IndyCar's most polarizing figure back in the game

Tony George reassumed his position on the Hulman & Company board of directors on Thursday, February 17, 2011. (Photo: IMS Photo)

No need to panic, right?

Right?

The news came out today that Tony George is back on the board of directors of Hulman & Company, the family corporation that owns and operates, among other things, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and INDYCAR.

He's one of four men added to the board, but let's be honest here - nobody really cares about those other three dudes, unless (as some have breathlessly speculated) they are in Tony George's pocket.

It's a queer bit of news and it's sparking a lot of instant, fevered buzz on social media - the bad kind of buzz, not the good buzz that has marked most of the past year.

It's queer because there's no indication at all that George will be involved in anything to do with IndyCar except on the highest-level macro basis. But the mere possibility that he might, mixed in with old rumors that he was trying to buy INDYCAR before his ouster/departure, has some skirts in a mighty twist. Some of the peanut gallery is nervous, and no mistake.

Never mind that there is absolutely no basis in reality for that nervousness. At all. The idea of a Tony George-led coup of Hulman & Company might make sense in some lousy, half-rate melodrama, but believe it or not we don't live in one of those.

But reality doesn't matter so much as perception does. And apart from his family, the erstwhile employees of Vision Racing, and his close allies from the past, there is virtually no one out there who associates the name "Tony George" with open-wheel prosperity, happiness, and forward-leaning momentum.

Fact is, when Tony George took his leave of Hulman & Company in a huff over a year ago, it was great news. Even the die-hardiest Indy Racing League loyalists were secretly happy that this quiet-speaking, polarizing figure was finding some other use of his time besides being involved with IndyCar racing. Tony George's name is so inextricably linked to The Split that the consensus was that the sport could not fully heal from the ravages that 15 years of Split politics had wrought on it without him being removed from the equation.

Now he's back in close proximity to a sport that he utterly destabilized and eventually nearly wiped off the map. Whether he now will have any direct involvement in that sport is immaterial. All that matters is that he is here.

It's illogical. It's hysterical. It's insulting to his family and friends. It's an affront to a family who should be best-known for saving the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from becoming a footnote to history instead of a shining, proud living memorial to it - a family, by the way, who had no problems welcoming the prodigal son back to the fold.

In a perfect world, IndyCar fans would welcome Tony George back with open arms, forgiving all, admitting him back into the good graces. It goes without saying that IndyCar is not a perfect world. And so you must forgive people for acting shell-shocked.

If time heals all wounds, I suppose you could say there are those who wish we had had a bit more of it.

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