I have said for a number of years now that if I ever win big money in the lottery, I will take Otto Sitterly to Indianapolis.
Otto Sitterly? Last Sunday, he won the 56th Budweiser International Classic 200 for supermodifieds at Oswego Speedway in New York. It was his second in a row and his third in four years.
He had stiff competition. Indy 500 veterans Davey Hamilton and Joe Gosek were in the field, as was NASCAR’s Johnny Benson Jr.
What a terrible state of affairs: “I don’t have the money.”
What the hell should money have to do with it?
Once upon a time, Sitterly would have been off to Indianapolis in a heartbeat, simply because of his talent. Gordon Johncock, Johnny Rutherford, A.J. Foyt, the Unser brothers – they all made it to the big time because they could drive and race better than just about anybody else and not because they had the gift of the gab or a pipeline to a Swiss bank account.
I know, times have changed, etc. etc., and employers now look for the total package — race car smarts as well as boardroom savvy.
But the racing has suffered. You can be sure of that, because no longer do drivers have to win in order to feed their families; they’re all under contract and their money goes into the bank after every race whether the finish first or last.
And once they get to the bigs, it seems as if they have jobs for life regardless of how successful, or unsuccessful, they are.
So even if an Otto Sitterly could somehow get close to the top, it’s unlikely he could take the last step because of this tenure system that seems to exist in today’s racing.
Although I like him because I like old guys, being one myself, I have to ask: what is Mark Martin still doing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series? And just so nobody thinks I’m biased, I will now turn to a young guy. What has Joey Logano done to rate being hired by Roger Penske to drive the No. 22 car next season? Joe Gibbs (and Home Depot) can’t wait to get rid of him and Penske rolls out the red carpet?
What are, in no particular order, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jamie McMurray, Dave Blaney, David Gilliland, David Ragan, Bobby Labonte, Regan Smith and about 10 others still doing occupying full-time rides in the top stock-car racing series in the United States?
Because they smile nicely?
I mean, it has to be that because they're certainly not proving anything in their racing cars.
The worst is Casey Mears. How does that man keep getting himself hired?
And it’s not just NASCAR. What is Oriol Servia still doing in IndyCar? And Rubens Barrichello. I mean, they have done nothing. No-thing. Yes, they are “steady performers,” but they don’t win races and that is what auto racing should be all about: winning.
If you don’t win, you shouldn't get to continue playing.
I know a whole bunch of drivers — Ryan Coniam, Kyle Larson, Michael Adams — who are ready, willing and able to take their places.
They all have one thing in common: they are winners.
Starting with Otto Sitterly.
Norris Note: The photo of Otto Sitterly in this column was taken at Oswego Speedway by Lauren Long of the Syracuse Post-Standard.