Random Thoughts On The Indianapolis 500

GeoThumbnail 
First of all, I apologize for not having this post up here first thing this morning. Being the old man that I am, the long day caught up with me after getting up at 4:15 yesterday to get inside the track early.

As I typed on Sunday night, I was in our Indianapolis hotel also trying to watch the replay of the race. It was about Lap 20 when we got to the room. The last I remember it was Lap 87, when I realized I was dozing off while trying to type. I figured anything I typed would sound incoherent, so I put it aside and went to bed.

I’m still kind of in awe of what I saw. The last eight laps were almost surreal. You knew if they didn’t take each other out – that this was coming down to either Ryan Hunter-Reay or Helio Castroneves. Both drivers did all they could to win. only one could and it was Hunter-Reay.

John McLallen, my cohort on One Take Only seems to think that Helio Castroneves was a drama queen after the race. I disagree. Try laying it all out for a chance to win the Indianapolis 500 and become only the fourth four-time winner in history and coming up just few feet short and see how you act when the race is over. Quite honestly, I thought Helio showed great restraint when being interviewed on the PA.

But what a great race at the end!

TV Coverage:  Obviously, by being at the race – I was not privy to seeing the ABC coverage of the race. As mentioned, I did see about sixty-five laps of the local delayed broadcast last night. But I was trying to type and I was so tired that I didn’t pay close attention. Hopefully the DVR worked and I’ll be able to watch it in the next couple of days.

The Red Flag:  It seems that the popular sentiment among almost everyone is the IndyCar made the right call to stop the race in order to try and get a green-flag finish; since there had not been one since 2009 (technically, Dan Wheldon’s 2011 victory ended under yellow). Given the circumstances that repairs needed to be made for safety reasons, I was OK with it. But had it been normal cleanup from a crash – I’m not as onboard as most seem to be. To me, it flirts dangerously close to a green-white-checker used in NASCAR to extend and manipulate the finishes of races. As it turned out, the finishing order was the same among Helio Castroneves and Ryan Hunter-Reay as it was for the red-flag.

But just because a crash happens in the final ten laps of a race, does not mean the red flag needs to come out. That’s a time when drivers are pushing hardest to make something happen. Crashes are likely to occur in that time. And yes – I will revert to the logic of “it’s always been that way”. What if they did that last year after Dario Franchitti crashed late in the race? Tony Kanaan might still be looking for that first win and Ryan Hunter-Reay may be celebrating back-to-back victories this morning. I’m much more in favor of letting the race play out and letting the yellows fall where they may. I’m aware that I’m in the vast minority on this; but that’s how I feel.

Jim Nabors Farewell:  I really liked the way The Speedway handled this. There was a card-section over in the Tower Terrace telling Jim “Thank You”; but from our seats in Stand A, you couldn’t read it. I trust that it showed up on television. But there was not an over-the-top acknowledgement that this was his last one. Just a few extra phrases from PA announcer Dave Calabro thanking Jim and letting him know that he’ll always be a part of the lore that is the Indianapolis 500. His singing did not disappoint and I was thankful that the fans around us treated the moment with the respect it deserved. Good job all the way around.

Fan Behavior:  Most of the time when people discuss fan behavior at races, it conjures up images of slobbering drunks throwing up or picking fights. That wasn’t happening in my section. Most were well-mannered and behaved. That is, except for the guy in front of me. I’m not sure he said a word, but he was very annoying just the same. He was of the old-school – and I’m talking way more old-school than me.

He had a clipboard with one of the old scoring sheets from the sixties. He scored every driver on every lap. That was fine, but for whatever reason – he felt the need to stand up every lap when the field came by. I understand standing up when something exciting is happening – like the start of the race, the end of the race, an exciting pass or a crash. But to stand up when the leaders are crossing the finish line each lap is a bit much. Consequently, this was my view throughout much of the race.

Fan 
Pippa’s Run:  I’m hoping that ABC had at least a mention or an interview with Pippa Mann regarding her driving the pink Susan G. Komen car for the fight against breast cancer. I’ll promise you, no driver worked harder for their sponsor during the Month of May than Pippa did for this partnership. When she wasn’t in the car, she was everywhere trying to raise money and awareness for this cause.

She has a career best starting position of twenty-second and held that through her second pit-stop. After her second stop, she suffered a loose wheel and then the wheel nut on that wheel got stuck. She lost several laps while in the pits trying to solve the problem. Once the issue was resolved she went back out to fight and scrap all day, rather than just throwing in the towel and calling it a day. She clawed her way back up to finishing twenty-fourth.

After the race, she spotted me snapping pictures of her chatting it up with her crew in the Dale Coyne Garage. After all she had been through, she was kind enough to invite Susan and me into her garage for a quick visit. She admitted she was pretty well spent – especially her right arm from steering the car all day. But she was gratified that no one in her crew gave up after the incident in the pits. It seemed to be all-smiles in her garage. She was even willing to pos for a gratuitous photo of Yours Truly, as we talked.

IMG_1715

Pippa Garage

Bubba’s Journey:  If you’ll recall, a few weeks ago I wrote about an old college friend (Bubba) that bought my brother’s tickets for this year’s race. he had never been to an IndyCar race before. The Indianapolis 500 had been on his “to do” list for quite a while. Although Bubba and I had not seen each other in some twenty years, we caught up with each other before the race on the yard of bricks behind the Pagoda.

The look of amazement on his face was priceless. He had his two young boys and they looked in awe as well. You could tell they were having a blast and they had not seen the first lap yet. I spoke to him briefly after the race and he said it was everything he had hoped for…and more. Hopefully, we’ve snagged some future fans.

All in All:  There are many, many facets to this race I haven’t touched on. Some will probably bring those to my attention, and that’s fine. We all have different things that stand out in our own minds. But ten years from now, when  look back on this race, I’m going to think about the late race duel between the yellow cars. It was unbelievable!

George Phillips

Please note:  As I mentioned yesterday – I will be taking a little break from here this week. I will probably throw some photos with comments on in a day or so. Plus, Susan has an interesting article she has worked hard on about some behind the scenes stuff with the guys at the IndyCar Racing Experience.

I’m not sure when either of these will be posted, so check back regularly. I hope I can also be excused if I do not have the normal “obligatory” preview for Belle Isle this Friday. This has been a tiring month and I want to rest up. I will be back in full-swing next week with a wrap-up of whatever transpires at Detroit.

Thanks for following along all month. It’s been very enjoyable. – GP

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14 Responses to “Random Thoughts On The Indianapolis 500”

  1. jhall14 Says:

    What an amazing race. And sitting in Turn 3, seeing the move by RHR for the lead was amazing. More so was the 149 laps of green flag racing before the yellow flew. That speaks to the drivers, but more so the equipment in today’s racing. My 55th straight, not sure I have witnessed a better race than today, but any race day at IMS is special. Just love that place. Great job on the Blog, George. Let’s hope 2015 is bigger and better.

  2. It was a great first Indy experience for me and my son. From our seats in Turn 4, I thought a red flag was warranted for the Dixon and Newgarden incidents in front of us. Debris was all over the place from both crashes, with workers crossing the track in front of on-coming cars. There were some close calls. Then Pippa came flying through the turn way too fast and had to take evasive action to avoid hitting the back of a safety truck. It was very chaotic.

  3. sejarzo Says:

    If the cleanup for an incident in the last 15 laps at IMS would almost certainly take more than 5 laps, I think the red flag needs to come out to maximize the opportunity for a green finish. What we are seeing with the current formula (= tight field) on late restarts means to incidents like the Hinch/EdC/Bell situation are going to happen behind the leader quite often, I think.

  4. ABC, overall, did a good job with the race. However, there were very few driver interviews. Much of that was because of the very long run without any yellows. Graham Rahal was interviewed after he dropped out.
    ABC never showed us, nor explained what happened to Newgarden.
    I don’t remember any mention of Pippa once the race started.
    There were two camera angles that showed people pushing a light blue and white car into and through pit road, but no mentioned was made of what or who that was or what was happening.
    The many laps of green may have been as tiring for the booth crew as it was for the drivers. With so little to report from the pits, the guys in the booth didn’t get any chance to take breaks, either.

    As a side note from a former Turn 1 photographer, I was pleased to see photos by Mike young of the Carpenter/Hinch crash. Mike was knocked unconscious by debris from the Freedom 100 crash and had spend Friday night in the hospital.

    • billytheskink Says:

      I do recall ABC showing a replay of Newgarden’s incident. Martin Plowman spun him into the wall after not getting on the brakes as hard as Newgarden did as both cars came upon the Scott Dixon wreck. Newgarden was already several laps down at that point. The light-blue-and-white car being taken behind the wall was Buddy Lazier’s, though you are right that it was not noted on the broadcast. Pippa was discussed during driver introductions, but that was about it.

      I wish ABC had done more post-race interviews. With so few cautions, the race was over quite quickly and there was surely time at the end to make up for having only a handful of in-race driver interviews and talk to a few more folks. ABC did cover the Hinch/Carpenter/Bell incident well, interviewing the two wrecked drivers and playing a radio clip from Bell expressing expletive-punctuated surprise at learning he was on the outside of a 3-wide run through turn 1.

      I expect a pre-race feature next year on Graham Rahal’s ninja skills, as he managed to sneak into victory lane and congratulate Hunter-Reay before even Michael Andretti could.

  5. Should be noted that Allen Bestwick was excellent on the Indy 500 call

  6. It was a very fun race to watch. The red flag near the end bothered me. I guess it comes down to whether or not they would red flag a race whenever the safety barrier is damaged. If its not a consistent thing, then it was just a stunt to stop the race so it could finish under green. In short races, perhaps that is acceptable. But in a 500 mile race it smells of more TV. I think that really hurt qualifications and should not be done here, if that is why they did it. Don’t follow the NFL down that road.

    There was a lot of passing for the lead during the commercial breaks and ABC didn’t seem to really go revisit it after the break. They could have done a better job of that. Also, I got the impression that Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever don’t like each other all that much. Some interesting comments between the two.

  7. Phil Kaiser Says:

    George, some random thoughts on your random thoughts, lol:

    You were privy to seeing 65 laps of the ABC coverage; the “local delayed broadcast” IS the actual ABC coverage in Indianapolis, it’s just replayed at a later time, complete with pre-Race show. Didn’t know if you knew that or not.

    Totally with you on the Red Flag.

    Now, about the “gentleman” in front of you: he kept standing up because those are fairly lousy seats, lol! You really need to get into Turn One (or any turn really) and you will be more blown away than you already are! BUT, if you like your seats you really needed to politely say something to him; I have found that most fans stand up reflexively and don’t realize they’re blocking someone’s view until it’s pointed out to them. Usually they will say “I’m sorry,” and discontinue the offensive behavior. If you’d have done that and he continued, it’s off to the Yellow Shirts, who would’ve come up and explained a few things to him. That’s their job on Race Day, I used to be one. Last year some idiot in my section was trying to throw his empty GLASS beer bottles through the catch-fence! After the second one I was right down to the Yellow Shirts, who promptly came up with a couple of police officers and hauled the offensive one away. Tickets are pretty expensive and are getting harder to come by these days, so there’s no reason to let someone ruin your view or day like that, and I’m sure others sitting around you would agree wholeheartedly.

    Anyway, GREAT RACE, thanks for the blogs, keep up the good work! And don’t forget to tune in online tonight to hear me co-hosting Trackside with Cavin and Kevin on 1070thefan.com at 7 PM!

    Phil Kaiser
    Indianapolis

  8. The reason this is being thought of as a great race is the ending. An ending that would not have happened without the red flag.

    Indycar needs to establish new rules for ending races. They won’t be able to “repair” a fence everytime they need an excuse to have a non-caution ending. The red flag is a simple way to do it, but they should just be honest about it. “Manufactured”–yes, okay– but more importantly, “entertaining.”

    • sorry to reply to myself, but as long as I’m causing trouble here, I also believe the fuel knob needs to be ripped out and thrown in the lake. I got tired of all the references to “fuel-saving.” If they want to save fuel then make them do it with their foot at least.

      • Agree wholeheartedly!

      • I don’t agree with the assessment that the only reason that this race is thought of as a classic was because of the red flag. The race was shaping up to be just as close before the red flag, anyway, with RHR, Helio and Marco already dueling for the lead for many laps (TBell had been in that group before he wrecked, and Munoz and Montoya were lurking not that far back, either). Sure, the top-5 wound up covered by a slightly smaller margin than if the race had gone green for the last 20+ laps, but the top-3 almost certainly would have been just as close.

        As for fuel saving, I’m not sure that most of the saving was done with a knob so much as just running conservatively back in the draft, backing out of the throttle while maintaining basically the same speed. I could be wrong on that, but that’s how I felt like things were going watching the race in person.

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