The Brickyard Redemption: Thoughts on a glorious off-season

INDIANAPOLIS - MAY 30: Cars race during the IZOD IndyCar Series 94th running of the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 30, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

Hope is a good thing... maybe the best of things.
And no good thing ever dies.

Andy Dufresne, The Shawshank Redemption

It has been a decade and a half since the IndyCar world was rent in twain by the collective greed, arrogance, and mistrust harbored by those entrusted with its care.

Fifteen years ago, I was a newlywed just out of college. None of my four children had been born yet.

My oldest kid, who is scheduled to receive her driver's permit in a matter of a couple of months, grew up in a much different world than I did. She never heard the words "It's a new track record!" coming out of Tom Carnegie's mouth. For her, the month of May is most notable because school gets out at the end and she has to think of a birthday present for her old man.

I have to admit that as a parent I haven't done a whole lot to get her interested in IndyCar racing. Blasphemy though it may be to the die-hardiest of IndyCar fans, I didn't want to get my daughter interested in the sport because, secretly, I wasn't sure if there was much point.

The future looked dismal. The atmosphere was toxic. Philosophical battles were fought on shaky ground by people whose weapons were as effective as tree branches, which meant that victory was only achieved through long, bloody bludgeoning.

How could my sense of nostalgia and history ever compete with that? I wondered. So I let my kids grow up unfettered with the trappings of IndyCar fandom while I sat around and waited to see if the dying embers of my own hope would ever be lit again.

Ah, hope. That last inhabitant of Pandora's pithos, sealed hermetically within while the rest of evil - including Avarice and Vanity - flew out the door into the world.

It's been hard to hold out hope for IndyCar over the last fifteen years. Every year we'd get a flash of false hope based on one side's gain thanks to the other's misfortune. But that was not real progress - it was a fake, a misdirection.

Even after Champ Car folded and the remnants were folded into IndyCar via "unification," the philosophy of "hold onto what you've got" throttled the sport into a ponderous lethargy. It felt like everyone realized that things needed to change, but nobody had the balls to actually get that process moving.

Many of the faithful eventually lost hope... even some of the die-hardiest of fans. For the rest of us, the threads we were holding onto were getting awfully thin.

That's why this off-season has been such a godsend for those of us who have hung on for so long. For the first time in what seems like forever, we have hope for the future - real hope, based in positive momentum and the sense that people are working towards a common goal. Pick your metaphor - a lush oasis in the desert, manna from heaven, the cavalry riding over the hill - it all adds up to the same sensation.

When May rolls around again, I'll be heading back out to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I'll be bringing someone very important with me - my oldest daughter. I figure that now is a good time for her to see what she was missing - indeed, what all of us have been missing for so many years.

I hope she likes tenderloin sandwiches. I hope she gets chills hearing thirty-three cars screaming around the Brickyard. I hope she meets my friends at Camp and Brew and shakes their hands. I hope.

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