Modern Living: Life and Death at Indy

one point in last week's disastrous Indianapolis 500, one of the thousands of sodden revelers camped out in the axle-deep infield mud aptly summed up the utter madness of it all. Asked what he thought of the world's largest, richest and costliest racing event, he said: "What race?"

Good question. One rationale for the Indy has been that it encourages innovations in auto design, especially in safety devices. It is also supposed to be a stellar sporting event, a contest of skill. Neither is true. Rather, the Indy has become a vast ritual of the auto culture, with violence and...

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