Tuesday, May 29, 2018

102nd Indianapolis 500 Wrap-up

The roar is over, but what a roar it was! Sunday's 102nd Indy 500 was one of the hottest races on record, but from the SW Vista it was all worth it as we were entertained by another great show. While I will admit it wasn't as "thrilling" as the last several, I will never see a race in person and complain about it being "boring".

If you go to watch racing in person and find it boring at any level, you probably can't be helped. Anyway, as in the past, let's run through the Top 10 finishers and other notable topics.

Winner -- Will Power: Anyone who has followed the series for any length of time knew this day would come. Power has consistently been one of the best driver in IndyCar for close to a decade, and being employed by Penske Racing is a big help too. Power's experience at Indy has always been a bit mixed. Since 2009 he's always started in the top nine, and this year marked the fourth time he has started on the front row. Yet, before 2018 he'd only recorded two Top 5 finishes. Still, he's always been fast and had a strong car, it just hadn't been his "day" before Sunday.

Runner-up -- Ed Carpenter: Like Power, Carpenter has had a weird relationship with the Speedway. He's a three-time polesitter of course, and one of the bravest guys out there, but the results haven't always been stellar. In fact, his only Top 5 finish came in 2008 and he hadn't recorded a Top 10 in the last eight races. He showed he had come to play when he took the lead at the drop of the green flag and led the first 30 laps, part of the race-high 65 laps he led on the day. Ed's a guy you think will have his day too, but on Sunday Power was just faster down the stretch.

Third place -- Scott Dixon: Dixon is one of the most consistent drivers in 500 history, and he used a little bit of fuel saving magic to pull off his seventh Top 5 finish. Dixon pitted several laps earlier than the leaders to get more track time, and while several other drivers who did the same thing had to come in for fuel in the closing laps, he was able to stretch his fuel to the finish.

Fourth place -- Alexander Rossi: Easily the most entertaining driver in the field Sunday, Rossi charged from his 32nd starting position to his second Top 5 in three races. What was even more impressive is there was no off-strategy moves involved, the 2016 champ simply raced his way through the field. His outside moves on restarts will be talked about by fans for a long, long time.

Fifth place -- Ryan Hunter-Reay: Since winning the 500 in 2014, race day hadn't been very kind to RHR before Sunday. Over the last three years he had led laps by eventually finished P15, P24 and P27, dropping out of the race last year when his engine let go with 150 miles remaining. He's always a threat at Indy, just got a little bit of luck to go with it this year.

Sixth place -- Simon Pagenaud: Simon was really, really quiet Sunday, as his run was solid if not spectacular. Still, he ended up with a career-best finish, topping his eighth-place effort in 2013.

Seventh place -- Carlos Munoz: I don't know what it is, but Indy just brings out the best in this guy. Well, I do know because it fits his aggressive driving style, but he's just one of those guys that got comfortable very quickly and knows the fast way around. In his six races, he completed all 1,200 laps of competition, five total Top 10 finishes. Though it's unfortunate he probably won't sit in an IndyCar again this season, he's always a good bet to find a seat for the 500.

Eighth place -- Josef Newgarden: Honestly, I'm a bit disappointed in Newgarden's finish. He was fast all month and while he did lead three laps Sunday, you just never heard his name called the rest of the day. It's kind of strange to think that in his Indy 500 career, he's led a total of just 17 laps and one Top 5 finish.

Ninth place -- Robert Wickens: This year's Rookie of the Year has just been so impressive. His finish Sunday was more of a workman-like effort as opposed to much excitement, but it was a good start to his 500 career. After watching him finish second and Phoenix, it seemed like a good run at Indy might be in the cards. I also want to give props to my friend Jeff Campbell, who is a part of Wicken's crew.

Tenth place -- Graham Rahal: Rahal may have been the second-most exciting driver in the field behind Rossi Sunday as he improved 20 spots from his 30th starting position. It's kind of surprising to discover that this was just his third Top 10 finish in 11 races.

15th place -- Stefan Wilson: To be honest, when Wilson moved to the point on the Lap 193 restart, there was a good part of me hoping that somehow he would make it to the finish and win the race. He drove a great race and is proof of good things happening to good people.

24th place -- Jay Howard: I was really excited when I discovered my John Cummiskey Racing boss was part of Howard's crew, so I was watching that car with a lot of interest. They didn't have an easy day, as John mentioned to me in a text after the race, but at the flying of the checkered flag the car came home running and in one piece, which isn't bad either.

27th place -- Helio Castroneves: Prior to his crash on the Lap 145 restart, I thought Helio looked great. He was almost always above the white line in Turn 1 (pretty much everyone else was down to the grass), and was consistently in the Top 5 all day long. I know he started lobbying for a 2019 ride as soon as he got out of his car, and given how he is still competitive he should get that chance.

30th place -- Danica Patrick: I could probably write a couple of blog posts about how I feel about Danica, because I have a lot of conflicting viewpoints about her. Now that her career is over, looking back I would've liked to have seen how Danica would have done if racing were her passion.

Of course I don't know her personally, but I've always thought that she looked at racing as a job, and there is nothing wrong with that. Racing made her a lot of money and it opened up a lot of doors that helped her build a brand that made her very, very rich.

She had talent, you don't get to where she was without it. However, I don't think we ever saw a person that lived and breathed racing, that wanted to be successful at racing like her life depended on it. That person would have been just as successful off the track as on, that person would have built a true legacy than just lasting in the sport longer than the women that had come before her.

I doubt we will see her at a racetrack much after this. She is moving on with her life, and that's her right. But when I look back at her career I see a lot of wasted talent and opportunity. Racing with passion is high art, she just never seemed interested in it.

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