Tuesday, May 28, 2013

More Indy 500 Stuff

I finally got a chance to view the ABC broadcast of the race, and there were definitely a few things I missed from being at the track.

Not only that, it gave me a chance to see what happened and give a few things some more thought. I have to say, still two days later, I keep thinking about the race and how amazing it was. Tony Kanaan winning, and the crowd’s reaction, was something I will remember the rest of my life.

Crazy as it sounds, about a month ago I was giving thought to passing up the 500 this year and maybe going to Iowa or someplace else instead. Don’t get me wrong, it was a completely economic discussion but I thought with the things I have coming up this summer that maybe I should sit this one out.

But my biggest argument was this: what if something memorable happened and I missed it? What if Helio or Dario won their fourth? What if Hinch won?

Or even, what if Tony Kanaan won the race and I wasn’t there to see it?

Yes, that was an exact thought that I had over a month ago. What if TK won the race and I missed it? The opportunity to see him win the Indy 500 was the biggest reason I decided to go. And now? No regrets.

So here are a few more things that crossed my mind:

TK could do anything he wanted with his car. No doubt his gaining five spots just after the drop of the green flag was not surprising, but what was so noticeable was the fact that he could put the car anywhere on the track and it would stick. He was hooked up all day long and amazingly enough took no adjustments to the car during pit stops. 

I’m still surprised by Carlos Munoz. But then again, this is what Colombians do when they get to the Speedway. In fact, his runner-up finish is the second-best rookie run by a Colombian as Juan Pablo Montoya won in his first (and only) start in 2000. Also having a tremendous debut was Roberto Guerrero – a big favorite of mine back in the day – who was second to Rick Mears in 1984. That was the start of a four-year run where he went P2, P3, P4 and P2. I’d like to see him on a little more of a variety of tracks at the big league level before I declare Munoz the goods…but he’s off to a good start.

Outside of TK, my epic-run-of-the-day still goes to Charlie Kimball. I tweeted Kimball yesterday and asked him what the problem was with his car but never got a reply. I’ve heard it was electrical, but when he came by it sounded like he was about to lose a cylinder, or had one of the infamous header problems a few others had experienced during practice and qualifying. When the race went back to green after JR Hildebrand’s crash he was lagging so far behind the pack that there were people in my section sort of laughing about it. One person had him in a driver pool and was rooting for him to drop out so he finished last and she got her money back (she wasn’t paying attention to the fact Hildebrand was already out).

Most impressive about his run was the fact there were very few cautions where they could use some sort of strategy to move him up the field. No, he did it the hard way, by passing cars. I think there are some people who are down on Kimball for some reason, but he is becoming a solid Top 10 performer. Lots of guys make a long career of doing that. Plus, when you look at how teammates Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon performed, it’s even more impressive.

About Dario. It was crazy to hear how Sunday was the first time he had ever hit the wall at the Speedway. He had turned 1,940 race laps without an incident, and probably two to three times more than that in practice and testing. 

I was amazed at how quick people were to jump on the conspiracy theory that once he realized TK was in the lead he walled his car to give his friend the win. Watching the tape it was obvious that he turned the car and it just didn’t go anywhere. Remember they hadn’t changed his tires after his last stop so he was on old kicks, not to mention he had been struggling with handling all day.

Not to mention, it would have taken help from his spotter (as Turn 1 is pretty blind and Dario would never seen TK in the lead) and an incredible presence of mind to 1) find out your best friend is in the lead and 2) decide within a fraction of a second "you know, I'm going to help him out and wall the car". Please. You'd have to have a pretty big screw loose to crash a car at speed on purpose.

Readers of this space know I’m not a huge fan of his, but I find it ludicrous that anyone would think he would do something like that. Dario is a sportsman and a man of great integrity who knows how much of a privilege it is to win the 500. He wasn’t going to hand a win to anyone. 

Speaking of Dixon. His performance Sunday was very non-Dixie-ish. For a guy where top-5 finishes are almost a way of life around there, he was never a factor, although he did complete every lap of the race for the seventh year in a row. That’s some amazing consistency from both Dixon and his team, because prior to Dario’s crash he had completed every race lap since 2007 (save 2008 when he did not compete).

Where was Hinch? His up and down season continued. Two wins and now three finishes of 20th or worse. It’s crazy how Andretti Autosport absolutely nailed the setups on Munoz, Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay and EJ Viso’s cars but missed so badly with Hinch. He was saying that getting too close to a car in front of him was making the car unstable. And given the way he was in sprint car mode and power sliding through some of the corners, there just wasn’t much he could do.

Still, he is fifth in points and I think he could be someone who could make a big move over the weekend. I have a feeling after the two races at Belle Isle are done the standings will look a lot different a week from now.

G/W/C. Thankfully lots of people are starting to come to their senses about this. Look, G/W/C doesn’t work in IndyCar (especially at IMS) for one singular reason: it’s dangerous. Stuff that works in NASCAR doesn’t always work anywhere else, and this is one of them.

It was a hot topic on ESPN's Turn 4 today, and thankfully they pretty much all have the same consensus most of us do. It's just not necessary, and in most instances, just isn't feasible.

What works for NASCAR is that the G/W/C, and in the same vein, plate racing, has a sort of demo derby feel to it. The wrecks that happen during many G/W/C finishes are spectacular because they involve lots of cars bouncing off of each other and for the most part no one gets hurt.

Restarts at a place like Indy are hairy enough, can you imagine a one-lap sprint (and I call it one lap because once you get to the white flag the next flag is the checker for all the marbles at Indy? Can you imagine the carnage, injury or damage involved if that dash to the finish produced a multi-car crash? It wouldn’t look as funny as Cup, where mayhem ensues and everyone pretty much hops from their cars, then two guys might fight and everyone cheers. A 5-or-6 car crash at an oval in IndyCar sends someone to the hospital, guaranteed.

Plus, NASCAR and IndyCar are apples to oranges economically. Most of the Cup teams can absorb the cost of some dented sheet metal, most IndyCar teams can’t afford to be constantly fixing wrecked cars. So why would a series where cost containment is a priority put their cars/drivers/teams in the position of having to pay for unnecessarily wrecked race cars?

For a couple of TV ratings points? Look, fans aren’t going to flock to IndyCar just because they adopt the G/W/C. it’s deeper than that, and we all know it.

Which brings me to my last point.

TV. If I win the lottery someday, I will personally help buy IndyCar out of its current TV package, which hamstrings the series more than any other factor. From a production/camera aspect, ABC’s coverage was great…but it ends there. The series needs to demand a better partner that will be with them for every race, as well as online and social media content. 

OK. One more thing. The #Indy500orBust campaign was a huge success, and is further proof that the inroads to growing the fanbase lies in social media. But I came across a story today that is a must read. It is the #Indy500orBust story about Felipe Guerra, a young man from Chile who dreamed of going to the Indy 500.

You can read it here

Felipe, along with his father, got to come to the US to see the race for the first time this weekend. Give his story a read, it’s very, very cool.

It’s fascinating to think that people come from all over the world to go to the 500. What’s even more fascinating is the fact that there are many people who are fans of the race (and the series) who have never seen an IndyCar race in person, yet they are still fans.

Maybe I take it for granted. The fact is, I’ve never lived more than three hours from IMS since I became a fan in 1979. I always knew that my next trip there was only a year away, and when I lived in Indy for five years in the early 90s, I drove by the track several times a week. Even if it meant taking a special trip.

I was a fan from the first day I walked in there, not the other way around. Others have to wait years (or even decades) to make it to Indy. I can’t imagine what it would be like to see Indy for the first time when the only time you have seen it is on TV or in pictures or in your mind’s eye. I bet it’s pretty awesome.

You want to know what Indy means? That’s it. The dream of making it to Indy isn’t just for the drivers, it’s for the fans too.

Felipe hopes to make it back in 2016. So I say, #Felipe2016orBust!

1 comment:

  1. Great comments. I will give props to ABC/ESPN for the 12 live in-car camera views available on the WatchESPN app.

    I don't recall hearing what happened to put Newgarden down a few laps early.

    Alan K.
    Raleigh, NC