"The Running for a Quart of Milk?"
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, team owners, drivers, crew and media. I'm Brian Rhoades, Indy Racing League Chairman, and I welcome you to the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 250!
Before we start the traditional Owners Banquet, sponsored by, Con Agra, Chevy and Morgan Stanley, I would like to propose a toast to our President and CEO, Tony George.
Before you is a quart of milk; I would like each team owner to pour a glass for the customary "milk toast."
"Did I hear him correctly? Did he say the running of the Indianapolis 250?"
"I think so."
"But isn't it a 500 mile race?" questioned team owner Roger Penske. "And what's this ‘milk toast?'" Shouldn't we be toasting with wine?"
I'll be glad to take questions after the presentation, exclaimed George. But, as you just heard, there have been some changes made, in light of recent events in the commodity markets and the environment. Mr. Rhoades will explain.
"Some changes?" asked team owner, Chip Ganassi.
Thank you, Mr. George.
As you all know, time does not stand still and change is inevitable. In the past, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has made many changes in the best interest of the fans and driver safety.
For the past 100 years, fostering innovation and development in motorsports safety has been a priority for Indianapolis Motor Speedway leadership, and the teams and manufacturers that compete at IMS. Over time, many exciting changes have occurred and, despite the inherently dangerous nature of high-speed racing, many lives have been saved.
In 1909, the Speedway's treasured brick surface, nicknamed "The Brickyard" was replaced in response to a need for greater driver and spectator safety.
When the original tar-and-crushed-stone surface proved too unstable during that first summer of racing in 1909, track co-founders Carl Fisher and James Allison took little time in deciding that paving bricks - more expensive but more durable than concrete - should be the surface of the future.
Another major innovation, for racing and the automobile industry in general, was crafted essentially out of desperation two years later. The Ray Harroun team showed up with a piece of mirror, framed in steel, mounted atop of his range of vision, and the first-ever rear-view mirror was invented.
Other changes that came into being at IMS include the first use of a Pace Car (1911), the first mass rolling start of a race (1911), the first use of four-wheel hydraulic brakes (1921), the first installation of color warning lights (1935), the first mandatory use of helmets (1935) and the first use of crash-data recorders (1993).
By the 21st century, the Speedway arguably had the greatest invention to protect drivers in a high-speed crash, the SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) Barrier, was applied to the track's four turns, in May 2002.
We constantly monitor the race cars, as well as make rule changes to curb cheating. We inspect cars before and after the race for such things as, drilled holes in the wheel well for improved aerodynamics, spoiler size and shape, longer fuel tubes (to increase fuel capacity), restrictor plates, oxidizing chemicals (to improve fuel efficiency), as well as drivers rolling their window up to decrease wind drag during the race.
"If you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin'!" whispered A.J. Foyt.
"Why you looking at me?" asked Ganassi.
For the fans, we have grown from a simple parade and balloon races to a full month of events. Everything from live music, autograph sessions, Front Row and Last Row parties, trading pin conventions, golf outings, gala charity benefits, all types of car races, ranging from vintage car to riding lawnmower, to gasoline alley, our museum as well as Q & A events with drivers, both past and present.
"What kind of changes are you planning on making?" asked Penske.
We are making changes for the good of the environment.
"In your opening statement you said, ‘Welcome to the Indianapolis 250,' what does that have to do with the environment?
It means that the race has been shortened to 250 miles, as opposed to the normal 500 miles. It means we pollute the atmosphere less. It's a small step, but an important step, that IMS takes the lead in atmospheric regeneration.
"What! Are you kidding me? Atmospheric regeneration? This must be a joke?" exclaimed Mario Andretti.
It's no joke! The Indianapolis 500 is now the Indianapolis 250.
"This is an outrage!" exclaimed Foyt. "You are tampering with America's greatest motor car race! You can't do this!
Oh, yes we can! And it's official! As of January 1, 2008 the race has been shortened to 250 miles and many other changes have been instituted.
"More changes?" asked Ganassi.
We have been asked by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Environmental Management Association (EMA), Green Peace, Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, the United Nations and many other environmental groups to curb our toxic emissions and reduce our carbon footprint.
As you all know, the ozone layer is rapidly being depleted and global warming is rising exponentially, so we have decided to make a commitment to not only the fans and drivers, but also to the environment and the fate of mother earth.
"Wait a second!" yelled Andretti. We all care about the environment--- we are concerned about protecting our water, our air, our land and the animals in them. I recycle and donate to environmental groups... but what about racing?
What? That's not enough? If our exhaust levels are too high, then, what if we all install catalytic converters on our cars?
"Carbon footprint? What the hell is that?" asked Foyt.
Our Carbon footprint, for the race, including all the qualifying and practice for the month of May is over one million tons of greenhouse gases, replied Rhoades.
"We don't race in a greenhouse!" exclaimed Andretti. "We don't even race indoors! So, how can they say we produce greenhouse gases? This is preposterous!"
"Can they get away with this?" exclaimed Ganassi.
An outline detailing the changes is being passed around.
The first change is what I already spoke about; the race has been shortened to 250 miles to conserve fuel and limit our emissions.
"What! We all can afford the $7.00 per gallon charge for race fuel--- It doesn't matter if fuel costs $1.00 or $100.00 per gallon, were all wealthy enough to afford it!"
It's not the cost, said Rhoades. It's the emissions. We are polluting way too much.
We are currently looking at a proposal to change fuels from gasoline to Ethanol or other bio-fuels, but it's in the exploratory stages right now.
"What about Gasoline Alley? It's going to be called, Ethanol Alley?"
"What about qualifying and practice rounds?" asked Penske.
Good question Roger. As you all know, you are all very qualified, capable teams. Your cars and drivers are tops in their field and all of you belong here, in the race. Both qualifying and practice require so much fuel, that we have decided that there will be only one day of practice per team. And as far as qualifying, each team has been assigned a number and starting positions will be drawn out of a hat.
"You've got to be kidding!" yelled Andretti. "Pulling numbers out of a hat? This isn't Secret Santa or something!"
"What about the Pole Position? Who gets that?" asked Ganassi.
The Pole will go to the previous year's winner.
"Hey Rhoades, you're taking us on a road to nowhere!" yelled Foyt. "This isn't the Indianapolis 500, it's a Soapbox Derby!"
"What about Bump Day and Carb Day?" asked Penske.
Both Bump Day and Carb Day have been eliminated.
Both have been eliminated. Bump Day is not necessary, since all teams are in the field and Carb Day is another waste of fuel and puts undue pressure on the environment. Besides, as early as 2001 we have been getting complaints from nutritionalists and alike, that "Carb Day" promotes unhealthy eating and is an event to "pig out."
"C'mon! Are you kidding me?" asked Ganassi. Carb Day is not carbohydrate day, it stands for Carburetion Day!"
Yes, we all know, but carburetors are no longer used; they're obsolete and not necessary.
"Well, what about the Official Pace Car?" asked Foyt. "I suppose you're getting rid of it too?"
No, we are going to continue that tradition, but instead of the V-8, Chevy Corvette, we are using a gas saving, four cylinder, Chevy Chevette!
"Geez," exclaimed Foyt. They're not letting us run!
"They have the Running of the Bulls in Spain, the run for the presidency in Washington, the Running of the Brides at Filenes Basement in Boston, and the Run for the Roses at the Kentucky Derby. What do we get?
"We get, the 92nd running for a quart of milk!"
Copyright 2008 Steve Kay