Fourth Turn – Racing, Something For Everyone

Of all the major spectator or participant sports in the US, none can match automobile racing for diversity. Whether one looks at drivers who compete in the sports? varied forms of competition, the multiplicity of tracks, or the myriad championships that are contested, no other sport is so diverse.

Football is the same sport, whether played at the high school level or in the NFL. The same goes for baseball, hockey, golf, or basketball. But racing truly presents a real smorgasbord of pleasures for race fan and competitor alike.

The field for the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500 is a good case in point. Over the past weekend driver Ryan Briscoe, who is solidly in the 500 line-up, traveled to Utah to compete in the American LeMans Series event at Miller Motorsport Park- a four-mile road course. John Andretti, also an Indy qualifier, has spent the past few seasons in NASCAR, running in several series including Nextel Cup. His roots are in open wheel competition, having won a CART event in 1991, but he has also competed in the NHRA?s Top Fuel division, was 1983 USAC Midget Division Rookie of the Year, and competed in the LeMans 24-hour race with Uncle Mario and cousin Michael.

Ed Carpenter has run in the USAC midgets as well as their Silver Crown Division. Milka Duno is a regular competitor in the Rolex Sports Car Series. Sarah Fisher started in 410 sprints, midgets, and spent the 2005 season in NASCAR?s Grand National Division in a Richard Childress entry. Sam Hornish Jr. is splitting time in Roger Penske?s IRL and NASCAR vehicles. All of this in an age where specialization among athletes in other sports is at an all-time high.

NASCAR drivers compete on super speedways, short half-miles, road courses and cookie-cutter 1.5 mile tracks. IRL teams race on the high banks of Michigan International, Milwaukee?s flat mile, road courses at Mid-Ohio, St. Petersburg, Belle Isle and Motegi, Japan?and, of course, Indy?s four corner rectangle.

Then there?s drag racing, rallying, go karts, super late models, modifieds, hill climbs, Formula One, vintage, monster trucks, demolition derbies??and you get the picture.

F-1 champion Juan Pablo Montoya is in NASCAR, Tony Stewart would love to be at Indy, Jeff Gordon should be, and Marco Andretti may move to F-1 shortly.

Bobby and Donnie Allison, Cale Yarborough and Lee Roy Yarbrough have been at Indy, while Mario, AJ, Mark Donohue, Dan Gurney, and Joe Leonard are only a few who have been in NASCAR as well as in Indy cars. Leonard was also a motorcycle champion and Paul Goldsmith ran on two wheels as well as four (open and closed).

Racing may seem fragmented to some; each short track may have its own divisions and rules, differing slightly from the track just up the road. The IRL and CCWS have fractured America?s top level open wheel Championship, but today we DO have 40 drivers racing regularly in those cars. All of this is racing?s attraction- there?s something for everyone. And for that, we who enjoy that diversity say, THANKS!

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