Alex Zanardi comes to Carb Day at Indianapolis
The Indianapolis 500 is all about tradition as much as racing. In two days the 97th edition of this Greatest Spectacle in Racing will take place, but for many gathered for final practice on Carb Day, the big attraction wasn’t the 33 cars and drivers preparing for 200 laps of battle on Sunday afternoon, it was a chance to see a hero.
Alex Zanardi came to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for only the second time – his first visit was one of those $1 bus rides any fan can take around the Brickyard oval. This time, as a guest of team owner Chip Ganassi, Zanardi came to be presented with his 1996 Reynard/Honda/Firestone CART race car, the one he used to make “The Pass” that he believes defined his career. Diving beneath then-leader Bryan Herta at Laguna Seca’s Corkscrew on the final lap, Zanardi won the season finale as teammate Jimmy Vasser secured the championship.
The Pass would define Zanardi’s career in CART, even more than his enthralling victories and brace of championships that followed. But perhaps not more than the three gold medals he earned last summer at Brands Hatch in the UK for success in the ParaOlympics. Zanardi had the medals with him at the Speedway, showing them off during a television interview.
Anyone looking closely could see moisture in Ganassi’s eyes as the duo answered questions from the media. And Zanardi did say he “might” be interested in an Indy 500 ride if the right opportunity came up. “Don’t take this too seriously; when you say it’s possible, technically, it’s possible.” The effort to prepare a car – and its driver – for such an endeavor would be daunting.
Zanardi’s other comment about racing at Indy was so typical “It’d be fantastic, but it’d also be fantastic to kiss (actress) Charlize Theron. And this will never happen in my life!”
No comment from the cheshire cat to his left about a possible ride, but Ganassi did make the effort to bring all of the crew that worked on Zanardi’s car back to Indy for this presentation. Another nice touch by the owner of four cars competing in this year’s race: defending 500 winner Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, Charlie Kimball and Ryan Briscoe. The latter had a fire erupt from the rear of his Dallara/Honda/Firestone race car in the final moments of Carb Day practice – he was fine and we’ll find out more about the car later.
Words and Photos by Anne Proffit