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.
7 Thoughts to “IndyCar – Grading to the 500”
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Watching the broadcast last night, I noticed there was a whole lot of bare aluminum on the front stretch, both short chutes and in the backstretch bleachers before turn 3. Of the 257,000 seats at IMS, I would venture to say that easily 230,000 were filled. Add in to that the ridiculous infield. There was a solid mass of humanity packing the infield from the family viewing mound in T2 all the way around to the middle of the north end short chute. Maybe it is time to start thinking of letting spectators back in T4, because that would fill in as well. My guess for the weekend would be 350,000
And it was a blast. Gone were the yellow flag only pit stops. Replaced with side by side racing and dicing for position. Gone was Milka! Replaced with a fairly competent field. Only shame was that the last lap didn’t play out. Dario says he could have made it on fuel but he was backing down on the throttle and crossed the line at under 200 on lap 199. Conway and Wilson were pedaling hard on full rich and Wheldon was lurking with the same fuel problems that Dario had….
southNORTH end of the track and the inside of the front stretch was sparse because of the insane heat! This was a historic race, but not for the right reasons. It was officially the hottest 500 in history! I was very excited for the racing action, but I was certainly happy to see the checkers. We couldn’t pound back enough water, and many of those who started the race with us, quickly left and found refuge in the infield and in the shade under the grandstands.
I beg to differ about bare aluminum in the south chute. There was virtually no bare aluminum in the south chute. I was sitting in the S.W. Vista and the entire south end of the track was packed. Don’t know what you saw on t.v. but it wasn’t empty seats. And NO ONE around us left. The north chute is another story. It looked like an entire section was purposely blocked off and not sold.
No doubt from what I could see that had the race gone green Wheldon would have easily caught and passed Franchitti. Dario had slowed to such a pace that he would not have been able to hold Wheldon off. Wheldon I believe had just turned a lap over 220 and was on pace to do the same on the last lap. Dario had slowed enough that on many people were speculating that he was already running out of gas when he went buy us in turn one.
The North chute is usually reserved for military guests. When I got tickets through the service last year we were all in there.
Alan, …dyslexia strikes again. The NORTH end of the track is what I should have said, between T3 and T4.
I think that besides the North end the race was very well attended. Considering the last 15yrs of AOWR and the current economy. Also, ORP had a crowd about twice the size as the last three years. And, the interesting thing about the attendance to me was the fact that every one stayed for all the races. In years past when the organizers have seen fit to tarnish the evening with the fendered clap trap they call “stock cars” and “race trucks” much of the mentally challenged fans of those clown parades would get up and leave before the Midget feature. Don’t get me wrong it was nice not having to deal with these morons when leaving at the end of the evening in traffic but I’d much rather have to deal with more traffic leaving if it means people watching three great racing series.
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