Indy goes international

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:30 PM ET

It’s a massive story in Helio Castroneves’s Brazil.

It’s a major story in Will Power’s Australia.

It’s a huge story in Scott Dixon’s New Zealand.

It crashed the coverage of the Tour de France in Europe.

It was a much bigger story than most normal IndyCar or NASCAR stories in the U.S. and Canada.

In one split second, when Castroneves blocked teammate and IZOD Indy Series points leader Power and blocked the Australian’s attempt to win his second Honda Indy Edmonton race and ended up leaving Dixon the winner without leading a lap or being in front for a single second, the City of Edmonton received its return on its investment and then some.

“Unbelievable, the coverage,” said Mayor Stephen Mandel.

“Did it pay for our investment in this race for the last three years and our commitment to the race for the next three years? Absolutely!

“The estimates we get from when Edmonton gets one mention and what that translates into value on any given year is that this race is worth somewhere between $20 and $30 million. We have to believe when you get coverage like we’re getting this year, the number will be so far beyond that it will be difficult to even measure.

“It’s absolutely invaluable!”

Can you imagine what Edmonton would have looked like to the world if City Council had voted down the appointment of Octane Racing Group to take over the race with what is believed to be about $5 million in sponsorship over the next three years after investing $9.2 in the last two years and likely between $2-$3 this year to get it to this race?

And then watched it disappear after this one?

The vote was 7-5.

“Everybody in Brazil knows about it. Everybody in Australia. Everybody in New Zealand. Auto racing fans from all over the world. Sports fans from all over the world. They all know where it happened,” said Mandel.

“We had an almost full house at the track, the best race we ever had and I’m sure the people at Octane are pretty excited.”

And what happened doesn’t seem to be a one-day story in the sport because of what happened earlier Sunday at the German Grand Prix.

While blocking a teammate is obviously deplorable to most, at least Castroneves and Power, both Team Penske drivers, were going at each other exceptionally hard to win a race.

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso won the Formula 1 race in Germany only after his team told Felipe Massa on the radio to allow Alonso through to take the checkered flag.

Around the world auto racing commentators are using what happened in Edmonton to illustrate that what the fans were able to see here were two teammateS going at it for a win rather than cheating the fans out of a race.

Here, fans felt cheated because CastroneveS’ blocking wasn’t obvious to many casual followers of the sport and even fans who follow it, especially NASCAR races, have seem much worse without penalty.

There’s plenty of debate going on in the sport and it will continue.

In his blog at racer.com, Canada’s Paul Tracy, who should have ended up a much bigger part of the story driving from 15th to sixth in a rent-a-ride, wrote about it.

“As far as the penalty was concerned, I agree with it. I think all the drivers (except one) agree with it.

“It was spelled out to us very clearly in the drivers meeting how to treat the corner. The natural braking and corner entry line for Turn 1 is on the outside of the white stripes down the runway. The right side is only to be used for trying to pass someone on the inside. If you go to the right side to keep someone behind, then you’re gonna get called on it. Well, Helio drove the whole straight on the other side to keep Will Power behind him.

“You live your life, you make your choices. Helio chose to block his teammate. He got penalized for it. It cost Penske a win.”

And, of course, Edmonton fans will be talking all winter about where it happened.

Turn 1. That’s where Northlands decided not to put the usual set of stands holding 5,000 fans this year to save money.

Think they’ll be back and the first set of stands to sell out next year?

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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