Sunday, May 27, 2012

That. Was. Amazing

As I sit here watching the replay of today's Indianapolis 500, I keep thinking of how many different superlatives I should use to describe what I saw from my seat in the SW Vista.

You know what? I'm not going to use any, because it speaks for itself. It was just an amazing show.

35 lead changes (among 10 drivers), four coming in the final 10 laps, breaking a record that had stood since 1960.

Dario Franchitti becomes a three-time winner, just the 10th driver in the race's history to win the race three or more times.

Lots of great action throughout the field, great passes, outstanding restarts and an insane amount of drama.

Should I keep going? Nah. I'll just run though the top-10 and mention a few different notes.

Winner -- Dario Franchitti. Started 16th and led 23 laps. Among his three wins, this was Franchitti's finest. An early pit snafu at the hand of EJ Viso put Dario in 29th place, and he carved his way up the field to become a factor in a hurry. Most of those passes for position were on the track as he picked drivers up and knocked them down. I'll hold off on an opinion as to his turn 1 actions on the last lap skirmish with Takuma Sato, because honestly, I saw it happen live and saw several replays and I still don't know. So I will just take my hat off to him for driving a brilliant race and getting it done when he had to.

Runner-up -- Scott Dixon. Dixie drove well and finished second for the third time this season while leading 38 laps. He was at or near the front of the field all day long, and for the second straight year came one break short of winning.

Tony Kanaan (3rd place). Dammit! TK was there, the race was in his hands, but he fell short. Still, his sixth-to-first move on a restart on lap 187 was the typical TK, the best move of the day and one that brought out the biggest cheer. It's unfortunate that fans can't will a driver to a win, because if it were the case TK would've won in a runaway.

Oriol Servia (4th place). A couple of minutes after the race ended I looked at the scoreboard and saw No. 22 listed in fourth. My first thought: "Where did HE come from?" Servia lost a lap early in the race and didn't get it back until very, very late, then pushed forward in the final two restarts. The Spaniard placed third last year so has back-to-back top 5 finishes. Great run in his first event with a Chevy, and he improved 23 spots from his 27th starting postion.

Ryan Briscoe (5th place). The polesitter was in the mix early but spend much of the day outside the top 10. He shuffled his way up to his fifth-place finish and led a career-best 15 laps.

James Hinchcliffe (6th place). Hinch looked great early on and was pretty quick down the stretch, but his final 13.5 second pit stop just put him too far behind to make a move. Still, it was an impressive run for Hinch in his second 500.

Justin Wilson (7th place). The big Brit looked about as racy as I have seen him, especially on an oval. He had a great car and needed a top 10 finish badly to stop the bleeding of what had up to this point been a lost season.

Charlie Kimball (8th place). See Wilson, Justin. Charlie led three laps and drove a consistent race.

Townsend Bell (9th place). Bell stepped out from behind his NBC Sports mic as a one-off effort for Sam Schmidt, and represented himself well. Moved up late and picked up his best finish since placing 4thi n 2009.

Helio Castroneves (10th place). Castroneves wasn't a factor for the 2nd straight year, and proves how hard it is to win this race. Many (me included) thought he was a lock to win four, or even five races, but since his last win in 2009 he has gone P9, P16 and P10.

Rubens Barrichello (11th place). OK, we are going to go top 11 as Rubens was named the Rookie of the Year. He led two laps while shuffling through pit stops, and while he didn't do anything spectacular, he didn't do anything stupid either. I realized after the race that prior to today he had probably never run a race much over 200 miles, so he was in uncharted territory for a good part of the day.

Takuma Sato (17th place). Taku started 19th but had a rocket most of the day. Sato led 31 laps and his move in the first turn of the final lap was crazy but ballsy. At that point it's about winning, and I will give him props for going for it. He is running up front more and more often.

Ed Carpenter (21st place). Until today, Carpenter's month had been one to forget. He was slow in practice and crashed hard in Time Trials before becoming the final qualifier on Bump Day. It was awesome watching him move up as high as third place, but I'd seen him wiggling around a lot, and his spin was a case of probably pressing a little too hard. Still, good run for Ed.

Katherine Legge (22nd place). Legge is actually a late addition to this list, but I thought it was appropriate to give her a shout out because of the tumultuous month she and her Dragon Racing team suffered through. After not getting an engine until midweek and not getting through the Rookie Orientation Program until Fast Friday, Legge had a steep learning curve on race day. Given she had just one oval race under her belt, she did an admirable job. Like many other drivers (including Barrichello and Newgarden), laying down laps and getting experience meant more than anything.

Marco Andretti (24th place). Marco led the most laps (58) on the day and was dominant the first half of the race. But a crash in turn 1 with 12 laps to go ended his day. In my preview I mentioned patience, and his radio rage and visible frustration at times when things weren't going his way is to me the sign of someone who needs to learn some more patience. He had the car but he lost his head at the worst time.

A few other notes...Josef Newgarden got off sequence with the rest of the field early and was playing catchup for most of the day before losing a motor with 39 laps to go. Still, he has a lot to build on from here, and has to leave Indy with a lot of confidence...Ryan Hunter-Reay started third but finished 27th after having a suspension issue...Simona de Silvestro and Jean Alesi's days lasted 10 and nine laps, respectively, before being parked due to the 105 percent rule. De Silvestro was 22 seconds behind just six laps in, so it was the right decision...Speaking of, Beaux Barfield called a great race. The start was one of the best in years and single-file restarts were the way to go as they were still very exciting.

From a personal standpoint, it was one of the best race days I've ever experienced. In fact, it was the best Month of May I've ever had. It was great to once again share the day with my son Matt, and I once again enjoyed spending time with my new friends in the Social Media Garage before the race. The Fast Friday-Pole Day-Pump Day trifecta was a lot of fun thanks to them.

I could probably go on and on but I'll leave it at that. Maybe I will add to it later, but for now I'll just say thanks to everyone I met and hung with all month. When I started doing this blog 18 months ago, this was what I envisioned, an opportunity to share my love of the Indy 500 with others. What a great ride!

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