Friday, May 20, 2011

Qualifying Preview

Until Friday, 2011 Indianapolis 500 practice has so far been dominated by: Cold weather and rain, Simona de Silvestro’s frightening crash, planking, and cold weather and rain. Not to minimize her injuries, but Simona’s crash could have ended much worse . I’m a bit concerned with how easily that car appeared to lift off the ground. Hopefully the 2012 car will improve in this area.

The charge that the series’ drivers are personalityless sponsor-plugging automatons doesn’t survive a cursory look at Thursday’s Twitter feeds and photos of their plankings.

Most relevant to the on-track action has been the cold and rain. Drastically shortened practice time will have a big impact on what happens during qualifying (scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, though rain threatens those days, too).

In a display of positivity, I’ll predict safe entry into the field for Power, Castroneves, Briscoe, Franchitti, Dixon, Tagliani, Rahal, Bell, Carpenter, M. Andretti, Hunter-Reay, Wilson, Tracy, Kanaan, Meira, Servia, Hildebrand, and Scheckter. Mostly safe choices there, but I think I’ll add Conway. He’s struggled lately and certainly many will attribute his slowness to last year’s horrific crash. That, however, runs counter to his steel-cold demeanor. Many of the less-sure entries are certainly deserving and I’ll be disappointed if any of them aren’t on the grid: Previous winners Rice and Wheldon, instantly fast 2010 qualifier Junquiera, top-5 finisher Lloyd, Formula 1- and NASCAR refugee Speed, veteran Hamilton, and young standout Matos, among others. Qualifying and racing with her injuries would make a great storyline for race day if Simona is able.

I plan on watching Saturday's Fast Nine session and the last hour or so of Sunday's Bump Day-sure to be the most dramatic racing event of the season.

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