In the swank poolside lounge of the W Saturday night, a fairly predictable exchange took place. This according to the dreamiest dreams of my heart.
Penske: Congratulations, Chip. You bested me yet again. I am honored to call you my friend & rival.
Ganassi: [takes shirt off ... drinks six shots of Jägermeister out of a scuba fin] Right back at you, slick!!!!
Penske: You are a worthy champion, and I salute you.
Ganassi: [makes out with four girls at once]
Penske: Well then, if you’ll excuse me, I must retire for the evening – for next year’s season begins tonight. Enjoy the festive atmosph –
Ganassi: – REGULATORS, MOUNT UP!!!! [swallows entire ribeye ... crowd-surfs to the dancefloor]
They’re a fascinating dichotomy, those two. Probably the polar opposites in every conceivable way. And that was never more evident than during the Firestone Indy 300 at Homestead.
Roger Penske played the logical percentages, as he’s exceedingly wont to do. And when there wasn’t a yellow flag all race, then one is certainly forthcoming, he reasoned. Or so said the odds. So said the statistical data he studies nightly. And statistical data should never be ignored. Which it wasn’t, of course. Because that would be madness, and it runs afoul of the Penske Way.
The Ganassi Way, however, isn’t nearly so rigid. No, it’s more free-flowing. Like a brush fire. It’s more unpredictable, and pretty much the Way you’d want to go party with, frankly. Simply because it comes with a built-in “Aww, f–k it!!” nuclear option. A fun little feature that may not always be in his best interest, but does allow him to go off-script if he so chooses. To go against percentages. To eschew logic. To round up hookers & go night swimming in a lagoon. And on Saturday, it permitted him to pit off-sequence when EVERY SINGLE IndyCar race in history declared that to be an unwise decision.
It wasn’t, and now he’s got back-to-back League Championship Trophies to defile as he sees fit. It was a risky, unorthodox move … and it neatly epitomized the differences between him & Penske.
Which is fitting. Because the Firestone Indy 300 neatly epitomized the entire 2009 season. It was a three-hour microcosm of the last six months, for good or ill.
Consider the following from Saturday: one of three cars was going to win — and three cars only… nothing even remotely positive happened to Dan Wheldon … I wasn’t even aware that Ryan Hunter-Reay was in the race … there was another questionable starter to give the command — this time with the honors going to Al Unser Jr.’s formidable swath of chest hair … VERSUS was solid, and so too was Kanaan … Izod continued with their cutting-edge marketing campaign (which consists of making potential customers want to dig out their own eardrums with a melon-baller) … Jack Arute was sweating out White Russians at a worrisome rate … Danica kind of got hosed, but refused to punch anyone in the throat … Briscoe came in second, despite having the most dominant car … EJ Viso wasn’t particularly insane … Sarah Fisher was inspiring … and ultimately, we knew how this was going to end long before it actually did.
But in terms of powerful microcosms, two instances from Saturday stand out most. The first of which being the painfully disjointed & scattered trophy presentation (which may or may not have been directed by the Firehawk mascot — on the fly — through an assortment of cryptic hand signals). Brian Barnhart was there. So too was Terry Angstadt. But as I watched the unfolding chaos while simultaneously slamming my head against the coffee table, questions were coming rapidly: Where is Jeff Belskus? Where’s Curt Brighton? Who’s running this show? Didn’t they rehearse this??? Wasn’t there a PLAN??? Why is Arute sweating like John Candy in a tobacco barn?!?! And why is he reading INDEX CARDS?!?! AND WHY CAN’T ANYONE LOCATE CHIP GANASSI?!?? REALLY?!?!? YOU CAN’T FIND THE GUY YOU’RE GIVING THE $1,000,000 TO?!?!!! THE BOAT IS RUDDERLESS!!! AND HOLY SWEET CHRIST WHY IS ASHLEY JUDD PRANCING AROUND THE SET LIKE A TWEAKED-OUT HOUSECAT!?!?! WOULD SOMEONE GET CONTROL OF THIS PLEASE?!?!!!!!
The second instance? It was nothing concrete, really. It wasn’t a “moment.” But rather, it was the nagging feeling that this race didn’t quite live up to our expectations. Almost as if it lacked … something. Although I’m terribly not sure what, exactly.
It wasn’t bad, I suppose. Nor was it particularly good. It just … was. But it seemed as though it could have — and should have — been better. More exciting. More close. More hard-fought. More fierce. More like we know it CAN be. More … something. More everything.
It was the absolute epitome of the 2009 season.