Random Thoughts On The GP Of Indianapolis

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The different reactions to races that you see on social media, is an interesting phenomenon. After the Phoenix race, I saw where people thought it was terribly boring. After attending the frigid Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, a check of social media on Saturday night showed some people calling Saturday’s race “epic”. Neither race was as bad or as good, as those on social media thought.

For the record, I thought Saturday’s race was OK. It wasn’t great, but it was better than last year’s snoozer that saw Will Power lead sixty-five of eighty-two laps. The best part was that even with the cold temperatures, there was very litte carnage. I was there in 1992 when the cold Goodyear tires would not adhere. It was colder on Saturday than that day twenty-four years ago, but the Firestone tires did their job.

The only car with slightly significant damage was Tony Kanaan’s, from the Chip Ganassi stable. You would hate to see one of the lower budget teams have a setback with equipment before practice begins today for the Indianapolis 500. You hate it for Kanaan, but at least Chip Ganassi won’t be hurting to make the minor repairs to the car.

I pretty well covered the details of the race in Saturday’s wrap-up post along with bemoaning the fact that the championship is becoming a one-man show. Not that I wish any ill will to come Simon Pagenaud’s way, but it sure would spice things up a bit if he would just let someone else win one of these things. Not only is he blowing the field away, he’s embarrassing his Team Penske teammates. Juan Montoya has gone quiet since winning the opening race and Will Power has become an afterthought.

Helio Castroneves is the one sliding in under the radar. His worse race of the season was an eleventh place finish at Phoenix, after blowing a tire while leading the race. He has quietly put together other finishes of fourth, third and seventh, before finishing second in Saturday’s race. He now finds himself in fourth place overall and just one point behind Montoya. For not having won a race yet this season, he is quietly sneaking up on every top driver not named Simon Pagenaud.

But if Pagenaud can win his fourth race in a row by winning the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500, he deserves to run away with this championship. Is he that good or is everyone else sort of mired in a funk? The next two weeks can give us a lot of answers.

TV Coverage: As of this writing, I have not yet watched the ABC race coverage. I’ll be curious to see what they did with it. The stint where Conor Daly led a stretch of laps was the most intriguing, in my opinion. I’m wondering if they hyped it as Daly leading in his hometown, or if they figured that it was just a matter of time before things settled out and Pagenaud resumed the lead. It was good to see Jon Beekhuis in the pits on Saturday. His technical insights bring a lot to the broadcast. That explains why he is doing double-duty with ABC and NBCSN. I just wish he was on every broadcast instead of selected races.

Oval Conversion: I get all of the revenue producing signage around IMS. It brings in dollars that ultimately helps sustain the Verizon IndyCar Series. I really have no problem with it at the three-year old Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis The race at Barber has more tradition than the GP at IMS.

But I have to admit that I’m not wild about the green walls down the straightaway or the Verizon logo plastered all over the walls of the short-chute in the south end. We went by the track on our way out of town yesterday around 1:30. I was glad to see that the walls were once again pristine white in preparation for “500” practice starting today. I saw a notice on Twitter just after we got home that the oval conversion is complete. That’s good to know.

Odd Feeling: One thing that feels strange about this race, even on the warmest of days, is how empty the place looks. What is considered prime seating along the main straightaway for the Indianapolis 500, is undesirable for the Grand Prix. Therefore the place feels totally empty when the cars are on the grid ready to be fired, even though it’s not.

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If you look far to the north in Stand J, you see the stand is nearly full, if not completely. That’s because that is the best vantage point for the Road Course Turn One. The thing is, they are so far down you can’t even hear them – even when the cars are not running. It’s hard to feel much buzz on the grid when there are no fans in the stands in front of you.

All in All: Had I driven four hours to go to this race and it was held in another venue, I’d be feeling a little disappointed on this Monday morning. As I said earlier, it was an OK race, but not a great race. The cold and cloudy weather made it worse.

But this race was held in May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That made the whole trip worthwhile. If you like going to IMS but feel overwhelmed by the race day crowds for the “500”, you might want to give this race a try. The atmosphere is a lot more laid back and relaxed. We were able to move about the whole facility with ease the entire weekend. The only problem was, we froze to death. The northerly winds cut right through you as they made the 46-degree temperature feel about ten degrees colder.

Before I close, here are a few random photos from Victory Lane after the race.

Kimball
Cindric
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Pagenaud trophy
champagne

The third annual Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis is now history. It’s done. It was a nice little distraction and gave us a taste of racing at the historic facility. But now it’s time to turn the page and today, things get serious. The first practice for the 2016 Indianapolis 500, starts today at noon local time. By late this afternoon, the Grand Prix will have already been forgotten about. The Month of May will have started for real.

George Phillips

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12 Responses to “Random Thoughts On The GP Of Indianapolis”

  1. BT Sport are showing this live in the UK with no ad breaks [unless the track is down] with a UK commentator filling in the blanks. Certainly lets the race coverage flow better.

  2. Ron Ford Says:

    I enjoyed the race, but then I enjoy all races because they are well…………….races. I just enjoy some more than others.

    Having said that, one of the first scenes to appear on screen were the under-a-Cheevers. Talk about taking the air out of a room! No smiles, conservative suits, conservative ties, looking and talking ever so much like they were at a funeral or a Republican debate instead of an event where loud, bright shiny cars were about to go careening about a race course. No excitement. Beige. Corn Flakes. Put Paul Tracy in a Hawaiian shirt with a checkered flag tie up there.

    That day-glo Menards car really cuts through the gloom. I was surprised and pleased to see Conor Daly out front paddling furiously and going through ptp like doughnuts in the small change car.

    It will be interesting to see if Marco Andretti can find some speed on the big oval. Over the last decade few drivers have had a better more consistant record at the 500 than Marco.

  3. Colder than the 1992 race? That had to be tough. I will never forget 1992. We were up in Indy early Saturday and it was a beautiful sunny warm day. I think we were parked at the Coke Plant that year. It was great until about 8:00 that night when heavy clouds rolled in and the temperature dropped more than 30 degrees in an hour. None of us were property dressed for such a change in temperature and immediately went shopping for street vendors selling sweat shirts.

    Here’s hoping for much warmer weather the next two weekends!

    • Ron Ford Says:

      I remember it well also Bob. There was so much rain water running down the Broad Ripple street by my uncle’s house that I could have floated my canoe. Fans from warmer climes were woefully under dressed.

  4. billytheskink Says:

    ABC had the same issues it usually does, which I don’t usually complain about because I’ve built up a tolerance for them. I will, however, direct one very large complaint at them for this broadcast.

    How drivers rise gain or lose time during green flag pit stops is a critical element of racing, especially road course racing. One of the real positives of the IMS road course, with its long straight and high turn 1 camera view, is that it is very easy to follow cars both in the pits and on track. It can be done in a single camera shot!

    Despite this, ABC largely refused to show cars exiting the pits in critical situations. They did catch Kimball’s brief stint in the lead upon pit exit, but that was about it. I recall seeing Hinchliffe (I think it was) leave his pit stall and wanting to see where he would rejoin the running order… only for ABC to cut away to 18th place Will Power’s pit stall. That was not the only time it happened.

    It is unfortunate that Rahal had to start from the back, he may well have had the pace to stay with Simon. Rahal picked up a lot of positions running in clean air while others pitted, Pagenaud did the same before his last stop and took the lead easily coming out of the pits. Pagenaud-Rahal round 2 is coming sometime this year, and it’s gonna be great.

    • Per usual, you and I are on the exact same page, ‘Skinky. I was just about to leave a nearly identical comment. I’ve been saying it for a long time now (seriously, I did a two-part post about ABC screwing up the pit exit stuff on my old blog…after the 2009 Watkins Glen race), but it holds true. ABC has apparently decided that this is how to cover pit stops: watch car enter pit lane, talk about the car/driver and their day while it trundles down at pit lane speed, watch pit stop at super close up range from the pit wall, watch car peel out and then drive 3-4 stalls down pit lane, then cut to a car (usually running by itself) on the other side of the track. Never watch a car merge back into traffic. Wash, rinse, repeat until round of stops is over. They did it time and again on Saturday, same as they have done for years. This doesn’t cost any money to fix, just a rethinking of how to do things, from a director’s stand point. After one round of stops, the booth crew wondered out loud how one driver (I can’t remember who) had jumped up as far as they had. Say, fellas, if you don’t know how they did it, then how are we supposed to know? And perhaps you should look into figuring out exactly how it happened, either through a fast stop, or a couple lightning quick in or out laps?

      Similarly, while the NBCSN guys seem to have a good grasp on how to watch Timing & Scoring to see how gaps are building or decaying between cars and anticipating battles that are about to happen (or just cluing the viewers in on something that’s happening off screen), the ABC guys don’t appear to be able to monitor T&S while watching the race. I was watching the race on the DVR, so didn’t have the option of watching T&S, but several times during the race, I could see gaps between cars were shrinking just by watching the scrolling “hat” at the top of the screen. Maybe once by the end of the race did ABC eventually focus in on one such battle, and that was only after the gap had closed from 4-5 seconds down to about 1 second. They could have hyped up an approaching battle for 5-6 laps leading up to that, but don’t appear to be able to do such a thing.

      I thought Saturday’s race was about a B-, which was then brought down to about a C-/D+ by an ABC crew (on-screen and off-screen) that hasn’t evolved the way they’ve covered a race in 20+ years. Hey, guys? Watch one of the F1 races on NBCSN, or even just an IndyCar race on NBCSN. It can be done better than this.

  5. I was pretty bored with this race. The complete Penske/Ganassi lockdown in 2016 is really getting old. I kinda miss the larger amount of cautions we used to see, because the 1 or 2 caution races are over a little too quickly and are a huge benefit to the pole sitter.

    Speaking of which, I’m still a little annoyed about the penalties for Rahal and Newgarden. I was so excited for the race post qualifying until they were penalized. To me starting at the tail of the field on an Indycar road/street course is a somewhat excessive penalty. Having to start at the rear for a weight violation at a NASCAR oval race is one thing. A driver can win from the rear, since the race is 4 hours long, has 20 cautions, and the lucky dog. On an Indycar road and street course, baring incredible luck (Dixon at Mid Ohio) it’s never going to happen. Rahal did a good job, but realistically he had no shot at winning. As for Newgarden, he’s a good driver but ECR’s regression this year is depressing.

    Hopefully the Indy 500 is more 2014 than 2015, but I’m not optimistic.

    • The only driver that Graham didn’t appear to have anything for on Saturday was Pagenaud. If one misfortune befalls Simon somewhere along the way (any misfortune of any sort, really), then Graham would have been within 2-3 seconds of the top-2 (he only finished 2.6 seconds behind Helio). That’s not a hopeless margin, that’s just getting beaten by one super hot driver (like, historically hot) and a virtual dead heat with two more that started way up the grid.

  6. Yannick Says:

    Thanks again for the coverage, George and Susan.

  7. tonelok Says:

    I’m convinced that the Angie’s list GP of Indy will not be able to succeed in May if it continues to take place 2 to 3 weeks before the Indy 500. If people can’t divorce themselves from comparing the Indy 500 to Angie’s list GP then how can it? It needs to take place during another month possibly in the fall for it to draw bigger crowd. Missing this year are the comments: cars shouldn’t be running backwards down the front straight, and, we shouldn’t be entering pit lane from the wrong end but it seems to me, this race will always be overshadowed by the Indy 500 in the minds of some if it is scheduled during the same month as the Indy 500.

    I don’t mind the green walls. This is not the Indy 500 and it was never intended to be so. I was at the race and had a great time. Its almost preferable than the Indy 500 because there’s so many less people Managements intention to save money by having an additional event While teams were already assembled in Indianapolis.

    • I used to reject the idea of the Indy GP in the Fall, but wonder if it shouldn’t be the final race of the year.

      As for Pagenaud, I have been waiting since he switched to Penske for him to show results and this year he is solid with the team. Was hoping Rahal and Hinch would have had a better chance on Saturday, and I am thrilled for Conor Daly.

      Thanks George for your coverage of the event!

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