Driving Today

IndyCar Sends Legends on Tour

Overseas goodwill tour reunites IndyCar with its best-known names.

It might be one of the best things IndyCar has done in years. As you know, American open-wheel racing has gone from the penthouse to the outhouse in the past 20 years. Inflated egos of drivers, team owners and promoters are partly to blame, as was the “Big Split” when Tony George decided he was getting enough respect from the team owners to create his own racing series -- the Indy Racing League. The split divided the loyalties of open-wheel racing fans across the country and led to a decline in the sport. Even when the split was healed with the demise of the Champ Car World Series, the damage had been done. But under new leadership, the IndyCar Series (sponsored by IZOD) is now gaining some momentum. That leads us to the series' latest gambit: a goodwill and publicity tour. That involves some of the greatest names in American open-wheel racing -- Mario Andretti, Al Unser Jr. and Johnny Rutherford. There will also be a Foyt on the tour; not irascible old A.J., but his son Larry. Now if that isn't an American-style collection of racing royalty, I don't know what is.

The group of racing legends -- along with other motorsports luminaries like Jack Arute, Davey Hamilton, Sarah Fisher, Martin Plowman and Cameron Haven (aka Miss IZOD) -- has headed to Europe and will eventually travel through the Middle East to visit military installations. In addition to meeting the racing legends and having their pictures taken with Miss IZOD, some of the troops will get the opportunity to ride in a two-seat version of an IndyCar racing machine that’s emblazoned appropriately in red, white and blue livery. Sponsored by Morale Entertainment Foundation, the tour is one of several that bring what the organization refers to as the "Best of America" to our women and men in uniform overseas.

While the tour is a great step, we'd like to see the IndyCar organization sponsor a similar caravan that would travel across the United States, spreading the word to both a new generation of potential fans and the older fan base that fondly remembers the Andretti, Foyt, Unser and Rutherford names, but has lost interest in the current series. We think TV stations, radio stations and newspapers across the country would jump at the chance to interview even one of these famous racing names, if not several of them. And getting reporters in the two-seat racer seems like a logical opportunity for feature coverage on local morning or evening news programs. We'll see if such a tour is in the offing, but for now we applaud IndyCar on this effort. Unlike the typical race, this is an event where everybody wins.



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