No, I am not talking about our southern border with Mexico, with holes large enough to drive an earth mover through undetected. And I am not talking about our border to the north, where Canadians pass through to avoid the long waits for medical care.
I am talking about Europeans. No, the Spanish Armada is not anchored in the harbor outside the port of Baltimore, either. The invasion I speak of is that of F-1 fans invading the fair city of Indianapolis for what looks like could be the last U.S Grand Prix, at least at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
From day one, Tony George has bent over backwards to accommodate Bernie Ecclestone, the arrogant and flamboyant leader of F-1. From the very first USGP at IMS, the aristocracy of the organization has tried to make the entire effort look like some kind of bumbling peasant's operation that is not worthy of their presence. From the very outset of the F-1 relationship, the Formula One officials have acted as if the IMS needed them, more than they needed the speedway.
F-1 officials stayed at the very best hotels Chicago had to offer and flew down daily, as if Indianapolis had no four star hotels that could accommodate their delusions of being royalty. They secluded themselves from the press, certainly more so than was expected of a group that wanted to open F-1 up to a lucrative market that craved more racing, on an international level.
Then, there was the great 2005 tire controversy. That debacle saw a whopping six cars race around a track that has seen many great races over the decades, over a safety issue caused by bad tires.
So in essence, the F-1 crowd can certainly say this is a two-bit operation if it makes them feel better. That's fine with me.
But as I think about F-1 at the IMS, I remember this is where the largest crowd ever in the history of the series, gathered to watch a Grand Prix. When the three top finishers of the opening race stood on the podium to the cheers of over 250,000 people, I saw the awe in the faces of Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barichello, and Heinz-Harald Frentzen. I watched as they were amazed that so many people could be interested enough in shelling out the enormous ticket prices to watch a bunch of Europeans play "follow the leader" behind Schumacher.
So here we are at what could be the last U.S. Grand Prix for a long while. Ecclestone has made it clear that he doesn't need F-1 to be in the States for it to be successful. And in reality, he's right. But when you drive down Georgetown Road alongside the west side of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, you see the many banners of the great racing legends that have driven at that track, over the many years. It is then that it becomes strikingly apparent, the U.S. doesn't need F-1 either.
Bob Kravitz of the Indy Star seems to agree with me somewhat on this. Here is his column from today's paper.