Just in case anyone hasn't noticed with all the action in Pacerland as we prepare for complete NBA domination, this Sunday is the Indy 500. That little car race attended by a smattering of people numbering around 300,000.
Helio is on the pole for the race at just a smidge under 228MPH. He has the opportunity this year to be the first double winner of 2 consecutive Indy 500's. That would also mean he'd join the exclusive 4 time winner's club with AJ Foyt, Al Unser, and Rick Mears. I'm getting a little ahead of the storyline but should that happen it would mean Helio would have to be a pre-race favorite to win the 2011 Indy 500 on the 100th anniversary of the Speedway's first Indy 500 (Originally known as the International 500 Mile Sweepstakes). And that would also make him the only 5 time winner. Having a driver become the only 5 time Indy 500 winner, on the 100th anniversary of the event, would be a marketing coup.
I think it's safe to say that possibility hasn't escaped officials at 16th and Georgetown who'd love to have that type of drama and hype heading into the 2011 100th anniversary race.
For anyone who hasn't noticed, IZOD is now the series sponsor and have actually been working hard to create a synergy with the two brands (IZOD and Indycar). Part of the marketing angle is to become trendier and 'hipper'. (I'm sure they are too hip to use the word 'hipper' in strategy meetings but that is clearly the goal).
They are trying to rekindle celebrity interest as part of that goal. As such, this year's flag waver to start the Indy 500 will be Jack Nicholson.
While the infamous snakepit was killed as part of an image makeover attempt by the Speedway there's apparently been a school of thought that they went too far in outright killing it. This year they are looking to resurrect more of that party atmosphere in a section of the infield... but with some control...
There will be a beer garden and large tent with televisions so sun-baked race fans and partiers can get some shade and still follow the race if they so wish. It sounded to me like they don't exactly want Hell's Angels Gone Wild in this new 'Snakepit'... but would certainly like a frat party, college bar, type atmosphere.
Something else missing will be Tony George's power. He's no longer in charge of the IRL or IMS.
There does seem to be a feeling of positive change in the air this year which could be a nice springboard going forward after some of the internal turmoil of the past few years.
As always, I'm looking forward to it. I don't think some realize just how important the Indy 500 is to Indianapolis.