An Interesting Turn Of Events

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Throughout this week, I was still apprehensive about the new qualifying format and how it was going to unfold. Even today, after the entire field had been filled after a couple of hours – I was beginning to think this was a dud. Drivers didn’t seem too interested in improving their times if they didn’t think they had a realistic shot of making the Fast Nine. After the rain delay – that all changed.

Drivers began jockeying for position in and out of the Top-Nine. Those that appeared to be safe before the rain-delay, were suddenly very vulnerable. The cooler weather and cloud-cover immediately after the rain-delay made for faster speeds. I am assuming it gave viewers on ABC a very good show.

It was interesting to see how some teams figured out a strategy for the new format quicker than others. The two lines that formed was an interesting twist. From what I understand, once a car entered the “express lane” – their time was withdrawn (unless they never got to take the track). It made for some curious decisions and some interesting exchanges between some teams. With thirty minutes to go, the “safe” line was very long.

Line 
To me, the biggest surprise of the day was the poor performance by Chip Ganassi Racing and Tony Kanaan in particular. Last year’s winner went out multiple times but could do no better than twenty-third quick. His last two attempts, he could not get over the 228.4 hump. Fortunately, there is still time to salvage a decent start tomorrow – but the best he can settle for at this point is to start tenth. It’ll probably be a long night in the Ganassi camp tonight, as none of their cars finished in the Fast Nine.

Tony

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There were no additional entries by the time the 7:00 pm deadline, so there will be no bumping. So, the last row of Alex Tagliani, Martin Plowman and Buddy Lazier are safe. Rows four through ten will get one and only one to improve their position tomorrow. They cannot sit on their times – they have to run again. This gives drivers like Tony Kanaan, Oriol Servia, Townsend Bell and Ryan Briscoe another shot to improve what had to be disappointing times for them.

After that, comes the Fast Nine who are still eligible to win the Pole for the 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500. They are (in order) Ed Caprpenter with an average speed of 230.661 mph. He was followed by Carlos Muñoz, Helio Castroneves, James Hinchcliffe, Will Power, Marco Andretti, Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden and JR Hildebrand.

Five different teams are represented in the Fast Nine. It’s especially good to see both cars from Ed Carpenter Racing make the Fast Nine. At the end of last May, JR Hildebrand was an unemployed driver. Tomorrow, he is one of only nine drivers eligible to run for the pole – while the team that fired him is having a fire sale. Hildebrand is a very likeable guy. It’s nice to see that good things do happen to good people occasionally.

Tomorrow, the pressure ratchets up. It’ll be interesting to see what teams can make major moves tomorrow and which ones backslide. I’m almost certain that tomorrow holds a major surprise – I just have no idea who it involves. That’s what makes this sport so intriguing.

I’ll close with a couple of lighter stories, both involving my wife Susan. I have driven my better-half crazy talking about how much  like the retro Pennzoil paint scheme of Helio Castroneves. Every time we saw it today, I would remark about it. I think she has grown just a little tired of hearing it. So instead of saying it, I’ll just post one more picture of it.

Helio 
After qualifying was over for the day, we ventured over to check out the Borg-Warner trophy. The guards were good sports, but kept a close eye on Susan as she posed appearing to kiss the Borg. She was given strict instructions to get close, but to NOT TOUCH IT. I can only imagine what would happen if she lost her balance and knocked it over. But as I said – they were very good sports, considering its value.

Borg
That’s going to do it for us today. We hope to be back earlier tomorrow than today – especially since everything is supposed to be over with by 3:00. Check back then and thanks for following along today.

George Phillips

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6 Responses to “An Interesting Turn Of Events”

  1. George, that is how I saw it! While not being there I did listen to 1070 on my IPhone. They were great. At 3 I tuned in to ABC and was floored. Maybe it was the guys on the radio that kept me excited about the day, Paul Page, Robbie Buhl and Donald Davidson were terrific and kept my head in the game all day. As for the television broadcast, I truly believe that ABC has a winner with this new format.

  2. Matt B. Says:

    George, if I understand it correctly, since there were not more than 33 announced entries (by 7pm Sat.), row 11 will join rows 4 through 10 competing for positions 10 through 33.

    • You are correct! I learned that very same thing after this was posted. That’s my biggest complaint of this new format – no one, and I mean no one can fully explain it. – GP

      • Matt B. (Dayton, Ohio) Says:

        Apparently Will Power didn’t even know that Saturday’s positions paid championship points (as evidenced in Jamie Little’s TV interview that day). That’s a little hard to believe!!! Weird that sometimes we know more than the drivers do.

  3. So, the days of an AJ Foyt taking an engine out of the box and throwing it on a chassis with an hour and a half left, then qualifying it are over. Not good!

  4. I don’t know what the heck IMS has done to scare all the spectators away from the 1st day of qualifying, but this event used to attract around a quarter of a million people….It looked like only a couple of thousand people showed up yesterday…?????

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