CART vs IRL

When the CART/IRL war was in full battle in 1996, and the CART teams decided to boycott the Indianapolis 500 and stage the U.S. 500 at Michigan Speedway on the same day, CART believed it was the stars of racing that made the Indianapolis 500 great. Without the name drivers from CART, Indy would be crushed

CART vs IRL

But the Indy Racing League showed tremendous resolve during those early days of battle and countered with the notion that the Indianapolis 500 makes the stars, not the other way around.

Depending on the viewpoint, it creates an interesting debate of philosophy.

"The Indianapolis 500 is where the Unsers made their name, it's where the Andrettis made their name and its were A.J. Foyt made his name," said Foyt, the first four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 who is an IRL team owner with three cars in Sunday's 84th Indianapolis 500. "I think the only one who is upset is Mario Andretti, because he thinks he made this place.

"Roger Penske, he knows this is where he made his name. Rick Mears will be here on race day working with a team. Chip Ganassi's cars have dominated CART, so you can't say the best aren't here."

Foyt believes that when a race driver wins the Indianapolis 500, it is a title that he carries with him for the rest of his life.

"People don't know I won California or that I won Pocono four times," Foyt said. "They know that A.J. won Indy four times."

Andretti was Foyt's greatest racing rival as a driver. Now that the two have retired from racing, they are on opposite sides of the political issue regarding the Indianapolis 500.

Foyt is solidly pro-IRL while Andretti is just as strong a defender of CART.

"I like to think that what made this race so great was the strong tradition that it enjoyed over the years and the rich heritage of our sport," Andretti said. "Look at the LaScala as a theatre in Milan. Even LaScala is only LaScala if you get the Pavarottis and the Curusos and people like that singing there. If I go sing there, it's not going to be so good.

"So Indianapolis is also great because they have had great drivers here. When you look back you look at the greatest in the history of the sport having competed here and that's what this place deserves. One goes with the other. Indianapolis would not be Indianapolis if you didn't have the greatest drivers in the past that competed here. To say that the facility itself is the only thing that will create stars, I think that is ludicrous. It goes hand in hand."

Andretti backed up his point by stating how many great drivers from throughout the world have been lured to the Indianapolis 500 because of the challenge of competing in the world's greatest race.

"Jimmy Clark brought something to Indianapolis when he raced here in the 1960s," Andretti said of the Formula One world champion who won this race in 1965. "I think he elevated Indianapolis also a step or tow, so it goes hand in hand.

"The greatest theatre, the greatest track, needs the greatest singers and the greatest drivers, period. Otherwise, something will always be missing."

Rick Mears is a four-time Indianapolis 500 champion, but CART team owner Roger Penske employs him. Although he is not as politically vocal as either Foyt or Andretti, he has strong feelings on the issue.

"I come right down the middle on it," Mears said. "It takes both to make it happen. Just like when people would ask what percentage is car and what percentage is driver - I've never seen a car go very fast by itself. I've never seen a driver go very fast by himself, either, so it takes both to make it happen.

"I think Indy helps create the stars and I think the stars help create Indy. I think it's been hand-in-hand all along."

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