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by Tony Sakkis

Perhaps Frank Bruno can become heavyweight champion of the world. Maybe the Rams will win the Super Bowl. And, jeez, the Cubs are looking good in the Pennant race these days.

Because if Buddy Lazier can win the Indianapolis 500 anything can happen. Sorry, Buddy. No slight on you or your performance on Memorial Day weekend. You were the best of the field on the day. But let's face it, the field sucked. The Indy 500 with the International Racing League (IRL) was like watching a group of amateurs imitating race car drivers. All this because Speedway Chairman Tony George and the IndyCar bosses couldn't get together on rules.

And then again, if you tuned in to watch the alternative, the US 500 in Michigan, you felt like you were watching a group of pro golfers on a miniature course. Nothing wrong with the Michigan International Speedway -- heck, it's the world's fastest race track, -- but it ain't Indy.

If you felt like I did, or like I believe most people did that Sunday, you had the feeling you were watching two good friends fight over you. Or like your parents, who were divorcing, were fighting for custody of you.

Both sides were there trying to make it look like everything was peachy and that you had made the right choice by tuning in to see their particular race. And, in fact both races were pretty good. Lazier, to the dismay of the CART boys, actually put on a good show with Davy Jones in the late stages to snatch the race.

But there was no way he would have won had this been a real race. Because no matter what the IRL folks say, it was not a real race. And no matter what they say in those offices up there in Indiana, they have done irreparable damage to the Indy 500.

Ron Hemelgarn, owner of Lazier's car, said he felt the fans made a choice that day, and that they chose the Indy 500 over the bigger and better drivers. I think he's been breathing methanol fumes for too long.

The folks up in Michigan were sitting pat and saying how wonderful their race was. And as I said, it wasn't so bad either. Jimmy Vasser took the win and extended his lead in the only American open-wheel championship that anyone who knows motorsports cares about. But the reason the Michigan International Speedway, which is longer and faster, isn't Indy is because it doesn't have the traditions. And try as they may, they can't create tradition.

Most owners and drivers missed the Speedway and said so; some tried to put a good face on and said, hey, they didn't need The Speedway - which is also crap.

Memorial Day was different in 1996 than it had ever been in the past. Tradition was thrown out. Nobody seemed to realize that the greatest race in the world got that way because the best in the world came to contest it; and the best in the world will never find a venue that approximates the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Both groups will continue trying to gain custody, and each will tell us what's great about their series. The truth is, that IndyCar without Indy is like Major League Baseball without the World Series, and Indy without the best drivers is just another meaningless race.

It probably will be different in 1997. And 1998. And beyond. Pretty soon we'll get tired of the bickering and turn the whole damned thing off. That track out there in Indiana could become just a huge shopping center. And IndyCar? Who knows. But it sure is a stupid name without Indy.

But stranger things have happened. What were the odds on Lazier winning any race, let alone the Indy 500?