The week has finally arrived for one of the biggest races in the world. All eyes will be on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this Sunday for the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, also known as the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing”. For the past weeks we have kept our eyes on the entry list, watched practice speeds, seen spectacular wrecks, saw the top nine go back out and qualify, and witnessed some the best unscripted drama on television with Bump Day. The field is set, and later this weekend we will get the green flag we anticipate so much.
This year’s edition of the Indy 500 will be the 100th anniversary of the race. Over the last couple of years we have seen changes to the month of May at Indy, but the hype and anticipation are still enormous for what will be the largest attended sporting event of the year in the United States, if not the world. I have attended the last four Indy 500s and huge crowds have been on hand. The grandstands have not been sold out over the last four years, but the crowds have steadily grown year over year. If the grandstands are not sold out for Sunday’s race, I would wager that they will be darn close. The infield general admission bring your own chair and blanket seating areas will jammed with spectators as well.
The drama last weekend started on Saturday with Pole Day. Who would have known that Alex Tagliani would grab the pole over the big teams like Penske and Ganassi? Tagliani drives a car prepared by Sam Schmidt. If you do not know the story of Schmidt, he was injured in a racing accident a number of years ago and was paralyzed. Schmidt is confined to a wheel chair now, but every time they showed him on television this weekend, the smile on his face was wider than the Grand Canyon. This is a great story for the IZOD IndyCar Series to have Tagliani on the pole. I am going to look for Tagliani to be fast and be a player throughout the 500 mile race.
Although the pole position gave us high drama on Saturday, a second story line emerged on Saturday that was surprising. Michael Andretti encountered major difficulty with getting his cars into the field. Danica Patrick, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Marco Andretti were not in the field after the first day of qualifying. There is no other way to describe what happened except that they did not have speed.
Bump Day brought even higher drama than what we saw on Pole Day. At noon when the track opened for qualifications, two cars got their runs completed and found their way into the field. Immediately after the second run completed, a monsoon hit the race track. Standing water could be seen on pit road and in other spots on the track. The rain subsided, and qualifications got back under way after a two hour plus delay. Paul Tracey had just completed a strong run to get his car in the field, and Danica was ready to roll onto the track when the next round of rain fell on the track. The concern at this point was that time appeared to be close to the end of qualifying when the track would be dried. The field had been filled and Danica had her guaranteed qualifying run the day before. Fortunately, heavy rain did not fall on the track and the drying process was completed quickly. If the track could not have been dried to allow more qualification attempts, Danica would have been left out of the Indy 500. Danica had a great qualification run and got the car in the show.
Time quickly ran down on drivers, and Alex Lloyd took his car on the track with just a few minutes left in qualifications. Lloyd put together a huge four lap average and bumped Marco Andretti out of the field. With under a minute until the gun to end qualifications for this year’s race, Marco once again brushed off the stress and pressure of making the final qualifying run at Indy for the year by bumping out his teammate Hunter-Reay. The field was set in dramatic fashion that kept me mesmerized to what makes Indy in the month of May spectacular.
Now that the field is set, we get another story come down the front stretch today. Bruno Junqueira has been relieved of his ride in the Indy 500 to allow Hunter-Reay a seat in the race. Hunter-Reay gets the seat in the A.J. Foyt machine because he brings major sponsorship with him.
I have to say that I am neutral on this change. Twenty years ago something like this would have never happened. Today with the economy the way it is, and difficulty finding major sponsorship, you have to keep the sponsors happy and in place. Junqueira gets screwed by this deal, and there is no arguing against that. Hunter-Reay will likely be booed when he is introduced on Sunday, but that is probably deserved as well (Not personally towards him, but the situation in general). When you pay close attention to the fans at Indy, you know they appreciate the drivers and teams that give it their all. This is true whether they make the race or not. This is why I believe the boo birds will be very vocal when Hunter-Reay is introduced.
Now, it is on to my opinion for what we are going to see in the race this weekend. This year’s edition of the Indy 500 has all the ingredients coming together to be one of the greatest races in recent memory. The field may be one of the most competitive in recent memory, and the big teams have not shown the dominate muscle this year. I predict there will be at least two spectacular crashes that make us hold our breath. The finish may come down to a nose to tail finish, if not a side by side finish. All I can say at this point, I cannot wait to head to the world center of racing later this week to once again witness in person, “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing”.
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Have a great week everyone, a lot going on in the world of racing this week. Tuesday night will feature my outlook on the Coke 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Indy 500 Starting grid
1. (77) Alex Tagliani, Dallara-Honda, 02:38.2613 (227.472)
2. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 02:38.3528 (227.340)
3. (2) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Honda, 02:38.4727 (227.168)
4. (99) Townsend Bell, Dallara-Honda, 02:38.6696 (226.887)
5. (12) Will Power, Dallara-Honda, 02:38.7493 (226.773)
6. (98) Dan Wheldon, Dallara-Honda, 02:38.9477 (226.171)
7. (44) Buddy Rice, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.4431 (225.786)
8. (67) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.9137 (225.121)
9. (10) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.0253 (226.379)
10. (5) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.4785 (225.736)
11. (14) Vitor Meira, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.5814 (225.590)
12. (4) JR Hildebrand, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.5895 (225.579)
13. (06) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.5942 (225.572)
14. (30) Bertrand Baguette, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.7973 (225.285)
15. (11) Davey Hamilton, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.8223 (225.250)
16. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.8464 (225.216)
17. (43) John Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.0133 (224.981)
18. (59) EJ Viso, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.1907 (224.732)
19. (41) Bruno Junqueira, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.2203 (224.691) Replaced with Ryan Hunter-Reay and moved to the back of the grid
20. (22) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.3488 (224.511)
21. (88) Jay Howard, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.3685 (224.483)
22. (07) Tomas Scheckter, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.4040 (224.433)
23. (82) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.4156 (224.417)
24. (78T) Simona de Silvestro, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.4335 (224.392)
25. (23) Paul Tracy, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.0433 (224.939)
26. (7) Danica Patrick, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.0987 (224.861)
27. (6T) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.2572 (224.639)
28. (26) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.2648 (224.628)
29. (83) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.3574 (224.499)
30. (38) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.4424 (224.380)
31. (19) Alex Lloyd, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.7451 (223.957)
32. (36) Pippa Mann, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.7600 (223.936)
33. (24) Ana Beatriz, Dallara-Honda, 02:40.8012 (223.879)