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This time it’s a well-liked relative newcomer to IndyCar ownership instead of a loose cannon legacy owner who has us seriously wondering.
It was reported this week Schmidt Peterson Motorsports is teaming up with former F1 owner Didier Calmels to run fellow Frenchman Tristan Gommendy in next year’s Indy 500. Why is he a former F1 owner, you ask? Because when he was convicted of shooting his wife in cold blood in 1990 and sent to prison, the wiser F1 heads understood spousal homicide isn’t exactly a positive image for a racing series. That’s regardless of whether it was a crime of passion or not – and the fact that he somehow served less than two years for his heinous crime.
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Nearly three decades later, apparently SPM hasn’t gotten the memo. Or perhaps they’re merely joining in our national obsession with ignoring history when not defacing it. The team’s statement read in part, “Didier has fulfilled his obligations and gone on to become a successful businessman and team owner in European motor sport.” Translation: he’s paid his debt to society and is a fine, upstanding citizen now who’s bringing us lots and lots of cash.
While the last part is certainly true, it’s the “fulfilled his obligations” bit with which we take exception. Serving merely two years for murder sure doesn’t seem like much fulfillment, and can’t have been satisfactory for the victim’s family. Were their feelings on the matter taken into consideration at all, we wonder? Wife killers take on a certain significance even among murderers, as in the case of Scott Peterson. We suggest SPM consider changing its name to Scott Peterson Motorsports.
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Of course there are other issues apart from crime and punishment with Calmels and crew coming to the world’s greatest race. It’s obviously a continuation of a troubling trend we’ve rightly termed IndyCar’s f-ing F-1 invasion. Bringing back Tristan Gommendy – a former CART scab from a decade ago – isn’t exactly a titillating choice. Plus, it’s just what the series needs for greater popularity – more Frenchmen.
Sam Schmidt has officially entered Michael Andretti territory with this one, and that’s truly disappointing. While it may have paid off for Michael at the Brickyard lately – the hiring F1 rejects part, not the partnering with a spousal abuser part – Sam had best keep a keen eye on his new Gallic partner with loads of money and an extremely shady past.
In the future he ought to consider what’s best for the sport and the Indianapolis 500 instead of his own bottom line.