Random Thoughts On IMS Opening Day
Yesterday at IMS was a little surreal. As promised, Susan and I made the trek up to Indianapolis this weekend, for the first of four straight weekends at IMS. This was the earliest Opening Day in decades and there were signs of that. It didn’t seem like everyone was quite ready for May. There were signs in the garage area that some of the teams had not really moved in yet, as witnessed by the lack of signs over many of the doors. There were still some last minute projects for the upcoming Grand Prix weekend waiting to be done. The team’s hospitality areas were still in the process of getting set up. All in all, this was more of a soft-opening for Opening Day.
The media center seemed ready for business, but there was hardly anyone there. From our usual seats in the Media Center, you could hear Robin Miller grumbling behind us. Our friends Paul Dalbey and James Black from 16th and Georgetown were the only other occupants of what we used to call “Blogger’s Row”. I’ll be curious to see if any more bloggers show up this month or if we are the last of a dying breed.
But if a few things seemed out of sorts, you could tell that the maintenance crews had been busy in the last few weeks. There are tons of visible changes around IMS. Although most of you know how I feel about change, most of the changes here I actually embrace or at least don’t mind.
The most obvious changes are the new HD video boards. They are HUGE! Since I’ve moved my seats slightly further towards Turn One this year, I’ll be curious to see how well we can see them from our new seats. Unfortunately, most of the stands on the outside of the track were closed yesterday so that’ll have to wait.
The scoring pylon was another big change since last May. Some have muttered complaints about it, but I really like it. Most of the day, it maintained the look of the standard pylon. But during yellow flag down times, it ran ads for the upcoming events at IMS.
I’m also impressed how the stands in the Pit Road Terrace (where I sat for about ten years) now have individual seats with backs on them. They make for great sitting for hours and watching cars go by; and they are much easier on your lower quarters.
What I’m not impressed with are the solid green walls among the main straightaway with signage for Angie’s List for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis. I know it’s temporary and will be gone by qualifying weekend, but this traditionalist would rather not see those iconic solid white walls turned into billboards. I know it’s the world we live in and I accept it, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
As far as the cars go, we got to see several new liveries. Helio Castroneves was in Verizon livery, but I think that is for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis. If that’s the case, I’m a little surprised they are not running the car they have designated for the “500”. I haven’t heard what paint scheme Helio will be running for the “500”, but if history is any indication it’ll probably have something to do with Shell/Pennzoil.
Bryan Clauson’s long-awaited Jonathan Byrd’s Cafeteria sponsored car took to the track yesterday. It is being run in association with KVSH. It’s a good-looking car and it’s good to see an old-school sponsor return to The Speedway.
Conor Daly unveiled his Smithfield sponsorship. His No.43 car is in unmistakable Petty blue. The only problem is that it is likely to be confused with Tony Kanaan’s NTT Data car.
We also got to see Simona de Silvestro in her new orange & white livery which could pass for a Tennessee Vols car.
Pippa Mann’s Susan G. Komen car looked pretty much identical to last year’s. Oriol Servia is in a solid yellow car that screams Marmon Wasp. I don’t think that’s a coincidence since it carries the No. 32 in a font identical to that of the famous Marmon. I’ll be curious to see if any other touches will be done throughout the month to hint more at the 1911 winner.
Justin Wilson was in a car with the generic Andretti Autosport scheme that Simona carried in the first two races. Michael Andretti has hinted that they are still working on sponsorship for that car, so I’ll be surprised if that car still looks the same in three weeks.
Fortunately, the day went incident-free. The new aero kits must be working. Opening day one year ago saw a top speed of around 223.0. Yesterday saw twenty cars go over that speed. Juan Montoya set the top speed for Sunday at 226.772 mph. My early prediction for Pole Day is going to be around the 232 range. Some of my cohorts think it will be higher – around 235. I would like that, but that would be an awfully big jump from yesterday’s times.
Montoya’s Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves, was second quickest at 226.468. Marco Andretti stuck a Honda into the Top-Five, just a tick slower than Helio at 226.268, followed by Scott Dixon and Simon Pagenaud. But Honda fared well for themselves. Takuma Sato was sixth quickest, followed by Simona de Silvestro. Ed Carpenter, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Sage Karam rounded out the Top-Ten.
The weather could not have been more perfect. It was sunny all afternoon and warm – I’m guessing it topped out at around 78-degrees, but I’m really not sure.
Some in the media center thought we were crazy to drive all that way to watch a test. Actually, I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon. The sun was shining, it was warm and pleasant, I was at my favorite place in the world and there were race cars running in front of me as Susan and I spent most of the afternoon taking it all in. What could be better than that?
Anyway, it’s back to the day job today. We will both work today through Thursday and then be back at IMS on Friday for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis. It’s a great buildup for the Month of May.