Indianapolis 500 Preview

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Well, the wait is almost over. After a full Month of May, we are now on the cusp of the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.

I’ll be honest with you – I’m tired. And I’m not half as tired as Susan. She travels throughout the week for work, so she has essentially been living out of suitcases since before Barber. Susan loves watching and going to races, but she doesn’t have the passion for just being at IMS like I do.

This has been an odd month. After the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, it just felt odd to wake up in Indianapolis that Sunday morning and have no place to go. We made the obligatory stop at Long’s Donuts, then went across town to Edward’s Drive-In for our never-ending quest for the perfect tenderloin (more on that at a later date) before heading home.

As usual, weather has played a big part in the month – and it may continue this weekend. As of this morning, it doesn’t look so great for Sunday. The worst part about that is that Monday could look worse. I can stick around for the race if it gets pushed to Monday. After that, I have to get home. Being the optimist that I am, I’m thinking that they get the race in on Sunday and the rains come soon after the race.

Then, of course, there are the crashes allegedly due to issues with the Chevy aero kits. It all started last Wednesday, when Helio Castroneves flipped after hitting the wall in Turn One. The next day, Josef Newgarden hit the same wall hard, but rolled over before skidding to a stop upside down. Sunday morning before qualifying was Ed Carpenter’s turn. He had a very hard hit before also getting upside down coming out of Turn Two. Three upside down Chevys in five days was starting to look like a trend. IndyCar officials delayed qualifying, reduced boost and mandated all teams qualify in race trim.

Then the most terrifying crash came on Monday, when a rocker arm broke on the car of James Hinchcliffe, sending the popular Canadian driver uncontrollably into the Turn Three wall, completely obliterating the entire right side of the car. A suspension piece pierced the tub and impaled Hinchcliffe’s legs, causing significant blood loss in a very short time. We cannot say enough how thankful we all are for the skill of the Holmatro Safety Team. Their efforts literally saved Hinch’s life.

Hinchcliffe will miss the “500”. Ryan Briscoe will start for him from the back row and should become a sentimental favorite for many to win the race for Hinchcliffe.

There is a lot of concern heading into this year’s “500”. Some is justified, while I believe a lot of angst is due to somewhat of a knee-jerk reaction. I’ll admit that at mid-week, I was very uneasy about Sunday’s race. Some I talked with were making comparisons to 1973, which was marred by rain, postponements, a horrific start and the fatalities of two drivers and one crewmember.

But as we get closer to the race, the more I read and hear – I’m feeling more confident that nothing out of the ordinary should happen in this race. I’m no fortune teller, so I’ll not go so far as to say nothing will happen because as we’ve seen before – anything can happen.

Actually, my feeling now is that IndyCar has taken steps that will make this race too ordinary – read: boring; just like qualifying was. That’s OK. That happens every now and then. The 2009 race was sort of a snoozer, but Helio Castroneves still came away as a three-time champion. 2008 was not a real barn-burner either.

But fans have gotten spoiled with exciting finishes since the 2011 race, and that is now expected. It doesn’t always happen, but fans have short memories sometimes and forget the days when only one or two cars finished on the lead lap.

Of course, I really have no idea what will happen. Neither does anyone else. To speculate is just a guess, but that’s what makes pre-race discussion so much fun. And maybe that’s what’s missing – fun.

Since Helio’s crash last Wednesday, the mood started to take a serious turn – culminating with Hinchcliffe’s crash on Monday. Things were justifiably somber on Monday, but fans seem to still be mourning a driver who is predicted to make a full recovery.

I am going to Indianapolis this weekend to have fun and enjoy myself. I have not been to a race there or anywhere else that I didn’t stop and think for a moment of what might possibly go wrong before the start. I always breathe a sigh of relief when we have gotten through a “500” with no serious incidents. But I don’t go into any race weekend with a dark cloud hanging over me because of what might happen. If that ever happened, I think I would just stay home. If I’m wrong and something bad happens, I’ll obviously adjust my mood.

Part of our having fun involves most of our time spent at the track. We will be at Carb Day this afternoon, but we usually miss the IndyCar practice. We’ll be there for the Freedom 100 and some of the TAG Heuer Pit Stop Competition; but we’ll escape before the rowdies get too drunk and the concerts get cranking. Friday night, we’ll head to the Burger Bash.

Saturday we’ll start the day with my brother and his group at Charlie Brown’s. Then we’ll head to the track for Legend’s Day and spend the entire day there. Then we’ll have an early dinner at Dawson’s before turning in early. Then of course, it’ll be Race Day on Sunday. As usual, please follow along here all weekend. You may also follow Susan and me on Twitter at @MrsOilpressure and @Oilpressureblog respectively.

Another part of the fun of the weekend is predicting a winner. I was one of the few that actually picked Tony Kanaan to win the race in 2013. Last year, I went with Will Power. This year, it is a driver that has been under the radar all month even though he has been quick. No one has talked about him and even some of the other drivers seem to be overlooking him. That’s a mistake. My pick to win the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 is again – Tony Kanaan.

George Phillips

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12 Responses to “Indianapolis 500 Preview”

  1. My prediction – Ryan Hunter Reay gets 2 in a row. Drivers play it safe so we have little attrition and accidents.

  2. I am one who has concerns about this race. A car should not go airborne just because it spins around. And if it does, that problem should be solved before they ever race. I hope it’s been solved but I feel like it hasn’t. I’m hoping for a great race that takes place entirely on the surface of the planet.

    Lots of winners would “move the needle”–Briscoe, Simona, Hildebrand, Pippa, Ed, maybe Helio, Marco, Clausen, certainly Rahal–but I think it comes down to Dixon, I just think it’s his year.

    So I predict after Power leads a hundred laps that Dixon will win.

  3. Not a Penske fan, but barring something that may take him out, I think this will be Will Power’s year.

  4. Ron Ford Says:

    I think Scott Dixon, Ed Carpenter, or Will Power are most likely to win barring accidents or weather issues, but my personal choice would be Marco. Carlos Munoz always seems to be near the front at the end, much like Vitor Meira was. A good darkhorse might be Hildebrand. Of course, a win by Simona or Justin would be very popular. Boy, I have really gone out on a limb here.

    Thanks for all your trackside reports George and Susan. And George, PLEASE leave your rain gear at home.

  5. billytheskink Says:

    I predict it will come down to a shootout between Dixon, 1-2 CFH cars, 1-2 Penskes, 1 Andretti car, and maybe Rahal if he’s not snakebit by a mechanical problem. I never predict correctly, so…

    Here’s to a safe and entertaining race.

  6. The best car can still win the Indy 500, right? This isn’t the Daytona 500. The Target 9 is the best car this month and this year. I will ride it through Labor Day.

  7. Kevin_K Says:

    I predict that Tony Kanaan will get his second 500 victory; and I will be yelling like a madman.

  8. Gurney Eagle Says:

    The closeness of the finish will depend on whether or not there is a yellow flag in the last 20 laps.

  9. What I’m really hoping for is a close race with lots of passing that is not won by a Penske or Ganassi car. I think the race is looking close based on Monday/Carb Day, but the Penske/Ganassi walk away looms large

  10. Matt B. (Dayton, Ohio) Says:

    I’m going with Montoya. He’s been overlooked just as Kanaan has.

  11. J.R. makes a pass coming out of Turn four on the last lap for the win.

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