Monday, May 26, 2014

Indy 500 Post-Race

2014 marked my 10th Indy 500 since 2000. Somehow, they get better every year! Not just in terms of on-track action, but in the experiences and activities surrounding the race. I've already expressed my feelings on Twitter, but I enjoy the people I meet at the 500 as much as the race. It's fun to meet others so unironically enthusiastic about something!

About the race: I don't think anyone could call that pack racing. Nor can anyone complain about a lack of parity. In a time not so long ago, the fastest 2 or 3 or 4 drivers would have lapped the rest of the field several times during the 147 laps of green flag racing. I'm not the only one who was disappointed we had any yellows at all! As the race wound down, it was clear that the fastest guys were Helio, Hunter-Reay, and Marco Andretti. It looked like RHR might have had a slight speed advantage. Will Power wouldn't have won me any money; his pit lane speed violation was the kind of mistake I expected from the Will Power of 2011 or 2012. I think Montoya had the field covered and was ready to be the man in front at the end of the race, at least until his pit lane speed violation. I was actually surprised he didn't stay out during the circa lap 150 pit stops-my mental calculations indicated he was one of (if not THE) only driver who could have completed the race with just one more stop.
Me giving RHR the tip he would need to win Indy two years in the future

Second or third on the list of discussion topics is the red flag. I believe I covered this back in 2012 when Indycar flew the red flag near the conclusion of the Fontana race. In my opinion, the red flag should not be used to stop the race to make an attempt at a green-flag finish. Sometimes races end under yellow. That's just how it goes. The race goes to the driver who completes the stated distance first. Red flags should be used to stop the race in the interest of safety (rain, track blockage, track repair, etc), or for other specific uses by race control. If the catch fence or SAFER barrier needed attention, then I'd call Sunday's use of the red flag appropriate. I fear that I might be on the losing side of the future with this one. If so, I hope Indycar clearly defines the rules for the red flag's use. That's something NASCAR never did.

I should also mention dinner Thursday night, Carb Day, the Carb Night Burger Bash, Legends Day, and our traditional Post-Race Mexican Dinner and Watching of the Rebroadcast. Again, it was great to meet all the Twitter and online friends I hadn't met before, and to catch up with those I had. Here are some more photos from the weekend:

Your 3rd Place Finisher, Practicing on Carb Day

Takuma Sato, Kevin Lee, and Arie Luyendyk at the Carb Night Burger Bash
Public Driver's Meeting on Legend's Day. Notice the range of expressions: from 'Bored' to 'Excruciatingly Bored'
Part of the Hall of Fame Museum's Turbine Car Display

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Live From Indianapolis...

Having a great weekend here in the Racing Capital of the World! Not much time to blog, but I figured it was time to break out the chisel and etch my race picks in stone.

1. Will Power - If his car is working good on Sunday, never count Will Power out. More importantly, the Will Power I saw win the 500 miler at Fontana last fall is ready to win another one. The big one.

2. Simon Pagenaud - Smart and fast, whether you see him or not, whether you like it or not. This should-be superstar is a threat everywhere. Especially somewhere speed and smarts are paramount.

3. Juan Montoya - It's time. His season has started, he's had time to adapt to the cars, and now he's back at Indianapolis. If you are a doubter, well: You weren't there, man! You didn't see what he did! We know! We're ready! Your minds will be blown, man!

Finally, my 'out of left field' pick; the guy with the mediocre season who will shine in one race:

Ryan Briscoe

That is all. Looking forward to the race tomorrow and seeing more of you!

Until then, here's a Carb Day pic:

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Month of May is Underway

It's May!
Yes, I'm a little late. 500 travel preparations are in full swing at the Flat Into One house, and they unfortunately coincide with family visits, nice-weather projects, and other obligations so, sadly, sometimes the blog gets shuffled down the priority list.

I did watch the Grand Prix of Indianapolis: Great race!
(Yes, a 2-word review is a cop-out. This is going to be a short post)
I also watched the Fast Nine qualifying shootout. More good stuff. Congrats to Ed Carpenter on his second pole position. You may have noticed the interloper in the booth humiliating Eddie Cheever. That would have been Flat Into One favorite, Dario Franchitti.

Dario may have been the best motorsport analyst I've ever heard/seen on TV. Bold statement, yes, but contrast him to Cheever-Dario has first hand knowledge of the cars being discussed. Dario has driven a car in anger within the past decade. He also has charisma and a personality that comes across on TV. The best part was the sheer depth of detail he added. For instance, during Simon Pagenaud's run, Dario pointed out Simon's body language and noted that it was the stress of running flat-out at Indianapolis, not necessarily any exceptional physical exertion. Stuff like this is fantastic.

Other websites have hyped two new books on historically important events at the Indianapolis 500. One covers the horrific crash that came shortly after the start of the 1964 race. I'm sure it's good reading and will make time to read it through. In the meantime, here is another account of those events. 

The second new book covers the Penske Racing domination of the 1994 race with a purpose-built pushrod engine. This series covers the story of that engine and the events that surrounded it (including what happened to the Penskes in 1995, the formation of the IRL, etc). It's packed full of information, analysis, and tangential asides-just the way I like it!

By the way, if you're as big a race fan as I am, it might not be a good idea to visit the home website of the above links without several hours to killl...

Anyway, there are a couple of things I wanted to get off my chest. If I don't get another entry posted, then I hope to see you somewhere in Indianapolis this weekend!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Grand Prix of Indianapolis

The early phase of the Indycar season is complete. If the three races run so far are any indication of the rest of the year, this will be another great season! Three different pole winners, three different race winners, old favorites on top, and validation of some tough choices.

Next up is the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, when Indycar will run on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. At first, I was opposed to running this race in May. I accepted that maybe a road race at the Speedway wasn't such a bad idea, but should be run at a completely separate time. As the season finale, for example-especially if the season will end by September, when good weather is still the norm in Indiana.

My problem wasn't the track layout or using the facility for something other than the 500. Personally, I thought that the Mickey Mouse track configuration used during Formula 1 races was less important than the fact that there were Formula 1 races held there. And I can't really complain about the use of the track-it's also hosted Stock Cars, minor-league stock cars, motorcycles, a lesser sports car series, showroom stock sedans, autocrosses, and bracket racing. Ok, maybe not the last two. Yet.

I didn't think that the Month of May should suffer the distraction of another points-paying Indycar race. The focus, I believed, should be on preparations for the World's Greatest Race. My opinion has turned around 180 degrees. Leadership at the track and at Indycar seem determined to bring back the luster and the glory (and viewership) of the 500. They are doing this not with 3 weeks of practice and time trials of interest only to the most dedicated racing nerds (yes, you), but with events that have real stakes to the participants and the fans: A full points-paying Indycar series race on the road course on May 10 and a day of qualifying that sets not only the starting order for the 500, but pays out even more championship points. I think these are very important things.

Personally, the more Indycar and Indianapolis 500 stuff I consume, the more excited for the race I get. Trouble is (and I can't believe I'm alone), my time is limited. It's easy to sneak in the Trackside and Talk of Gasoline Alley podcasts while commuting, working, eating, etc, but sitting down in front of the TV to watch hours of practice is hard to justify. My free time is limited after work, my wife, my small children, side businesses, and the regular chores. Add in the first good weather since October here in the upper midwest, and watching part-time backmarkers scuff tires gets really hard to justify. I do make time, however, to watch every race live. If it's an Indycar event that has racing and actual championship consequences, watching becomes easy.

The Grand Prix of Indianapolis gives fans a real reason to watch more Indycar, and get more excited for the Big Race. Awarding points on qualifying weekend does the same thing. The result is one continuous, weeks-long festival with the 500 as the climax, where everyone at the track and at home is more excited for the race and the series. I know I'm looking forward to it!