Just like that it is all over. The cleaning crews are clearing the soda and beer cans, Dario has won, and we all wait until next year to see what surprises the race holds. This year was one of the most controversial five hundred mile races in a long time because of the setup of the month. The month of May has always been a month and not just a two week event. So how did it fair? Lets take a look and grade the 94th Indianapolis 500.
Practice is always practice and we come to expect time when action is hot and when action is a bit slower. I will say the practice was furious this year because of the lack of time offered to the teams. That is my one complaint and why this section only gets a B+. I am used to the days when we had a full month to sort things out and I think that is something that should be brought back. I understand only one weekend for quali and then the race, but practice has never been a huge crowd puller anyways. Many would argue that the smaller teams cannot afford to run the full month. I understand this point and would say give it time. Let the smaller teams develop a little more and then open it back up to the full month. Until that time, I can only offer the grade given.
Here is the hot point of debate we see amongst many fans and other sites on the web. The second weekend of qualifying has always been a safe zone for those who have crashed or just lost out on speed. That second weekend was slashed this year and I for one absolutely love this idea. This brought a certain level of excitement to qualifying in regards to Paul Tracey and Tony Kanaan. TK had wrecked twice and was really on the bubble all the way up to the eleventh hour. Paul Tracey missed the show completely. While the debate can be made that this hurt qualifying, I beg to differ. This really made the teams bring their A game to the show and was a refreshing twist in what is usually a rather dull show. That teamed with the fact that we actually had cars to bump made the show electric. No matter what happens with practice (which is likely nothing) I think that the one weekend quali is the best route. One of the other things that I thought was a positive sign for the new format was also the attendance. The crowd on hand for pole day and bump day was higher than I have seen in some time. All in all, the new format scored very high reviews from the fans and it is one thing that I think will remain in place for years to come.
As fans of this race let’s be honest, the racing the last few years has been less than desirable. A lot of single file lines and not a lot of passing. The league fixed the problem this year by introducing the aero bits that they ran on the second half of the season last year. I felt that these devices made the midfield and back of the pack racing phenomenal all day long. I think we even seen a couple meaningful moves at the front of the field which is also very cool to see. We don’t want NASCRAP where they pass each other 40 times in a 10 lap period, but we don’t want a Formula 1 race where the overtaking happens on the start. I think that this year’s race had a good mixture of passing and had me on the edge of the seat every time the cars exited turn 2. Another positive for the race was the penalties given out. It was good to see that some of the moves were being called as opposed to having a blind eye. I like Graham Rahal just as much as the next guy, but he was clearly blocking on a few occasions and it finally caught up with him. There was also drama in the pits which caused a heavy change in the race results as Will Power, Scott Dixon, and at the time a certain Raphael Matos were having amazing runs before terrible problems on pit road brought a realistic end to their races. As before with qualifying, I thought the crowd was awesome and jam packed. The speedway has not been that busy in a very long time. I understand there were a few seats remaining, but for the most part it was packed even at 96 degrees. There was a buzz around the track all weekend and the chaos that was the Pagoda Plaza for much of the weekend was back to former levels. I hope the race can continue to pick up where it once was, and I think these small changes may be what puts it over the bar. I felt that Dan Wheldon said it best when he said IndyCar was sexy again. I agreed with that statement and sure hope the race continues to pick up.