Random Thoughts On The Indianapolis 500

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Today is always one of the most depressing days of the year. It’s even worse this year, because the calendar shifts next year. That means we have to wait an extra week for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 next May 29th. After four straight weekends up here and being so wrapped up into yesterday’s race all month – it’s all over. Even worse, we have to re-enter the real world with day jobs and such.

Still, it’s time to discuss all of yesterday’s happenings – especially now that I’ve had time to digest everything we witnessed.

First of all the more I think about it, the more impressed I am with how Juan Montoya won yesterday’s race. After he fell back to thirtieth when he had his rear-wing replaced, he overran his pit on the next stop and cost himself an additional five seconds. Yet, he methodically worked his way to the front in dramatic fashion.

Like others that have commented here; I’ve never been much of a Montoya fan. I didn’t care for his brash attitude in 1999, when he replaced Alex Zanardi at Target Chip Ganassi Racing. But even then, his talent was evident. That was apparent when he dominated the 2000 Indianapolis 500 against the mostly inferior drivers and teams of the IRL.

Not only can you not deny Montoya’s talent, there is also no denying his passion. He loves to race. Period. Many questioned Tim Cindric for signing an aging Montoya that was coming off many disappointing seasons in NASCAR. Montoya is the only driver in the series that has multiple wins this season, is the current points leader and has now notched his second Indianapolis 500 victory. Cindric is having the last laugh now.

I also think it was probably sweet revenge for Montoya to win against Ganassi, who had dropped him from his NASCAR team. Although they seem to still have a good relationship; you know Montoya enjoyed passing Ganassi’s Scott Dixon for the lead.

I’ll admit, I was pulling for Power in those closing laps. But you cannot deny that Montoya earned that win. There was nothing lucky about it. He overcame several obstacles and drove the wheels off of that car. My hat is off to him.

Crowd Control:  Although things are certain to change before next year’s race, with all of the Project 100 changes coming; I would be remiss if I didn’t mention something about the crowd flow before the race. With a 12:17 green flag, we left the Pagoda area at 11:10 to head to our seats in Stand A. We entered the tunnel beneath the track. Less than halfway through, the crowd stopped moving. We literally inched along through the rest of the tunnel with very little air. Unfortunately, not everyone applied deodorant yesterday morning. It was not fresh in there.

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When we finally inched our way out of the tunnel, it got no better. Under the stands we were basically at a standstill. We were shoulder to shoulder and front to back with many total strangers. Tempers were running short. We finally got to our seats at 11:55. For once, there was not a Yellow-Shirt to be found. We were all left to fend for ourselves in that madness.

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I’m not sure what I would suggest, but that’s not my area of expertise. There are many smart people with IMS to figure out how to move large amounts of people. I would think a claustrophobic person would have had major problems. That’s something they need to fix.

Straight, No Chaser:  It’s hard to follow a legend. That’s the task that was staring the men of Straight, No Chaser yesterday in following Jim Nabors to sing (Back Home Again in) Indiana before the race. Most of the people I talked to, really liked it. They performed it flawlessly in their own style. I didn’t hate it. Had I seen that performed in an auditorium, I would have given them a standing ovation. But in that setting, I was lukewarm about it. I didn’t hate it, but it didn’t raise goosebumps either. It just kind of laid there. If they return next year, I’m OK with it. If not, I’m OK with that too.

Penske/Ganassi:  I know there are many that absolutely hate the idea of a Penske or Ganassi car winning. It doesn’t bother me. They should win. They are the two best teams out there. If other teams have a problem with those two teams winning everything, it’s up to those teams to raise their own expectations and perform better. If it’s a question of money, thy need to align themselves with better sponsors.

All in all:  I think that history will treat this race as a classic. Going from thirtieth to victory is the kind of things legends are made of. There were enough yellows to make it interesting, but nothing too serious. I call it a classic and my driver at the end came in second. I can’t wait to get home today and watch the DVR.

Please Note:  Counting NOLA, Barber and four weekends at Indianapolis, Susan and I have been on the road for six of the past seven weekends. As you can imagine, we’re tired. Therefore, I am taking the rest of this week off away from here. I’ll return next Monday with a wrapup of the double-header at Belle Isle.

Thanks to everyone for following along with our racing adventures this spring. Things will ge back to normal when I start back next Monday June 1st.

George Phillips

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27 Responses to “Random Thoughts On The Indianapolis 500”

  1. Ron Ford Says:

    Sheesh! Back to real life now for 53 weeks. I feel as deflated as a Tom Brady football, though not nearly as deflated as Conor Daly and Sage Karam must feel. If Simon Pagenaud had been able to stay in the mix the last ten laps may have been even more exciting.

    I don’t know to what degree the cars are taken apart and reassembled after fast Friday, but when a car is unable to get in gear at the start of the race or has a fuel leak on the pace lap, I think of that old saying: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

    CFH Racing has taken a deep financial hit this month. Hopefully they can find a deep pocket to tap so they don’t have to collectively cash in their 401(K)s.

    Last night my local TV station featured a sports reporter covering for the regular guy and it showed. Here are some of his driver name pronunciations (I could not make this up): Soggy Kayrum, Juan Pablo Man-toya, Oreo Survaya. Pathetic.

    All in all, a damn fine race. I have promised myself not to spoil the memory of it by descending into the Robin Miller Mailbag comment section.

    All in all a damn fine race. That’s all I got.

  2. Now that Georgetown Road is essentially a dead end, I’m hopeful that the town of Speedway and IMS will move the fences out another 50 ft behind the grandstand. It would greatly improve spectator flow and allow some room for much needed concession upgrades.
    Hats off to IMS. The plans for the new Paddock Penthose look awesome. And after last year’s shooting in the Coke Lot they have finally gotten serious about taming down the insanity that takes place outside the gates.

  3. I think Doug Boles is the right man in the right job.

  4. billytheskink Says:

    No comment on the command to start engines?

    Thank you for a fantastic month(s) of coverage, George. You all get some rest.

    • Ron Ford Says:

      Yes, I thought that was bit bizarre. This is what I would say to Mary Hulman George’s daughter who I think meant well: Your Mom got through “Ladies and Gentlemen” ok and I think she would have eventually got through “Start Your Engines” ok also.

      • Patrick Says:

        Why was she standing next to Mari in the first place? Must have anticipated a problem and was ready to jump in with the save. Obviously there is something going on with Mari and it might be time for her to step aside. I don’t mean to be insensitive but I hate to see someone lose their dignity in such a public manner when it could be avoided.

        • Ron Ford Says:

          I agree Patrick. I think anyone who saw that might suspect that Mari may be experiencing some health problems. Hopefully she is fine. At the age of 75 I am not that quick anymore either.

        • The same thing happened at the Indy GP. Her daughter was standing right next to her.

          • Jack In Virginia Says:

            Mari kind of reminded me of the last couple of years they propped Dick Clark up for the Ball Drop on New Year’s Eve. Maybe time to pass it off to someone else (younger).

          • Ron Ford Says:

            At the 1992 race, the command was given by Mary Fendrich Hulman. I don’t know her age at the time but she was up in years. There was a man standing right next to her. When it came time for the most famous words in motor sports he whispered in her ear. Mrs. Hulman then said the words with authority and the man with her gave a fist pump and broke out in a big smile. Classic. The start of the 1992 race is on YouTube.

    • In all honesty, this post was much shorter than planned. I wrote it last night in the hotel room and I was dozing off while writing. There was a lot more I wanted to discuss. Maybe I’ll throw something else up here mid-week. No promises. – GP

  5. There were some strange spots on TV, the echo (which is cool but seemed really bad yesterday) during the intro stuff. The start made the race seem a bit scary but you know what, I don’t mind that. Racing has become such a parade in all series, to throw in attrition and the fact that the parts on the cars might fail is another piece of it. There was fear, there was strategy and excitement, you don’t get that as much these days, where the event is a story unfolding not just a parade of cars. I enjoyed it!

  6. 2014 was a better race. I really don’t enjoy just the Penske and Ganassi cars running up front. Yes, Penske and Ganassi are going to win a lot of races and probably the title, but there’s a difference between winning a lot of races and basically being unbeatable. Yes Hinch and Newgarden have won, but Hinch’s was random luck. Only Newgarden has shown the speed to contend against Penkse and Ganassi. Maybe they “deserve” to win and maybe they don’t. Either way I find it boring, and I do not find the Penske and Ganassi drivers nearly as compelling as the drivers on other teams. Worse, to me, is that we had decent parity from 2012 -2014. What changed? The aero kits. It’s not like Penske and Ganassi magically got better than Sam Schmitt, CFH, KV, AA. The aero kits are why they are doing better. The fact that those two teams (along with AA) were allowed to develop the kits over the off season has given them a huge, unnatural, advantage over the rest of the field. Combine that with the weakness of Honda and you’ve got 2009 all over again. I didn’t enjoy Penske and Ganassi dominance in 2009 and the best part of the DW-12 has been how it has brought the field closer together. Aero kits have killed that, and not really brought a whole lot of good to the series. I guess they are a second a lap faster at most road and street courses, but from the fan injuries to the flips to the yellows at St Pete there’s not a whole lot to be excited about.

    Apparently this race had the 2nd most lead changes in history (behind only 2013). That really surprises me as it felt like there was a lot less passing. Or maybe it was the fact that other than Montoya and Kimball no one was able to come from the back to the front. But even when they were lapping cars, it seemed that there was a lot more difficulty in passing. Some people think this is good, but I feel like we have enough difficulty in passing at tracks like Long Beach that those of us who want a lot of passing should be given this race at least. The first half was incredibly spread out, but as the cautions came the race got a lot closer.

    Somewhat related to my lack of enjoyment of the 500, was their a curse on likeable drivers and/or American drivers? Newgarden/Daly/Carpenter/Clauson/Pippa/Silvestro/Helio/TK/Hinch/Karam all had major issues either in the lead up to the race, or during the race. Daly didn’t even make the start!?!?!?! I noticed the backup cars were not competitive, and that included Helio’s Penske. Maybe it would have been a more exciting race had CFH not had their two primary drivers in backup cars.

    Maybe it was a great race, but I just couldn’t get that excited over a race that was just Penske Vs. Ganassi.

    • Ron Ford Says:

      I agree that 2014 was a bit better but this race was certainly far from boring. In addition to all the lead changes there was lots of passing throughout the field and much of that did not make the TV shots. It was not that long ago that many fans were complaining that all the cars looked alike, thus the aero-kits. Now many fans are complaining about the Hondas being slower. Many of the drivers, however, think the Honda engines are a larger problem than the aero-kits.

  7. First George, thank you for the work you do with this blog.
    I watched on television with great interest, watching specifically for several things.
    Would ABC torture us with Florence Henderson singing? Nope/ Good.
    Would ABC produced pre-race pieces be useful to help the once-a-year or first time viewers? Yes.
    How would Straight, No Chaser do? When they were done I was surprised that I threw my fist in the air and said aloud “Yesss!”
    When Mari Hulman George was introduced I immediately felt a sense of dread. That feeling was appropriate.
    Eddie Cheever still looked very stiff and solemn when first on camera and Scott Goodyear was still Scott Goodyear, but I felt they got into the race and I heard excitement and passion from both of them. They both seemed like they were happy to be participating in the broadcast and almost want to be out racing again.
    I was never upset with directors switching from an accident starting to something else. The low camera angle as the field swept into Turn 2 on lap one showed 3-4 cars wide and I knew that was going to be trouble and so did the ABC director. ABC covered it well, live and in replay.
    Like many, I was interested in Pippa Mann’s race and that was largely a mystery during the coverage. I was also following live T&S and she very quickly fell behind three laps, and I didn’t know why until doing a lot of digging through race reports last night.
    (She locked her brakes to keep from t-boning Brisco, and ruined her first set of tires. Two other times during the race she was hard on the binders to miss accidents in front of her.) The replay of the Coyne team pit fiasco did show her involvement but ABC never did explain why her car stayed in the race while the other two did not.)
    I still do not know why the 18 and 19 cars did not continue.
    A story that ABC really missed was the race of Sato. We saw the in-car camera view of the broken left front suspension and were told that he was back in the race. It wasn’t until I was drifting off to sleep last night that I realized Sato had managed to get a Honda from three laps down to finishing in front of several cars on the lead lap!
    He made a very,very bad move on the first lap, but the rest of his race must have been really something to follow!
    Brisco and Rahall also had very good races but received very little air time.
    Overall, the race played out nicely with some unexpected drama, some boneheaded moves by pit crew members and drivers, all ff which demonstrate the human element of dealing with high pressure situations, some great driving, a relatively safe race, and one that was heavily contested through out the field.
    The two weeks preceding the race left a lot to be desired, but on race day, IndyCar and the people who make it what it is, delivered in big way.

  8. Bent Wickerbill Says:

    Not to at all take away from Juan Pablos fine come from behind win yesterday (and I have never been a big fan either)… There is a persistent element of unprofessionalism (bush league behavior and shoddy car prep if you will).in IC in general which showed it’s face once again at the start of yesterday’s race.
    One other persistent problem with this spec. series is the performance disparity between Honda and Chevy. If there is any hope of obtaining and retaining viewers, it certainly is not going to help by having one half of the field beating they other half at nearly every race. And George while I certainly do agree that all teams must raise their game to compete with Ganassi and Penske, I don’t think it is good for the series for one manufacturer out of only two to dominate the series. And I would be saying this if Chevy was this far behind Honda as well…

    • Ron Ford Says:

      Like many I am disappointed that Honda is not doing better this year. However, whether there are two engine suppliers or five, the goal for each is to be the fastest and most reliable. Sooner or later the cream rises to the top and gives the others something to strive for. Such adjustments do not take place over night.

      • Bent Wickerbill Says:

        There have been efforts made in the very recent past to correct inequities I am not certain why this issue could not have already been corrected as well…

  9. jhall14 Says:

    Another great race at IMS. Feel bad for Mari Hulman George, obviously a medical issue with age creeping in.

    Pre-race was tremendous as always. Instead of watching 33 heroes,got to see many more in pre-race.Military salute was awesome,lest we remember our real heroes,but I still miss Jim Phillippe after all these years.

    Felt gutted for Conor Daly and then Sage Karam, after Sato’s kamikazee stunt in one.

    Really happy for Charlie Kimball, he just keeps getting better. Not a Penske fan but there is a reason he has 16 wins. Hats off.

    ABC really misses the pack racing back in the field.Turn 3 racing was great as usual and it never ceases to amaze me how all those cars funnel down and get in and out of the turn.Seen more cars in the grass this year more than ever down the backstretch.

    Tremendous job by Graham and Marco with Honda powerplants.Seen a lot of great moves,particularly Newgarden and Rahal during last restart,Newgarden must have passed 3 -4 cars in Turn 3.

    Great day weather wise, a nice breeze all day.I look forward to attending the 100th next year and my 57th straight.

  10. Patrick Says:

    Did anyone listen to the radio broadcast? I thought it was pathetic. Every time there was a crash they immediately went to commercial and didn’t bother to describe the accident or if the drivers were ok. Five or ten minutes later they finally would give a detailed account of how the crash happened and the status of the drivers. They must have been waiting to watch replays but they had announcers in every turn that should have provided more prompt information. I don’t necessarily blame Paul Page for it but I bet Sid Collins was spinning in his grave.

    • I did not since I was there but I have been pretty disappointed with Paul Page since he came back. I don’t understand why he cannot get name pronunciations right. He has done it his whole career. One would think with his experience, it would show on the radio. He sounds like a rookie. Thats his job. Use some flash cards Paul and learn how to pronounce the names you will be repeating over and over again during the coverage. For example- listen to all his different versions of “Pagenaud”, it seems like he has at least 5. I swear he pronounces it differently every time.

    • Gurney Eagle Says:

      In an interview before the race Page said that going to commercial as soon an an accident happens is intentional. He said that since they are going to commercial anyway they do it up front and use the break to gather the pertinent information rather than waste air time speculating on things.

  11. I was happy with the race. Plenty of passing at the front and throughout the field. I’d have preferred many of the drivers over Juan but you gotta give it to the guy. When he’s “on”, he’s tough to beat.

    The camera direction could be better but it’s the same thing in NASCAR. After a while you just have to accept and roll with it.

    I was happy to see that cars weren’t going up into the air and no drivers got hurt that I’m aware of. A couple of the pit crew members did get hit. One with a broken ankle I believe.

    A relatively safe race run.

  12. My Lake Norman native wife got me into NASCAR. I chose to make Montoya my guy since I knew who he was. His move back to IndyCar has made sor some fighting in my heart between him and Dixon–my IndyCar guy. I was just relieved they didn’t wreck each other.

    “Everyone goes to Detroit after Indy.” Ok, that isn’t right. But I’m headed there. Anyone else?

  13. Doug Gardner Says:

    I did not read through everyone”s comments, but the crowd issue was due to a medical emergency at gate 6. Irrespective of that, there is no other way to get from infield to front straight after they close the walkover gate. IMS is lucky there were not medical or other issues in the tunnel.

  14. Randy Holbrook Says:

    I thought it was an awesome race and thoroughly enjoyed it, I was pulling for Power at the end and thought he would get him but I think a couple of cars came out of the pits causing Will to have to alter his line down the back straight and not be able to get a run on him. At least that’s what it looked like to me in the stands in turn 3. If Kanaan had still been around it might have been a truly epic finish. I was disappointed with “Straight No Chaser” – there rendition just didn’t do anything for me. I’d rather hear someone sing the song in the traditional way at least. On the other hand I thought the National Anthem was great. I think Honda was screwed over in qualifying. And I have to give a huge FAIL to Verizon and their Indycar 15 App. I made the mistake of leaving my radio at home thinking I would just listen to the audio on the App. I finally gave up about 1/3 of the way through the race. It would come up for a few minutes and then show me that eternal spinning “Buffering” thing. Change is bad. Next year I will have my 30 year old AM radio with me.

    • Matt B. (Dayton, Ohio) Says:

      Randy, I too sit in turn 3 and I thought the same thing about Power maybe getting slowed down by car(s) coming out of the pit. (they blend coming out of 2). Now that I’ve watched my recording of the race, it simply looks like Justin Wilson did come out in front of Power but Power purposely ducked behind Wilson to get his draft then when he (quickly) closed up he simply pulled out to the right to pass him.

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