Random Thoughts On "500" Qualifying
Suffice it to say, this was a strange weekend. From mid-week, the oddities began. Susan found out her work would take her to Indianapolis early, so that opened the door for me to get up there on Thursday night. For once, I arrived at the track before the gates opened on Fast Friday. Rain had been forecast for Friday, but it was hot and sunny.
Although it was a good day at the track, it seemed odd being there while Susan worked (but it did not keep me from going). Unfortunately, it was practically the last time we saw the sun all weekend.
It rained heavily overnight and was still sprinkling in the morning. They got the track dried for practice and qualifying, but the rains returned with force after we had two qualifiers. By 2:30, the day was considered a wash – literally. The two times of Ryan Hunter-Reay and Carlos Huertas were wiped out and everyone was told that we would try it again Sunday. It was strange to be leaving The Speedway in the middle of the day.
Then Sunday is when the real strange stuff started. Ed Carpenter crashed hard in Turn Two and became the third car since Wednesday to get airborne and upside down. That was when IndyCar officials decided they had seen enough. After meetings, rumors and more meetings, it was decided that the boost would be dropped to race-levels and that teams would qualify in race trim. Each car would be given one shot to qualify, beginning at 3:15. So much for my plans to be on the road home by 5:00.
With the single-run qualifying and then the subsequent bump session that did nothing except for delaying everyone, the gun went off at 7:00. I think I remember Donald Davidson describing a special situation years ago, when cars were still qualifying at almost 8:00 – but it’s certainly the latest session that I can ever remember attending.
Since Susan had her car, she left as soon as the primary session was over. I didn’t leave the track until 8:15 and had a four-hour drive staring me in the face. I’m wondering how productive I’ll be at work today.
TV Coverage: Obviously, I have not seen the TV coverage. But I heard from a few that Sunday’s coverage was good. But I also heard that they seemed to forget about the bumping session after the primary session. I can’t speak to that, but they weren’t the only ones. Everyone there (including me) seemed very fuzzy on the latest new qualifying rule that has been thrown at us.
Early Favorite: Scott Dixon won his second Indianapolis 500 pole in his career. His only other pole came in 2008, which is also the year of his only Indianapolis 500 win. The two Ganassi cars of Dixon and Tony Kanaan have been quietly consistent all month. You have to count them both as early favorites to win the race this Sunday.
Honda Woes: Since before the season started, when we first saw the road course aero kits- we heard that Honda was targeting winning the Indianapolis 500. But throughout practice, the Chevys were consistently faster than the Hondas. But when the third Chevy went airborne yesterday morning, both Chevy and Honda were given additional restrictions at the last minute for qualifying. Honda teams cried foul as they wondered why they were being penalized for Chevy’s design flaws.
As it turned out, the starting grid for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 showed only three Hondas in the Top-Ten spots; with the fastest being the Honda of Justin Wilson, who will start on the outside of the second row. Almost all of positions 11-30 are made up of Honda powered cars. Ironically, the two slowest cars battling it out for the last starting spot were Chevys driven by Bryan Clauson and Buddy Lazier.
All in All: It was a strange weekend, but fortunately the qualifying session was uneventful. Nothing against Buddy Lazier, but it was fitting that the car that had been slowest since it hit the track, was the one left out of the field. Other than Juan Montoya qualifying fifteenth and Townsend Bell qualifying twenty-fourth, there were no real surprises. Personally, I was glad to see Pippa Mann qualify solidly in the field on the inside of Row Ten, after limited time in a repaired car. It would have been a shame if her Susan G. Komen campaign did not last through race weekend.
Now we have a week to debate and predict what will happen next weekend. At this point, your guess is as good as mine.