2014 Update: ABC TV begins coverage at 9 a.m. Mountain Time. At 10 a.m., we will hear the immortal words of Mari Hulman George: “Lady and Gennemun, start yer engines!” and one lady and 32 gennemuns will roar off for 500 miles at 200 miles an hour. Like Larry Phillips says below, if you don’t get it, to hell with ya.
& OK. I like car racing.
I have always liked car racing — the wheel-to-wheel and bumper-to-bumper battles on snaking sports car tracks and roundy-roundy races on demolition dirt or high-speed asphalt ovals. Why? I don’t know. Something, who knows what, caused it, and it’s been in me ever since those many Memorial Days in May in the 1940s, when I’d tie a string to a toy Indy car and whirl it around in circles, listening on the radio to the excited voices of Bill Slater high up in the finish-line Pagoda, Sid Collins in Turn One and Jim Shelton in Turn Four, urgently bringing me periodic updates from the Greatest Spectacle in Racing — the Indianapolis 500.
I understand…yes I do. Most of my friends don’t get it, and I can’t explain it to them. Sometimes I’ve wondered if maybe I am, as they suspect, crazy. But, it says on the Internet that auto racing is about the fifth most popular spectator sport in the world, so I’ve got lots of company. (Cricket is apparently more popular than car racing. Car races, at least, come to an end. Cricket games, I’m told, are interminable. That’s really crazy.)
Today I read an explanation of the widespread attraction to car racing. It’s the best I’ve heard. It comes from one of the last of the Good Ol’ boys of bash-and-bang-and-beer-and-babes Saturday night stockers, a fella named Larry Phillips, who explained to Joe Posnanski why so many people gave so much of their lives to the sport of stock car racing:
“They were in it for the roar and the danger and the checkered flag. It was something you either got or didn’t get. If you got it, well, come on then. And if you didn’t, well, to hell with ya.”
I’ll go with that. It’s kind of like a lot of things. You either get ’em, or you don’t. And if you don’t, well, to hell with ya. And I’ll see ya when we get down there.
& Turning left, I’m outta here.