Qualifying Weekend Preview
As you read this, Susan and I are (hopefully) well on our way to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I spent three spouseless days there last weekend for the Grand Prix, before returning home for four days. Now I’m heading back for three more days with wife in tow for Qualifications for the 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500.
In some ways, I actually enjoy the qualifying weekends more than the race weekend. Of course, race weekend provides the memories for years to come – but the slower pace of qualifying weekend makes things more enjoyable, at least from a fan’s perspective. Race weekend is very intense – especially Race Day itself. There are so many people and things are so rushed and scheduled, you can’t just suddenly decide “Hey, let’s go grab a tenderloin”. To do so would require standing in a long line and either hoping to find a place to sit and eat it, or taking it back to your seat.
This weekend is also when it is fun to slowly stroll through the garage area. You never know what you will see. You’re likely to see cars and drivers going back and forth between their garage and the pit area. On Race Day, the cars are out in the pits very early and the drivers are huddled back in their respective motor coaches until the last minute.
Restaurants won’t be near as crowded either. I did stop at the Mug-N-Bun on my way out of town last Sunday night. It was busy, but not packed. As usual, the food was decent – but the star there is their homemade root beer in the frosted mug. I’m still wanting to try the tenderloin at Edward’s on the east side, but being at the track all day and staying in Speedway doesn’t encourage me to make the trek across town.
At least once this weekend, we want to eat at our favorite place in the area – Dawson’s on Main Street in Speedway. Not only do we enjoy eating there, but we have a sentimental attachment to it. Dawson’s is where we took our small wedding party for dinner then night of our wedding at IMS two years ago. Our two-year anniversary is coming up Sunday. Chances are, we’ll be there tonight or tomorrow night (or both). If you’ve never been there, you should try it. The food is great and the atmosphere is nice, but very unpretentious.
Obviously, Race Day is the focus of the entire month and the reason we come here; but for a more laid-back and enjoyable racing experience – there’s a strong argument that this may be the most fun weekend of the month.
My hope is to arrive at the track before cars begin Fast Friday practice – the last full day of practice before qualifying. Weather permitting, it should be a wild and furious day of practice. But that’s the operative phrase: “weather permitting”. It’s been a tough week weather-wise in central Indiana. Up until yesterday, teams had struggled to find adequate track time this week. But that hasn’t been a total surprise. When I was there last weekend, that was the prediction. That’s why I was so surprised there were so few cars running last Sunday until late in the day.
But yesterday provided a full day. Twenty-seven car and driver combinations turned laps at speeds of over 223 mph. Helio Castroneves turned the fastest lap of the day and month yesterday at 227.166. With the added boost for the weekend, some are anticipating speeds over 230 this weekend.
The forecast for today isn’t much better. There is a chance of off and on showers throughout the day. And it’s going to be cold – not cool, but cold. The high for today in Indianapolis is supposed to be only 54-degrees; with a low tonight of 37. Last weekend, I wore shorts and was sweating in the stands. This weekend, it’ll be sweatshirts and polar-fleece.
As far as qualifying goes, there is no way I can predict who will land on the pole on Sunday. I’m still not perfectly clear about what Saturday is going to bring. I’m not sure anyone is. It’s sort of like finding someone to explain the infield fly rule in baseball. I spoke to many die-hards last weekend and no one seemed to be completely comfortable explaining all of it. If we hard-cores are confused, what about the casual fans tuning in? All I know is, the real important stuff happens on Sunday. I did see this video on Racer.com late yesterday, with Derrick Walker explaining the procedure to Robin Miller. This is helpful.
At least we now know that James Hinchcliffe has been cleared to drive after suffering a concussion in last week’s Grand Prix of Indianapolis. I was hearing reports indicating the opposite, but I’m happy for Hinch that he’ll be driving.
As I did last weekend, I’ll be posting here periodically throughout the weekend. I don’t pretend to be a news site, so I probably won’t have the latest breaking news. If that’s what you’re looking for, I’d check out either More Front Wing or 16th and Georgetown. They both do an excellent job of staying on top of things. I tend to give a more casual view of the race weekend along with some pictures and my opinions and analysis of the happenings of the weekend. Susan will be also along this weekend to offer her unique (read: quirky) view of things.
For more instant pictures and comments, you may follow us on Twitter. You can follow me at @Oilpressureblog. Susan has recently changed her Twitter account. She used to be @chiapet58. Now she is simply @MrsOilpressure. I didn’t tell her to do that, but I like it.
Check back often. It should be a very interesting weekend.