A Wild And Crazy Finish
Well, this day was nothing like I expected when I woke up this morning. I’m sure there are a few drivers and team owners who can say the same thing. I thought that Tony Kanaan would probably post a fast number first thing this morning and then work on his race setup for the rest of the day. Instead, he crashed his car in almost the exact same fashion as yesterday – putting his crew behind the eight-ball for the rest of the day.
As he kept making practice runs, it was obvious he was not comfortable at all in the car and he never turned a lap in the mid-afternoon that looked like it would even threaten Sebastian Saavedra. Kanaan was growing more and more frustrated, as it was becoming readily apparent that the 94th running of the Indianapolis 500 might possibly be run without crowd favorite Tony Kanaan. As the five o’clock hour approach, suddenly the 7-Eleven crew found the speed necessary to bump Saveedra.
They decided “Why wait?”, so a little after five, they decided to make a qualifying run. He put the makeshift car through four strong laps. Kanaan admitted that when the car was being put through the line and the crowd was cheering loudly for him – he got emotional. Buit he put the emotion out of his mind and did what it took to get his car into the field.
The drama that unfolded and the way the crowd cheered when the checkered flag flew to finish his run – is what makes this event so special for drivers, teams and fans alike. Those that say this race has lost its luster, must be blind if they didn’t take anything special away from today. That run brought chills as I sat in the stands and watched him pull that run off.
Now, about some of the other things that transpired…If anyone remembers the way Eric Bachelart bungled Bump Day last year; his driver Alex Tagliani sat helplessly and watched as he was bumped out of the field. I guess this year, he figured that wouldn’t happen again, so he withdrew Mario Romancini’s time and so he could re-qualified the car at a hopefully higher speed. It was a gutsy move that I seriously questioned at the time – but it paid off as Romancini ended up improving his time by six spots.
At that point, I guess everyone thought that was the proper tactic. After Sebastian Saavedra crashed while sitting on the bubble, it looked like his Indy debut wouldn’t happen. Then, Paul Tracy’s team decided that it would be wise to withdraw his time before he got bumped. Oops! He couldn’t bump his way back in, so that put Jay Howard back in the field. But Sarah Fisher’s team apparently didn’t appreciate the gift, as they gave it back. They followed Tracy’s cue aqnd withdrew their car. Oops! Same result. The end result was serving up a starting spot on a silver platter for Bryan Herta’s new team with Saavedra’s wrecked car back in the starting field.
There is an old adage in football – you never take points off of the board. Well, I think that if you’re on the bubble with ten minutes to go – you don’t give up your spot in the Indianapolis 500. Make someone take it away from you, but don’t give it away. I’m happy for good-guy Bryan Herta and his young team – but had either of these drivers sat on their times, chances are – they would be celebrating tonight instead of kicking themselves.
I was a little surprised at the sparse crowd today. It was warm, but there was a nice breeze blowing. It was a great day at the track and the drama was every bit as compelling as yesterday’s.
As much as I enjoyed my “media” experience at Barber, this was a whole new level. I’m still pinching myself that I’m having this experience. All this has done is make me even more excited for next weekend. Now, I have to wrap up and hit the road to Nashville. I’ll have a post with final thoughts and photos first thing in the morning. Thanks for following along this weekend.