Interesting Debut For GP of Indianapolis

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After a horrific start, the Inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis settled into a semi-boring parade for the first half – before turning into something of a melee in the second half. First of all, I need to report that driver James Hinchcliffe was transported by ground to Methodist Hospital. I’ve seen video that shows a large chunk of debris hitting him directly in the face and shattering his visor. He was carried to the infield care center on a stretcher, before being transferred to Methodist. He was in a reclined position holding his head as he was carted off. As I finished this, IndyCar officials released a statement saying Hinchcliffe had been released from Methodist Hospital after being diagnosed with a concussion. He will be re-evaluated later this week before being cleared to drive.

I happened to be sitting in the stands just north of the start-finish line and had a birds-eye view of the beleaguered start. From my viewpoint – after Saavedra stalled, it appeared everyone was going to clear him. That is until Carlos Muñoz decided to cut over and clip his left rear wheel. That turned Saavedra directly into the path of Mikhail Aleshin. The result a front-stretch sprayed with carbon fiber and debris. Fortunately, all drivers involved were uninjured in the mayhem. The same cannot be said for Indianapolis Greg Ballard, who suffered minor injuries while waving the ceremonial green flag for the parade lap.

The field circulate under yellow for eight laps, before finally going green. On the restart, Ryan Hunter-Reay brought the field down tightly bunched before the waving of the green flag. Jack Hawksworth made a pass for the lead and Simon Pagenaud passed Hunter-Reay for second, sending Hunter-Reay to third.

From that point, the race settled into somewhat of a parade. In the meantime – Jack Hawksworth absolutely checked out from the rest of the field. He pretty much led through the halfway point, when a series of yellows occurred and made things interesting. After about the third caution period, I decided tio move from my seat on the main styraightaway and move around. That made for a little variety, but I lost touch with part of the race. Those that watched the race on television, probably know more than I do as to what happened to Hawksworth and why he ended up finishing seventh. But I’ll say this about the twenty-three year-old Brit – he’s impressive.

Near the end, it became a race involving fuel strategy. Helio Castroneves was leading, but had to pit. Oriol Servia appeared to be in command, but he was pulled into the pits with four laps to go. Servia, Simon Pageanud and Hunter-Reay all pitted on the same lap. Servia apparently couldn’t make it, so you wondered about Pagenaud and Hunter-Reay. At that point, I thought Helio may get the win – but Pagenaud held on for the win with Hunter-Reay second and Castroneves rounding out the podium. I couldn’t help but wonder if Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing may not be second-guessing themselves for bringing Servia in for fuel. After all – he is not a full-time driver and points don’t really matter. But a win sure would have been nice. Servia finished an unremarkable twelfth.

Overall, I would call this event a success. Mark miles, CEO of the Verizon IndyCar Series, said he would be happy if they attracted forty thousand. today after the race, he said he was REALLY happy. IMS never releases attendance figures, but you can read what you want to into that. It’s hard to put a gauge on such things, but I’d say there were closer to sixty thousand. I base that on recent Pole Day crowds that were estimated at fifty thousand. Today’s crowd seemed bigger.

The second half of the race was interesting, in an odd sort of way. The start will make SportsCenter for the wrong reasons. I doubt anything else will. It wasn’t the greatest race I’ve ever seen, but this was a good evbent that I think should continue. It was very different, to be sure. Several series running the wrong way all weekend long was a little disconcerting. But now that it’s over, I’m glad I came and will probably come back next year as well. It’s a nice addition to kick off the Month of May, which was exactly what they were aiming for.

So it is now in the books. Simon Pagenaud gets to go down in history as the winner of the very first one. But it’s now time to turn the page. It’s after 8:00 as I type this in the IMS Media Center. As I look out, the maintenance crews are already thrashing about to convert this massive facility back to an oval overnight. Tomorrow morning, this place will be back to “normal” and cars will be turning left only. Taking that and the discovery that the classic tenderloin still exists, I’ll go to bed knowing all is right with the world – again.

I’m staying for the first practice for the Indianapolis 500 tomorrow. The weather forecast is looking better than it did, although it doesn’t look perfect. But the “experts” were calling for rain this afternoon. It was clear and sunny almost all day. I plan on arriving here relatively early, so check back here again tomorrow as the Month of May continues.

George Phillips

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9 Responses to “Interesting Debut For GP of Indianapolis”

  1. George, as you would guess, I was watching Jack Hawksworth very carefully. Basically what moved him back was all the yellows in the last half of the race. The first one, of course, wiped out his big lead. That and the way pit stops fell, put him behind other cars and his was set up with low downforce to run up front. His stint on the primary tires also set him back a bit. He had the best car, just not quite the right circumstances. At least he now leads the Rookie of the Year standings and his car is in good shape.
    Enjoy tomorrow, another tenderloin, and keep us posted.

  2. happy the event drew spectators. it is a nice way to start the month. but it seemed very parade-y to me on tv and a bit boring honestly. maybe I was expecting too much from all the talk of constant passing from the drivers. and way too much talk of fuel saving and going slow.

    the start was ridiculous, but jeez, aren’t they all in Indycar? it’s frustrating how this series struggles with starts and restarts. good for Hawksworth. bad for Hinch–sending out huge best wishes to my favorite mayor.

    I’m not sure how to interpret Rahal’s “this isn’t Nascar” comment about restarts, but I guess any restart is bad when you’re wrecked.

  3. I am a born and bred oval guy. I have the good fortune to travel with the series and have learned to really like the roadies. I willsay that they dont come close to being as exciting on TV as they are in person. The speed and close racing is very good and the talent it takes to be successful on these courses is obvious in person.
    This was a home run for the IMS and Indycar.
    Leave all that “disconcerting” and “normal” talk in 1985. This was a nearly free event for Indycar and no doubt sparked the interest at the very least of some of its base of fans.
    Welcome to 2014!

  4. I enjoyed the Grand Prix of Indianapolis immensely. I listen to 1070 from noon to three and got a feel for what they were saying and they were pretty excited about it. I thought the coverage was excellent and I am totally buzzed about the upcoming weeks at IMS. I hope Hinch can get back this next week. Concussions are not to be trifled with but I hope a full recovery is in store for next week. I also like what Hacksworth did today. Pulling for RHR kept me standing those last laps because of Helio. The announcers really kept me in the game.

  5. billytheskink Says:

    I have mixed feelings on the Grand Prix. There was good racing to be found throughout, the ending was unpredictable, and the crowd appeared to be excellent (relative to expectations). If the TV rating is good, the event will unquestionably be a success. I am, however, left with a sour taste in my mouth after a race filled so many frightening and unpleasant incidents. Though I do have to admit, Martin Plowman performing a skateboard-like grind with his car was as amazing as it was scary.

    Between the NASCAR trucks at Kansas, tonight’s wreckfest at the local track, and this afternoon’s Grand Prix, I feel like I’ve watched more laps of racing under yellow than green this weekend. I’m plenty ready to move on to 500 practice and qualifying.

  6. Ryan Johnson Says:

    I was in corner 7 and the fans there and across the track on the mounds in the infield were electric. Everything was drawing an excited reaction and the mix of incredible knowledge and sheer passion for the sport was in full display. There were no less than 60,000 there today as I was thrilled with the size of the crowd… I was within 10 feet of Hinch as they were putting him on the stretcher and he was in a TON of pain… When Plowman got airborn he clipped Montagny, which he then did an unbelievable 360 burnout and proceeded to lose a large piece of his car shortly after. That and the pace car smoking considerably and pulling off in 7 drew the best reactions from the fans… Just a fantastic race and much more exciting than watching on TV I’m sure

  7. SkipinSC Says:

    I listened to the entire race on 1070 and have watched about the first third of the telecast. This brought back memories of the way it USED to be, listening to the radio LIVE and watching the telecast later in the evening. Paul Page still can get me excited about the event, and his chemistry with Pippa Mann is outstanding. Not to slap the TV guys, who, at least as far as I’ve watched it, ALSO did a good job, but Pippa definitely has it over Scott Goodyear.

    Someone needs to do something about the standing starts. It seems apparent to me that for whatever reason, the electronics just aren’t consistently capable. This requires a tech fix, but until that issue is resolved, they need to be shelved before something really bad happens.

    I think the re-design of the road course turned out to be a BIG winner, although it may be they need tinker with the curbing. Particularly yesterday, when I got to see ALL the feeder races it was apparent that there are plenty of places to pass.

    I was a kittle disappointed to see the empty lower grandstands along the main straightaway, but that was only until I realized that the penthouses were open for seating. If they can grow this event from here, which I think they can, it could become HUGE.

    And, thankfully, “tenderloin-gate” seems to have a positive ending.

  8. Bent Wickerbill Says:

    The race appeared to be relatively well attended which is great and hopefully leads to this becoming a permanent spot on the calendar. It is unfortunate that once again the series came off as less than professional (imho) with the various shunts, collisions and resulting yellows/fuel conservation in lieu of racing… At times I felt as though I was either watching nastrucks, EXTREME SPORTS, or jackass… Also time to fix the launch control function with these cars or permanently shelve standing starts… I am not sure why standing starts cannot simply be accomplished in the same manner that the drivers depart the pitbox, but it may be worth a shot and lose the launch control idea…

  9. I attended the race. The weather was perfect. Had a great time. Not much of a “race” but the cars were fun to watch. It was weird watching the cars enter the pits from the other end, and run “backwards”. For any long time Indy fan, it was not “normal”. But it was different. Got some great pics.

    The crowd was pretty good. My guess is maybe a bit more than the 60,000 you estimated. Time will tell if the crowds continue. I suspect quite a few people were like me who wanted to be at the first one. The league has gotten better at having things for you to do before the race. Getting an autograph from Mario Andretti may have been the highlight of the day.

    One lesson learned. Standing starts should join the junkpile of history. They were fortunate that no one was seriously injured. But the heads of the drivers are exposed and sooner or later someone will be serioiusly injured or worse if they continue.

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