So we are now back in our houses and hopefully recooperated from a wild weekend! What a race for sure! The highlights are posted on the main page so feel free to view it over and over like I have been all day. I am not going to give you a lap by lap account as we sorta did that on Twitter as the event unfolded so instead I will break down the teams one by one and give a grade on their overall performance.
Bryan Herta Autosport: A+
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What a month this was for Bryan Herta. Think back to last year when he just made the field with Sebastian Saavedra. Some doubted the capabilities of the team with Wheldon at the helm in this one off deal, but they were all proven wrong with this improbable victory. Even if they had not won, the team would have been runner up and that is still a huge victory considering last year. The team did work with Sam Schmidt on technical data sharing over the last couple weeks of the month and that had to play a part in the overall picture as well. Regardless, Wheldon is a top notch driver who should have a ride this season. It was not in the cards so now he leaves the 500 unemployed but ungry for more competition.
Yet again Panther shows that they have exactly what it takes to win at Indy. The team has missed out on the milk the last few years but continues to show they are a threat. JR Hildebrand suffered what may be the worst feeling on the planet as he impacted the wall out of turn four. Regardless of his mistake, he drove a hell of a race and should be commended for achieving what he had in second place. I respect the kid a lot and the level that he has shown in regards to interviews and dealing with what will be the biggest disappointment of his career for the time being. He should not hang his head, rather celebrate what was a fantastic month and a fantastic result. As for my dark horse Buddy Rice, things did not go according to plan and getting caught out by the pit stop situation did not help his cause. Still, lets remember that Rice has not been in the car for sometime and his qualifying efforts were solid. The guy can hustle a car around the Brickyard. He would finish 18th position two laps down.
Andretti Autosport: D-
What can I say that has not already been said? I mean this month was a joke for Andretti Autosport and it is a true shame to be honest. The team was terrible in qualifying with two cars missing the show. Then they buy a spot on the grid for their sponsors. The only thing that saves them from an F was what they were able to accomplish on race day. A couple top 10 positions for Danica and Marco. Both had pretty impressive climbs through the field and Andretti pulled a fantastic move on Graham Rahal during the Viso crash. That move showed some real brilliance in his driving that remains untapped in my opinion. Also a good performance from Danica as she even got to the front and led some laps towards the end before being done in by fuel issues. John Andretti had a decent run in 22nd. Not the best statistical performance but a good run that kept him out of trouble and even had him flirting with the top 10 from time to time. Always good to see the STP colored 43 Windows World car do well. Don’t let race day fool you however. Andretti Autosport have some real soul searching to do and it needs to be done fast.
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The ‘Lord of the Brickyard’ has fallen on some hard times as late. In what is now becoming typical Penske fashion, stupid blunders and mistakes cost them any chance at victory. Their qualifying effort was terrible and Will Power carried the banner at Indy. I though that was Helio’s job? Ryan Briscoe seems to be in every possible bad situation you can imagine. Crashes the morning of qualifying pushing the car way to hard in my opinion. Then his accident during the race as Penske’s only real shot sealed the deal. I was quick to blame Mr. Briscoe for the crash but have since looked at a number of replays and found him innocent. Regardless, he is not lending any reason why he should have a job at the end of the season. Call it luck or just over eager, but he needs to go back to Long Beach form and fast or he may be mixing it up in a KV next year. ‘The Captain’ also needs to inspect Will Power’s crew. You must perform at the highest level during the 500. It is a race that Penske is expected to win and he is getting killed by costly mistakes in the pits. Last year was a fuel hose and this year was a tire for the #12 machine. It seems anymore that Penske shoots themselves in the foot any chance they get. Not championship caliber.
Ganassi Varsity: B+
Would offer them an A, but the quali issues that hit with fuel are too much to ignore. However, come race day the cars were really fast and were able to flex their muscle at will. Dixon overtaking Tagliani like nothing and then Franchitti swapping with Dixon just showed they were in a league of their own. We could mark them down again for bad fuel strategy towards the end of the race, but that happened to everyone almost. While Ganassi is another team you expect to win always, Indy is a different breed and P5 with P12 is respectable. Not what we expect from Ganassi but the pace was there and had the fuel game allowed the major players to finish, Franchitti would be your three time champion.
Ganassi JV: A-
Where did Graham Rahal and Charlie Kimball come from? Their qualifying was about on par with how bad it has been all year. Yet race day saw a completely new side to the team. Kimball flirted with the top 10 all day and Graham even led laps towards the end. These two younger drivers really showed their stuff on race day and it was impressive. Hopefully they run that well on ovals for the rest of the year.
KV Racing: C-
What can I say? There quali effort was ok but they still have the same race gremlins they always do. Caused the first two cautions and the only shining light was Kanaan’s P4 finish and Tomas Scheckter’s P8. I thought Scheckter stole the show with some amazing passes where cars should not be able to pass. Simply brilliant driving for that upstart Redline Extreme team.
Newman Hass: A-
The legendary team gets a solid score for the month. Unreal qualifying effort for Oriol Servia and a solid run for Hinchcliffe on pole day. The race saw Hinch in the wall but as a rookie I think he ran well. Showed some awesome skills when Viso tried to take him out again. Servia was really good all month and showed it again on race day. He was able to take the fight to Ganassi and the whole Newman Haas operation looked better than Penske all month. P6 is a solid result and it really looks as though this organization is back on the right track where they should be.
Simona was legendary this month. Her efforts after that nasty practice crash showed that she was for real. Her style and ability to push through the injury for the race was more like some of the other classic legends we have seen at the track. Her race day performance was not overly good but she still is sporting second degree burns on both hands. In my book it was one of the best stories to come out so far. It has also gotten the attention of one Mr. Penske if rumors are to be true.
Sam Schmidt: A-
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Another beautiful story this month as Sam Schmidt showed the ‘Empire’ he was not to be messed with. An obvious great pole day for both Tagliani and Townsend Bell ended with race day blunders that dropped their score. Further showing pole position is not the best starting spot. I expected a lot more out of this operation given what they had done early in the month. I will say however that it is in fact baby steps and they will be back stronger next year. Impressive, but just missed it when it counted.
Overall a pretty good run for this one off team. Jay Howard had a bad pitstop and lost a wheel but Bertrand Baguette continues to show that he may be the most underrated driver to strap in. Very impressive run and one yellow flag away from winning it all. Great stuff and decent marks to reflect their efforts this month.
AJ Foyt: C
Both cars had very solid pole day runs. This helps the score but come race day it, it left a lot to be desired. P15 for Vitor and P23 for Hunter-Reay. Makes one wonder what could have happened if the driver swap had not happened.
While the final results don’t show it, what a brilliant run for Pippa Mann. She was in her first ever Indy ride on the grandest stage of them all. A gutsy bump day run seen her become the first ever British female to qualify. She suffered equipment failure and was unable to stay hydrated for the race but she still put together a solid run. She even had the series points leader Will Power looking at the tail light for much of race day. Brilliant run for Pippa and I was very impressed!
Dreyer and Reinbold: D+
These guys were at the track? A very low key month for DRR highlighted by an awesome bump day run for Paul Tracy. Wish we could have seen more out of this four car operation on race day. Tracy tagged the wall and the rest of the team just seemed to turn circles. They never really had a moment on Sunday that was promising. Bummer too.
Dale Coyne: B-
Solid run for Dale Coyne and Alex Lloyd. While the team was never a threat for a top 10, Alex moved from 30th to 19th. Forward progress is always good. Loved seeing Alex in the car turning laps. Hopefully we will see better out of them come the rest of the ovals.
Sarah Fisher Racing: A-
A fantastic pole day for Ed Carpenter and Sarah Fisher. Even though Ed was very loose and on the brink of losing control, that car has no business in the top 10 whatsoever. Think back to last year with Jay Howard and then look at this year with Ed at the wheel. A masterful performance. However, come race day the team was a non threat. I found this interesting as they had been quick all month long. It was almost like the team was not at the track either. They were able to take a P11 finish however. A good solid effort from Sarah and Ed and hopefully we will see more this season on the ovals.
So there we have it. How did your team do? I thought the race was amazing and I have been watching the replay over and over. There will be more post Indianapolis content to come as we wrap up and head out to Texas for the twin 275s.