So the big question: Will Dan Wheldon, the new Indy 500 champ, run in the Firestone Twin 275s on Saturday night, June 11th?
The answer: Hopefully. Well, maybe. If I can do anything about it, he will.
I spent the day with Wheldon, one of the great personalities in the sport, not to mention one of the sport’s all-time performers in crunch time. Check out his amazing record at Indy -- two wins, two second-place finishes, one third-place and one fourth-place finish in only nine starts. Only three times has he finished out of the top four.
The team he won with at Indy was a one-off deal. They hadn’t run an IndyCar Series race before Indy this year and aren’t scheduled to run any more. Wheldon is, in fact, a free agent. He’s not under contract with any team. Anybody can sign him.
The team he celebrated with in Victory Lane was Bryan Herta Autosport. The team is owned by the likeable, successful Herta, a former IndyCar star himself. The sponsor is William-Rast jeans, the fashion line owned by entertainer Justin Timberlake. Let’s do some business, guys.
Herta is a racer -- the best compliment you can offer anybody in this sport -- and I know he wants to race (answer the phone, Bryan!). They honestly didn’t think about what would happen if they became the dog that caught the car. Who thought they would win the Indy 500? Now what? Can this six-man team turn the car around for these historic twin races in Texas in less than two weeks. Heck, will their heads stop pounding before the first green flag falls on the first of two Firestone Twin 275s?
And could another team -- are you listening A.J.? -- put the Indy champ in a car here in Texas and elsewhere? Who has cars -- Ganassi? For the good of the sport.
And then there is Wheldon. He wants to race. He effused excitedly about the Twin 275 concept and the random selection of starting positions for the second race. All race horses are chomping at the bit to get in the starting gate. Wheldon, though, needs to rightfully pick his spot. He made his bed with Bryan Herta Autosport and it paid off. Do you switch horses now after this success? And do you possibly consider getting into another team’s car that might not be up to snuff? He is, after all, the Indy 500 champ. He can pick his spot. They handed him a check of $2.6 million at the Indy 500 awards banquet on Monday night.
So, while time is short, time will tell. If it was all about attitude, Wheldon, Herta and William-Rast would be in the starting grid for both races of the Firestone Twin 275s.
So stand by. We’re working on it.
Everybody wants it to happen.