Peaches and Herb had a hit record many years ago when I was a kid entitled Reunited and It Feels So Good. I grew up in a lakeside resort town in southern Ohio, and the jukebox in one of the dance halls at the lake used to blare out that song. I got to the point where I was sick of hearing it. I heard it again recently on the radio, and, this time, what came to my mind (after all those pleasant memories of girl watching on the beach in back of my parents’ house) was the recent reunification of the Indy Racing League and the rival Champ Car circuit.
Along with the local resort, the beach bunnies, the Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Browns, ball card collecting, DC comics, and my collection of Civil War toy soldiers, my other big passion as a kid was open wheel racing. I rooted for Johnny Rutherford (“Lonestar J.R.”), Al Unser Sr. (my favorite driver of all time), and Mario Andretti. I used to root against A. J. Foyt, Jr., Tom Sneva, and Gordon Johncock. Indy cars were a passion, and I even made a cardboard Indianapolis Motor Speedway to play with my Hot Wheels. Matchbox, and Johnny Lightning cars. I even made up rules for qualifications and actual races.
Years later, I enjoyed playing the Avalon Hill USAC Indy 500 racing game, which was eerily similar to my larger home-made cardboard game from my youth. I still have the collector cards that came with this AH classic game. For me, Indy car racing dropped off my radar not long after the retirements of Danny Sullivan, Bobby Rahal, Rick Mears, Al Sr., Arie Luyendyk, and other notables. Sure, I really enjoyed Al Under Jr. and Michael Andretti, but not long afterwards, the series split and I couldn’t get into the likes of Buddy Rice, Buddy Lazier, Eddie Cheever, Paul Tracy, and Nigel Mansell. I gradually became (gasp!) a fan of NASCAR.
Now, the series is reunited, but honestly, it doesn’t feel so good yet. While the warring and bickering is over, the damage may be irreparable. I don’t know if Indy racing will ever be the same again.
Servio, Power, Patrick, Kanaan, Dixon, Wheldon — OK, I guess, but I miss Al and Bobby, Mario, Gordon, and even crusty old A. J. Only time will tell if the popularity comes back. Perhaps a win by Danica Patrick might restore some of the media attention?