Birthday celebrations commemorating 93 years aren't supposed to be packed with so much suspense and, well, tears. Achieving such longevity usually means tearing the paper from your gift-wrapped Snuggie, kissing a few relatives and taking a nap with the hope it's not permanent.
But then the Indianapolis 500 tends to follow its own script. The latest installment was no exception.
It was tremendous theater watching Helio Castroneves pull into Victory Lane and practically dilute the ceremonial milk with his emotions. The popular Brazilian not only drove back from the hellish six-month ordeal of conspiracy and tax evasion charges (of which he was acquitted), he picked up his third Borg-Warner Trophy and ceremoniously scaled a fence along the way.
Castroneves is now part of the elite fraternity known as three-and-over. Other members include four-time champions A.J.. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears and triple-timers Bobby Unser, Johnny Rutherford, Wilbur Shaw, Mauri Rose and Louis Meyer.
Foyt was 42 when he won his fourth, Unser 48. Mears, meanwhile, was a spry 39 crossing the yard of bricks for his fourth Indianapolis 500 victory.
Now the truly alarming number: Castroneves is 34. And as long as he's part of Team Penske, open-wheel racing's version of the 1990s Chicago Bulls, there is a strong possibility Castroneves could soon be a four-time champion. Maybe five? Did someone say six?
Like it or not, we're looking at greatness in Castroneves. Maybe the best of all time. The fence at Indianapolis Motor Speedway isn't going anywhere, nor is the Brazilian with the thousand-watt smile. Look for them to reconnect soon.
Under normal circumstances, 2005 winner Dan Wheldon and his team would be thrilled with a second-place finish. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old Englishman, he might go down as the most-invisible bridesmaid in Indianapolis 500 history.
Why? Because Danica Patrick placed third. Late Sunday and on Monday, every Internet headline and ESPN screen crawler stated virtually the same thing: "Castroneves captures third Indy 500; Patrick places third."
In other words, male drivers, if Danica is running in the top 5 near the end, you best win the thing or no one is going to notice.
With any luck, the best part of this year's '500' being over will be the end of those awful radio spots involving Scott Dixon and a prominent Indianapolis-based jeweler. Dixon is a fabulous open-wheel talent, but the New Zealander's lines are spoken with all the enthusiasm of someone reading the eye chart at his or her optometrist's office.