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No Danica, no problem: That's how some look at it this year in Indy

Some are embracing an Indy 500 without the spotlight on Patrick

May 22, 2012|MCT

INDIANAPOLIS Few events in motor sports honor their tradition more than the Indianapolis 500.

The race celebrated its 100th anniversary last May and will run for the 96th time (it wasn't held during World War II) on Sunday at the Brickyard.

"What a special place it is," said team owner Jimmy Vasser, whose best finish as a driver was fourth. "You never forget how special the place is. And how really, really difficult it is."

Yet for all of the traditions times are changing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The biggest changes: a new car, new engines and new drivers. And Danica Patrick — the most popular IndyCar driver in years — has left for NASCAR.

And that doesn't have too many folks in Indy upset.

She hasn't been as missed as some might have thought. Although she drew attention to the series, many times she was the center of attention.

IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard said Saturday it's a shame racing fans don't know as much about a driver such as two-time Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti, who's married to actress Ashley Judd. Bernard said when Franchitti's career ends, he will be mentioned with the likes of open-wheel legends Mario and Michael Andretti, the Unsers (Bobby, Al and Al Jr.) and Rick Mears.

"Danica was great for the sport, but I also think she was an umbrella that took the spotlight off some of the drivers like Dario," Bernard said. "We have this great legend that doesn't resonate with fans to the amount of his credibility. That's a disappointment to me. I have to focus on that."

Bobby Rahal, who runs Rahal Letterman Racing—yes, David Letterman--and won the Indy 500 as a driver and an owner, said it's time the racing gets the limelight.

"We get to focus on the racing now and the people who are here, who are damn good drivers," Rahal said. "Danica did great things for this series, but often times at the expense of the series. It was a yin and a yang. The other drivers that were here didn't get the attention they should have gotten. Now we get to get back to what it's all about, which is great racing."

Ultimately, that is the biggest tradition Indianapolis has going for it.

Fast women

Danica Patrick might not be racing in Indianapolis this weekend, but there are a trio of female drivers ready to take her place. Let's meet them. REDEYE

Ana Beatriz

Hometown: Sao Paulo, Brazil

Age: 27

Car: 25

Starting position: 13

Katherine Legge

Hometown: Guildford, England

Age: 31

Car: 6

Starting position: 30

Simona de Silvestro

Hometown: Thun, Switzerland

Age: 23

Car: 78

Starting position: 32

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