You might have missed this news, in all the panic about Brian Kelly's dalliance with the Philadelphia Eagles. But yesterday Danica Patrick announced she was going to pass on the Indianapolis 500 in 2013 to run, perhaps, more Nationwide races.
Time was that announcement might have induced some panic, too, among the IndyCar set. But not anymore.
If there's one upside to Randy Bernard's checkered legacy as CEO of the sport, after all, it's his uncoupling of IndyCar from Patrick as the face of the sport. IndyCar, Bernard correctly surmised, had a lot of saleable faces, and frankly more winning personalities to boot than Patrick.
The upshot of that is the Indianapolis 500 has become its own free-standing entity again, greater than any one driver or collection of drivers. It has become, for want of a better term, an Event once more -- even if the month of May that once preceded it is not, for a number of reasons that have as much to do with the times we live in as any particular failing on Indy's part.
Want to know how I know this, at least in an anecdotal sense?
The same day Danica announced she was passing on the 500, I called my usual hotel to make reservations for the race. It was already booked for that weekend. On Jan. 10. Four-and-a-half months before race day.
Can't remember the last time that happened. With or without Danica.