Driving Around In Circles

Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indiana, CART, IRL, racing, Indy 500
Auto racing fans, start your angry e-mails: I just don't understand the popularity of your favorite sport. I know it takes great talent and courage to drive so fast and skillfully, and it must be an amazing thrill for the driver. But where's the fun in watching them drive around and around — and around and around. And around?

Last Sunday was the day of both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca Cola 600 in North Carolina. I had no interest in either race. However, when I heard that driver Robby Gordon planned to drive in both races on the same day, that got my attention. After doing his best at Indy, Gordon sped away on a golf cart to a waiting rental car which took him to the Indianapolis airport where a plane flew him to Charlotte. Onboard the plane, he took intravenous fluids, and got to the second speedway about an hour before race time. Now, that was impressive.

However, the fact that his racing in order to race was more interesting to me than actually watching him drive around in circles made me think that maybe they aren't televising the right races. I can think of a few other heroic car journeys that more of us could appreciate, and you probably can, too. For example, if the following road contests were televised, auto racing would have an even greater audience:

  • The Spousal 5 Mile — As you attempt to get to the local movie theater on time, your spouse continues to call out things like, "You'd get there faster if you took my shortcut," "Why are you driving so fast?" "Why are you driving so slowly?" "It's too hot," "Now, it's blowing on me too much," "Did you buy the tickets in advance?" "Why are you parking here? I saw a better space." The winning driver is the one who arrives at the theater safely, does not yell at his or her spouse, and still remembers the name of the movie they're going to see.

    NOTE: The person in the car must actually be a legal spouse, since, for some reason, people don't act like this in a car until after they are married.

  • The Round The Block Teenager Driving Lesson — The winner is the parent who does not use the imaginary brake, does not grab the steering wheel from the teen, and does not yell, "I'm not letting you drive until you're 30!"
  • The Rush Hour Rush — All entrants must drive home from work in the worst traffic of the day. This race must be run regardless of the kind of day you had at work, and regardless of the weather and road conditions. You end up behind somebody whose turn signal has been on for the last three miles. You have to stop to pick up dinner, the only parking places have meters, and you don't have any change. The setting sun blinds you through your broken sunglasses, your kids have changed all your radio buttons, and you're repeatedly cut off by drivers who make left turns while talking on their cell phones. After completing the harrowing course and arriving at home (and spilling a little take-out food on the car's carpet), you're greeted with, "What took you so long?" The winner does not get a million dollars or an endorsement contract from Pennzoil or Viagra. No, the prize for winning is that you get to do it again tomorrow.
These audience-pleasing events will make it obvious that we ordinary people do the real heroic driving. And our daily races are not done on a closed track, we don't have the aid of a pit crew, and we don't get intravenous fluids. Where's our TV contract?

Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.

By Lloyd Garver