Am I the only one who noticed this irony?
Just past the halfway point of the Indy 500 on Sunday, a rainstorm caused a three-hour delay. The race finally resumed, but was again cut short by rain and finally halted before the full 500 miles were run. It made for an exciting race, with the additional element of time adding a layer of drama to an unusually competitive race, but it also left many with a somewhat empty feeling, being cheated out of the thrill of a down-to-the-wire finish.
Now, the irony. A couple of years ago, in an effort by ABC to boost TV ratings, the start of the race was moved back an hour, from 11:00 a.m. to noon, Central time. (The fact that Indianapolis is now on Daylight Savings time has nothing to do with this particular equation.) Understanding that heavy rain early on Sunday morning made it fortunate that the race was even able to start on time, the fact remains that had the race begun at its customary 11:00 starting time, it would almost certainly have been possible to run the entire 500 miles, at least if you include the restart after the first delay.
Changing the starting time of a sporting event in order to accommodate TV is nothing new, of course. As far as racing goes (and you can correct me on this, Bobby or Cathy), I believe the start of the Daytona 500 was also pushed back a couple of years ago for TV. The difference here is that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is, unlike Daytona and many other race tracks, totally dependant on natural light for the running of a race. Starting the race even one hour late, especially an event as prone to weather interruptions as Indy can be, purely in order to capture the crowd that might otherwise be at church or Sunday brunch, seems to be – what, unfortunate? Besides, most non-racing fans would insist that you don’t need to see the beginning of the race (unless it’s Formula 1, with its traditional first-lap pileup), when it’s only the last hour or so that really matters. True racing aficionados, I suspect, would make sure they were able to see the start of the race if they really wanted to.
Again, it may not have been possible on Sunday due to the early rain, but that doesn’t change the essence of what we’re talking about. Thanks once again to television, the outcome of a major sporting event might have been affected. I certainly hope the money that ABC pays Indianapolis was worth it!