Indy cars, stars trek to Alberta

TERRY JONES

, Last Updated: 3:13 AM ET

The star count goes up, but the car count comes down.

Yesterday, the Rexall Edmonton Indy announced a 23-car field for next weekend's race.

What they didn't announce was that in a city where the likes of Jackie Stewart, Dennis Hulme, Bruce McLaren, Mark Donohue, Gilles Villeneuve, Dan Gurney, Peter Revson, Geoff Brabham, Bobby Rahal and so many more raced in the old Edmonton International Speedway days, the race will likely feature more stars than ever before in Edmonton auto racing history.

With Toronto Indy winner Dario Franchitti to race Edmonton for the first time, the star count goes up. But there will be four fewer cars in the race this year than last year.

When Champ Car and the Indy Racing League merged last year, the biggest benefit, other than having the stars from both series to sell, was the increased number of car counts.

Both series had been running races with as few as 16 or 17 cars in the field.

There were 18, 18 and 17 cars in the three Edmonton Champ Car races in 2005, 2006 and 2007 respectively.

The total went way up to 27 last year for the first Rexall race in the merged IndyCar series. Then the worst economic depression of our lifetime hit and there was concern the car counts would be back in the teens.

But nobody here is going to complain about a 23-car field.

Only the Indy 500, with its usual 33 cars, and the Texas Speedway stop, with 24, had more cars than Edmonton will boast this year.

Six races have run with fewer cars, including in Richmond and in Iowa, where the count was 20. It was the same last year as a dozen races ran with fewer than the 27 which were on the grid here.

Edmonton may be a long haul for the teams to get here, but it's not causing a car-count problem.

And the 2009 Edmonton race features drivers who have won a total of 72 IRL series races, including Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves and defending Edmonton champ Scott Dixon.

The Rexall race has the cars.

And it has the stars.

TERRY JONES IS A SUN MEDIA COLUMNIST


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