.

“I was really disappointed to get second,” Munoz said. “Half a lap short. That’s what it took.”

Half a lap from immortality.

Rossi will be immortalized on the Borg-Warner Trophy, and the race will be immortalized as one of the (arguably) greatest.

The race sold out for the first time in several years, was broadcast on live television in the Indianapolis area for the first time since I’ve been around, and it had, as mentioned, a storybook finish for a rookie driver who nobody but the savviest racing fan could identify even with a racing program. With an attendance of around 350,000, no sporting event anywhere was packed more than Sunday’s race.

It lived up to the hype that started May 25, 2015 — the day after the 99th running.

Now what?

In public relations, there’s an old saying: What have you done for me lately?

Once the final story of the race is written, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway staff, along with IndyCar, will be pooling their thoughts, scratching their heads and marketing the race like crazy for No. 101.

No, that’s not sexy like 100, and it’s not out of line to say these good racing people have a tough act to follow to get the same sold out result as this year.

Never mind the racing story.

There will be new races, new Alexander Rossi’s, who came from one of the worst Formula 1 teams around last year to instant stardom the next.

There will be racing.

But what about the fans?

I’ve been coming to the race on a yearly basis since 2003 for the Daily Journal. My very first race was as a combination reporter/fan in 1994.

I was then working as a sports writer for the now-defunct (in delivery only) Palos Verdes Peninsula News and was able to get in the old press box for all the events except the race. That, I watched from the Turn 1 grandstands.

I worked the 1999 and 2002 race for different teams and drivers (Steve Knapp and Max Papis).

Every time has been a pleasure and a privilege for this racing nut.

And the Media Center, wonderfully run by former Franklin resident Mr. Tim Sullivan, was packed on two floors — something I haven’t seen in quite a while.

Media came from all over the world. Writers like the famed Formula 1 writer Nigel Roebuck, who eschewed the famous Monaco Grand Prix yet again for this race three years in a row. And I saw a few old friends I hadn’t seen in several years who decided to make the trip to Indy because, in the words of another racing writer I know, “It’s the 100th. I couldn’t miss this.”

I asked him if he would be around for No. 101.

“Not sure,” he said.

Not exactly a turn down, but not exactly a ringing endorsement for requesting his credentials on Monday.

Hopefully, the Speedway can build from this and increase the fan base.

It doesn’t matter if the fans come to see the race or see the show in the “Snake Pit,” so long as they come and continue to help Indycar and, most importantly, the Indianapolis 500 thrive and continue to be the Greatest Spectacle Racing.

Next year’s script has yet to be written.

I only hope it continues to be written to sold-out shows.

Author photo
Ken Severson is a sports correspondent for the Daily Journal.