Monday, May 30, 2011

2011 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race

Yes, the race was fantastic! A great race and a great weekend. Yes, it's only late Monday night that I'm able to get to a computer and put something to record.

First, it was great to see everyone-whether for the first time or after a long time: Speedgeek (Andy), Mike from Indycals, George, Susan, JohnMc, and the rest of the Nashville gang, Dave (yes, I Know Dave Dusick), Palmer, seatmates Drew and friends, and anyone else I've made the horrible error of omitting.

I'll follow up with some photos in a near-future post, but tonight I'll just get some thoughts down.

As promised, the pre-race activities were great. I might have mixed the order up a bit, but here goes...

I missed the parades of 1911 cars and past winning cars, which I regret.

The servicemen and women that toured the track in pickup trucks received what may have been the longest continual ovation I have ever seen.

The parade of former winners in convertibles was interesting, but begs the question, "what about the guys who didn't show?"

Most of the crowd (of what-300,000? 350,000?) sang along to "God Bless America." That same crowd was entirely silent while "Taps" played.

This is at least the third race I've attended that a B-2 did the flyover. It never gets old seeing that bat-shaped hole in the sky.

Three Rows of 11 Race Start: Better than in past years, but Dixon still had a big jump. Not perfect, but I guess I shouldn't complain.

Double-File Restarts: Weren't these supposed to be a bloodbath? Looked good to me. Oh, except for the lapped cars that were mixed in with the leaders on more than one occasion. WTF?

I raised the question of a controversial finish right away. I was wrong. The rules are clear, and the tape makes it even clearer. No controversy.

Dan Wheldon-Ran an awesome race. Stayed in the top 5 and demonstrated speed all day. Was where he needed to be when it counted. I do believe he is the first 500 winner to lead exactly one lap in the race. A feel-great victory for he and Bryan Herta. (How does Izod feel about the William Rast car winning?) His exuberance exceeded even Helio's, making him even easier to cheer for.

JR Hildebrand-Ran an even better race for all but a split second. Had the presence of mind to keep his foot in it, even as his car traveled on two wheels. Lurked in the top 5 and top 10, saved tons of fuel, and may have been the most gracious loser ever (see: Marco Andretti, 2006). Very impressive for a rookie. I'm not the only one saying a race win for him is likely this year.

Graham Rahal-Wow. Every time we looked up, he was passing another car. GREAT job, even if the TV broadcast didn't show it. He and that team will also win a race this year. When the Galactic Empire suffered at Indy and Brazil, he was in the right place.

Tony Kanaan-Almost as good as Graham. Was relatively quiet until late in the race, when he became, well, Tony Kanaan. Lots of passes.

Scott Dixon-The favorite. I'm not sure why he wound up in 5th, other than fuel strategy that came up short. Didn't dominate the race, but he controlled it.

Oriol Servia-Ran up front, led a number of laps, and brought the car home. That's why you hire Oriol Servia. Was able to challenge the Target cars at times. He'll win soon.

Bertrand Baguette-Part time rookie leads late, comes within a few laps of winning. Became many fans' favorite when he passed Danica for the lead. I don't know much about him, but he seems to be well-respected. Look forward to learning and seeing more.

Tomas Scheckter-What? Has there been a mistake? Great run. Stayed (mostly) quiet. For once, "The Other KV Guy That Didn't Wreck."

Marco Andretti-Looked to be in good shape after the last caution, but it didn't come together. Still, he was a force all day and I'm surprised to see he didn't lead any laps.

Danica Patrick-Most Polarizing Driver lurked quietly and looked to be a factor near the end. Maybe if there had been more cautions in the last quarter of the race.

Ed Carpenter-Never seemed all that fast (or, always seemed to be getting set up for a pass), but managed to usually be in a good position. He even led three laps.

Dario Franchitti-After his gamble on the last yellow, we thought he might be unbeatable. We didn't realize that he was actually short on fuel. Surprised that he only led 10 laps. Otherwise, he was classic Dario: Right up there, in contention, doing what needs to be done to be in position to win.

Will Power-I'd call losing a wheel in the pits an accident, but pit road mistakes seem to be the rule for Penske teams at Indy the past few years.

Helio Castroneves-Was nowhere all day (even a lap down) until he bumped with RHR and cut a tire (something I'm not sure ever made it on TV).

Ryan Hunter-Reay-Maintained a low profile. Probably a good thing considering last week's big story.

Paul Tracy-Obvious from the stands that he had a terrible-handling race car. At least he was running at the end.

Townsend Bell/Ryan Briscoe-Guys with solid runs all day in the top 5 and top 10, respectively. May have been contenders if not for the crash.

Again, a great race with a shocking finish. I am glad I was able to take it in, and look forward to next year. Special thanks to Speedgeek Andy, my understanding wife, and my very helpful mom.

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