Auto-racing's two most immovable objects, a pair of rival, open-wheel car circuits, tried to throw haymaker punches at each other over the Memorial Day weekend.
No knockdowns occurred, and both the Indy Racing League, with its Indianapolis 500, and the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) circuit, with its inaugural US 500, should be modestly pleased with their races.
Both drew large crowds and live national television coverage; both produced American winners (Buddy Lazier of Vail, Colo., at Indy, and Jimmy Vasser of San Francisco at the US 500 in Brooklyn, Mich.); and both were reasonably entertaining.
The finish at Indianapolis, in fact, was the third-closest ever, with Lazier edging Davy Jones of Lake Tahoe, Nev., by .695 of a second. By contrast, the suspense at the Michigan International Speedway was sapped once Andre Ribeiro, who was dueling with Vasser, had to make a costly refueling stop with only 10 laps to go. Vasser proceeded to win by a comfortable 10.995 seconds over Mauricio Gugelmin, while fellow Brazilians Roberto Moreno and Ribeiro took third and fourth, respectively.
The average winner's speed was nothing to write home about at either place. Vasser, the fastest qualifier in the US 500, averaged 156.403 m.p.h. Lazier, who had failed to finish in three previous Indy starts, was clocked at 147.956 m.p.h.
Neither race had much to brag about in terms of the number of cars racing at the end. Attrition took a heavy toll at both tracks. Only nine cars were running at the conclusion of the 80th Indy (33 started the race) and 11 cars were all that were left of the starting US 500 field of 27.
Embarrassing for the US 500 was a start delayed by 61 minutes when Vasser's car got entangled with Andrian Fernandez's on the final pace lap, causing a chain reaction collision involving 12 cars. Vasser and several others restarted in backup cars.
It was not the best introduction to a race that supposedly had better drivers than Indianapolis. Indy couldn't gloat either, since three of its drivers were involved in a last-lap crash.
Atlanta to host Paralympics as well
Atlanta hosts not one, but two major multisport, international competitions this summer: the Olympics (July 19-Aug. 4) and the Paralympics (Aug. 15-25). The latter, for athletes with disabilities, may actually produce faster times in certain events. Wheelchair racers in the Paralympics have recorded better times than their Olympic counterparts, even at such relatively short races as the 800 and 1,500 meters.
Scott Hollonbeck of the United States holds the men's Paralympic 800-meter wheelchair record with a time of 1:40.63 minutes. The Olympic mark is 1:41.71, set by Britain's Sebastian Coe.
As for what disabled athletes not in wheelchairs can do, consider this: The Olympic high jump record is 2.38 meters. Canada's Arnie Boldt, a single-leg amputee, has cleared 1.96 meters.