If you call yourself a race fan and didn't watch this year's Indianapolis 500, you made a big mistake. Indy car racing, which has lost out to NASCAR in race fans' favor in recent years, took a big step towards a comeback with one of the best 500s in recent memory. The series shot itself in the foot a few years ago in an internal political battle that resulted in two competing racing organizations and nearly killed the sport entirely. It may be that a turnaround began last Sunday with the win by Dario Franchitti, who has good looks, European charm and millions. But more important than all that, he's married to Ashley Judd, who's always in attendance at the races.I just read where the TV audience for the race was up significantly this year. Maybe it was because they knew that they would get to see Ashley Judd. Maybe this year the fans knew that Danica Patrick wouldn't be there, and they wouldn't have to listen to four hours of announcers talking about practically nothing but her, but that's another story.When Dario Franchitti first appeared the scene, it was shocking to learn that he's Scottish, with a heavy brogue, despite his obvious Italian looks and name. He has that southern European flair and panache that is seen so frequently in French and Italians, and the brogue just seems out of place. But again, the only thing that really matters is that he's married to Ashley Judd.I was an Indy racing fan in my youth, but after attending my first Daytona 500 race 50 years ago, I was hooked. I became a NASCAR fan in 1962, just three years after the Daytona track opened and before most people from the north had even heard of NASCAR. I wound up attending 14 consecutive Daytona 500s and numerous preliminary races there, plus events at the Michigan Speedway before giving up on it a couple of years ago.The corporatization of NASCAR has resulted in the complete ruination of in-person viewing for me, so I just watch it on TV. At Daytona, acres of formerly prime parking area have been rented out for corporate displays because that's more lucrative than parking. The result is either walking unbearable distances after finding an expensive parking place or long waits for a shuttle bus if you park at the track's designated free parking. Six dollar meatless “cheeseburgers” don't help. You couldn't buy a hamburger at the same concession stands because legally, hamburger means meat, and their sandwiches never saw any.When I became a NASCAR fan, they really were running stock cars. The cars, and their engines, had to be available for sale to the public for a required period of time before they were allowed to race them. They were just ordinary, albeit high-powered, factory-built cars, with a few safety refinements added, such as a roll cage. You didn't have to be rich to own one, and there was a noticeable absence of rules. The ability to break into NASCAR racing on a shoestring, and the fact all of the cars were not created equal were the big attractions that drew fans away from Indy racing in the early days. The hand built cookie-cutter cars of today took a lot of the fun out of it.NASCAR can't seem to figure out why its attendance and TV viewership are down, so it blames it on the economy. Longtime fans know that the economy has less to do with it than the fact that it is no longer “stock” car racing, and the myriad rules, the mandatory equality of the cars and the costs involved have only tended to take away from the fans' enjoyment of the races.I have also attended two Indianapolis 500s, and my principal observation was that if there were 400,000 people in attendance, as there were alleged to be until recent years, at least 200,000 of them never saw a race car and didn't care. They just went for the party in the infield. While there, I got to personally meet Linda Vaughn, who at the time was Miss Hurst Shifter. She was no Ashley Judd, though.By the way, did I mention that Dario Franchitti is married to Ashley Judd?You can comment on this column at www.LimaOhio.com.