Interesting Debut For GP of Indianapolis
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.