Sunday, May 11, 2014

GP of Indy

I could sum up the events from yesterday with a simple...what. a. crazy. day.

But I have more to add so I will. First, though, let me say Happy Mother's Day to everyone who is a mother, grandmother, godmother, caretaker or anyone who has or is raising children. You are the cornerstone to their lives.

I'd also like to give a special shout to my own mom, Pat. She has had such a positive impact on my life and I'm so thankful for her love and influence. My mom turns 77 in June and thankfully is still healthy and happy. She loves sports and won't mind getting into a discussion or two about them. We still have yet to come to a consensus on our recent discussions on pitch counts and how a team should handle pitchers. Old school versus new! I'll let you know how it turns out.

Anyway, there were plenty of storylines, so many that I'm eschewing my usual top-5 finishers (going with three) to add in a couple more.

Winner: Simon Pagenaud. Raise your hand if two years ago you thought Pagenaud would be this good. (Pause) Anyone with their hand in the air, y'all are all flat out liars! I had him pegged to be a pretty good driver, but in his last 17 races he now has three wins and nine top-5 finishes. He's also now third in points, just six points away from Will Power in the top spot. Better yet, he's a contender to win the 500 in two weeks as well. He did a great job managing his fuel and getting to the end of the race with an onrushing crowd behind him.

Runner-up: Ryan Hunter-Reay. A win at Barber and his finish at the GP makes it a little easier to forget his bush-league move at Long Beach, and now he sits second in points. Three podiums in four races, and he heads into Indy (and all of the points involved) with mo on his side.

Third: Helio Castroneves. It would've been a nice 39th birthday present for Helio, and he certainly made it interesting in the end. His 2014 season is beginning a little like last year's did, with two podiums and two mid-pack finishes. Will that trend continue? Possibly, because you know how HCN comes to life at Indy, and his 6th-place finish at the 500 a year ago kickstarted a consistent run that put him in position to win the championship. Not only that, he will be running the old Pennzoil livery, which is super cool.


Standing starts: I'm a big proponent of them, because when they are pulled off correctly they are super cool, like Long Beach. But yesterday's crash -- started when pole-sitter Sebastian Saavedra's car stalled -- makes me wonder if they should continue. This is the third time in the short history of standing starts that it has either been aborted or there was an incident at the start. I'd love to see them continue, but not this way. More than anything, wrecked cars are a huge expense, and at some point that would get difficult for a few teams on the grid.

Restart: Again, there were a couple more incidents as the cars came to green, which didn't end until race control jumped in and threatened to penalize anyone who jumped the start. After Graham Rahal was knocked out of the race, he wondered why NASCAR could get restarts right and IndyCar can't. Well, the main reason is that Cup restarts are heavily scrutinized by race control and penalties are handed out for stupid driving. And here is the rub: what happens during restarts isn't about the rules, it's about stupid driving. We could still have outstanding restarts if everyone followed the rules and showed some professional courtesy, rather than treating it like a jailbreak. If the drivers can't police themselves, then it will be left to race control, and I don't think anyone wants to see that happen.

Hinch: James Hinchcliffe's concussion, suffered when a piece of debris jumped up and hit him in the head, was not only a storyline for yesterday, but is one of the first for the 500 as well. Right now he is out of the car for at least seven days -- per IndyCar standards -- putting him out of this week's practice and maybe even next weekend's 500 qualifying. E.J. Viso takes over the car until he is cleared, which may not be until Carb Day or even Race Day. If that happens, he moves to 33rd on the grid. Because I'm unfailingly loyal he is still my pick to win the race, but this is just another blow to his mojo, as he now has three finishes this year of P19 or worse.

Oriol Servia: As he is wont to do, the Voice of God, passed a lot of cars and after starting 22nd eventually worked his way to the point in the race's final stages. Though he had to stop for gas with just a couple of laps left, he drove a great race and showed that there is something he just likes about Indy. Fast fact: Servia has just as many points (55) in three races this year as his teammate, Graham Rahal, has in four. If this keeps up, we might have to start asking the questions. 

Jack Hawksworth: I hope he has proven to everyone that he "deserved" the ride he got with BHA. ("deserved" is a pretty stupid concept, by the way) He has been fantastic so far this season, and had his best weekend of his short IndyCar career, qualifying second and leading the most laps before finishing seventh. Given what I saw of Jack in person at Milwaukee last year, I don't have a lot of high hopes for him heading into the 500, but he just might surprise with a podium this year.

The TV booth: Allen Bestwick was of course outstanding, well-prepared and professional as always. Eddie Cheever and Scott Goodyear looked lost and not really that interested in being there.

Overall: I have to say the weekend was a success. After all, I'm a cheerleader, aren't I? While the racing wasn't perfect at times, the first lap may have been the best first lap of any road course race EVER and it was a typical road race event. I enjoyed watching it. Most of all, I want to give props to the fans who came out and supported the event. IMS put a lot into this weekend, and I think the got a lot in return. Most of all they gave an option to fans, a chance to bring their kids to see some racing on a day when it's not as crazy as the 500. Giving fans options, and bringing new, young fans to the sport. What a concept!

So here we are, it's time for 15 Days in May! So far it's off to a pretty good start!

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