US Grand Prix winds down to historic finish

The eighth, and possibly final, United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis wound down Sunday evening as Lewis Hamilton feted his victory at the old Brickyard's road course by thanking crew, family and God. Spectators filing out of the Speedway ...

The eighth, and possibly final, United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis wound down Sunday evening as Lewis Hamilton feted his victory at the old Brickyard's road course by thanking crew, family and God.

Spectators filing out of the Speedway complex were left to wonder about the future of the event as Tony George and F1 czar Bernie Ecclestone failed to reach an agreement on a long-term deal that would put the international series into the American market for the foreseeable future.

Scores of Brits, Brazilians and Japanese brought the All-American institution a passion and outright craziness that is missing when the very different crowds of the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400 NASCAR race convene here.

After a series of conversations, some of which were ongoing in the facility's famous Gasoline Alley during race weekend, George and Ecclestone sparred over (what else) money. Third-world countries, with government backing, want the race as much or more as they want to feed their people.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway chief operating officer Joie Chitwood said both the Speedway and F1 are working toward an agreement for 2008 and beyond; but insiders rate the odds at 50/50 that the race will return.

"Tony has stressed to Bernie in these meetings that we want to continue the event, and we believe he feels the same," Chitwood said. "With eight years experience with the USGP, both Tony and Bernie know what the challenges are."

"If we are going to have a USGP in 2008, we know that we need to make the announcement and start working on the event by the second week of July."

Some media outlets, in America, are making hay of Hamilton's race and his path-breaking win as the first black man to win a race at the country's most-famous and most-storied racetrack.

For Hamilton, the object of view out of his helmet was color-blind. He was focused on the familiar nationalism that F1 has fostered since Ascari beat Fangio who beat Moss.

"Obviously, it was great to see that there's a big crowd here, and they're all very, very supportive. A lot of British flags out there, which is fantastic for me," Hamilton said. "I get a lot of energy from that. (In the end) I was able to do it and, as I said, it was just very, very emotional."

Some names seldom heard won fame during the weekend, as IMSA GT3 drivers Charles Cardina and Bryce Miller rode to victory in their Porsche Cup cars; while Formula BMW up-and-comers Daniel Morad and Esteban Gutierrez added their names to the rolls of the victors at Indy.

They were joined by Indy Pro Series drivers Hideki Mutoh of Japan and Wisconsin's Bobby Wilson on the checkered podium that hovers over the yard of bricks start/finish line at the Speedway; where one of the thrills of the weekend was the sound of the Star Spangled Banner playing over the Stars & Stripes with Wilson's victory early Sunday morning.

Race-fan Tiger Woods couldn't hole a birdie over his last thirty-two greens at the United States Open tournament of golf, losing quite infamously to a fat, cigarette-puffing Argentinian whose nickname is 'The Duck', but he does have something to look forward to on TIVO.

"I'll be interested to see how Lewis Hamilton goes in our Grand Prix on Sunday," Woods told the English newspaper The Sun before the USGP, "and I will catch up with it at some stage, but hopefully not live. I hope to be taking care of business myself then."

Finally, as most of us move from the heights of international glamour and glitz to mundane lives in the shadows off-stage, it's comforting to know that even the high and mighty have their problems: speeding, for instance.

F1 penalized four drivers for "speeding" during pre-race practice on Friday. Based on a scale of 200 euros for each kilometer over the 60-kph (36 mph) speed limit on the pitlane, Felipe Massa, Adrian Sutil, Heikki Kovalainen and Hamilton were all dinged for amounts ranging from around $270 to $1600 for their indiscretions.

At a rate of $437 per mile of violation, it surely points out that American roads and highways remain the land of the "free".

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Series Formula 1
Drivers Lewis Hamilton , Felipe Massa , Heikki Kovalainen , Tony George , Bobby Wilson , Adrian Sutil , Daniel Morad , Hideki Mutoh , Bernie Ecclestone , Esteban Gutierrez , Bryce Miller