The 2021 edition of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race is still reverberating in my mind and soul two days later. The reverberations are amplified because I was one of the fortunate 140,000 people on-site to bear witness to one of the greatest race experiences of my life.
I don’t make those claims lightly because in the immediate afterglow of as nearly perfect a race day, storybook finish, and celebration as one could imagine, it’s tempting to succumb to labeling it ‘one for the ages’ with no contemplation. My racing soul, coupled with (what I attempt to maintain as) a grounded mind, however, have both received, accepted, and confirmed the result that this was simply one of the greatest Indy 500s of all time or at the very least, of the post-WWII era which encompasses many amazing races certainly. As I previewed in the previous post (here), several things this May aligned to give us the potential for an historic race.
Many of us could be forgiven for patently not believing in such things as ‘racing gods’ and perhaps we’re a bit too cynical and jaded to accept an unseen, mystical realm beyond our own. The 105th Race, however, would do nothing to dispel the existence of those very racing gods to me that seem to show up at times of uncertainty with circumstances that create results of significance and restore our faith. No matter the proof available to our human senses Sunday, I had to consider that this race result was supposed to happen, and in many ways, help lay to rest all of the haunted and tortured racing souls that not only endured the pandemic, but also were left with little assistance to heal from the fractures inflicted from several key events like; the death of Tony Hulman in 1977, the loss of many central and integral persons in the 1978 USAC plane crash, the ‘White Paper’ and emergence of CART, the 1996 USAC/CART ‘split’, and subsequent years of aftershocks from those momentous off-track events going forward.
Following the first ‘Golden-era’ of Indycar racing from the late 1950s into the mid-1970s, the sport was suddenly left with a crisis of identity for nearly the next 20 years. It had taken over 20 more years to arrive where we were on Sunday, May 30, 2021. As a very young fan in the late-1970s and continuing to this day, I can say that I’ve felt the numerous ebbs and flows of this sport as much as any fan has, I feel that finally the time has come for me to lay aside any and all resentment and sense of loss that had existed in me for far too long. Safe to say I was very much unsure of what a Penske ownership might mean for the soul of the ‘World’s Greatest Racecourse’, but the resulting 2021 event, finally with fans present, has told me that faith in the ‘racing gods’ shall be rewarded.
Believe me, all this talk of mysticism, faith in the unseen, and Karmic balances seems to conflict with this writer’s ethos that somehow staying ‘grounded’ at all costs is important in this fan’s existence and to maintain ones own equilibrium.
I get that and I see that.
It’s also easy to be a cynic when things are difficult and all the evidence you see denies your hopes, pushing them furthest from view. Brushing off the positive forces at play when things go so very right, as mere happenstance, is equally jaded.
Let us endeavor to joyfully celebrate the recent magic of Indy. Celebrate the plucky perseverance of Meyer Shank Racing and our newest 4-time, infectiously-spirited, and deserving Indy 500 champion of the fans, the people, Helio Castroneves.
Let us embrace as one the goodness that exists today, appreciate the efforts of those who lead this sport, and finally lay to rest the ghosts of Indycar past.
Let us dare to again look-forward and not slump back lazily against past glories.
Let us dare to simply feel the goodness of this Indy 500, to accept this gift from the racing gods, and to look forward with optimism and embrace the joy of these greatest moments of racing.