Indianapolis 500 – Some Bits And Pieces

Big Bend, WI (May 27th, 2013) – The 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 will be remembered as most likely the best race, perhaps not the best finish. However, for overall competition throughout the race, it’s hard to top another. No one likes a races that finishes under yellow, the exception may have been this year’s “500.” Tony Kanaan, a fan favorite at Indianapolis has been mentioned as the “Lloyd Ruby” of the Indy 500. Ruby was one of the top drivers in the 1960’s and 1970’s who never won the “500,” although was in position many times, just like Kanaan. The crowd groaned when they saw the caution light flashed on but started to cheer loudly when they realized Kanaan was the leader and about to win.

One wonders if Dario Franchitti had not crashed at the end of the race what the outcome may had been? Could Andretti Autosport’s talented rookie Carlos Munoz had won? Kanaan was asked that after the race, “It was good. He (Munoz) was going to learn a lot in the last two laps, I can tell you that (laughter). He was going to love this place, but he was going to have to come back. He’s a good kid. We go go-karting together in Miami. It’s funny because Carb Day, he made a pass on me on the short chute. We don’t do that very often. I didn’t talk to him. I thought, ‘This kid is good.’ If he manages to finish the race, he’s going to finish well. It was funny because in the race he got a hiccup in Turn 1. I put the same pass on him. Here you go, kid. With three to go, when I saw him behind me, I said, “All right, man, let’s start the lessons here.” But it went yellow, so. . .”

Tony Kanaan has come a long way from being a go-kart racer in Brazil and understands Indianapolis. “I mean, this place, I’ve always said it, it’s been special to me, and I meant that when I said that. I didn’t have to win here. I said that out there. The fans, they actually spoiled me a little bit on my win. When I finished 11th here, starting dead last, I got out of the car and it was exactly the same. I already had felt a little bit, I hadn’t drinked the milk, kissed the bricks, but it means a lot to me, because so many people I can feel they wanted me to win. It’s such a selfish thing to do because what are they getting from it? I’m the one that gets the trophy. If you can bring some joy to them, and I think the best thing was try to put an exciting race for them. I said it before the race: I believed that this win was more for people out there than for me. I wanted it all my life. But over the years, I was kind of OK with the fact that I may never have a chance to win it. Then I started coming back here.”

Some conspiracy theorists had already questioned if Dario Franchitti crashed on purpose? It’s silly to think he did. If you look on the replay, he was really struggling to get up to speed on the restart. Plus, the in-car camera clearly shows him steering to the left and the car washing out towards the wall. It was a horrible day for the Target-Chip Ganassi team as they had the incorrect gearing and an unbalanced car as Franchitti explained after the race. The team skipped tires on the final pit stop in order to gain track position. In the end, it ended with Dario in the wall, in 23rd place and teammate Scott Dixon in 14th. Charlie Kimball lead the Ganassi Team with a ninth place finish, impressive since he was a distant 33rd before the first yellow with what sounded like a sick engine. Ryan Briscoe finished 12th in his “one-off” Indy Car start this year in the #8 NTT DATA Ganassi Honda.

Even with the fast pace and only five caution periods, 19 cars ended up on the lead lap at the finish. 26 cars took the checkered flag. This was the first time the number 11 won in the Indianapolis 500.

I loved the seamless victory lane celebration. The camera followed Kanaan from pit lane to the victory lane podium. As the car was slowly moving into position, the viewer saw car owner Jimmy Vasser’s heartfelt emotion of the event, other friends and teammates embracing Kanaan made great television. Then the wreath, the traditional milk, cheers and tears make it a genuine American sports moment. No timeout and wait for television to cue the driver to come out. This was pure emotion, celebration and tears of joy. One question, where was the IMS flunky with the damp towel?

I also loved the emotion the friends of Kanaan showed, especially Alex Zanardi and Max Papis. Kanaan remarked, “There was two things. Zanardi is here, as you know. He brought his Olympic gold medal. Right before the race, he gave it to Jimmy, Jimmy brought it to the bus. I was laying in bed. It was an hour before. Jim as I said, Zanardi asked you to rub it. I actually cuddled with the thing. Still in my bus.”

Zanardi had a press conference with former car owner Chip Ganassi on Friday before the race. A huge crowd gathered and listened to Zanardi and Ganassi reflex on that special relationship they had. The crowd loved it, it was good to see Zanardi at Indianapolis.

Monitoring Twitter during the race, the NASCAR fans and media were really enjoying A.J. Allmendinger’s great run. He’s adapted quite well to the new DW12 chassis after being out of open wheel cars for six years. Not an easy task. Hope he’s back.

Under the radar award goes to Justin Wilson and Dale Coyne Racing which came home with a fifth place finish. Never in the hunt for the lead, they showed up at the end and ‘won’ best in class (Non-KV Racing, Andretti Autosport, Team Penske). Justin finished seventh last year. Could be an early dark horse for next year?

The year’s “500” was the fastest ever at just over 2 hours and 40-minutes. The average speed was 187.433mph and had 14 leaders and 68 lead changes. The pace was incredible, it was almost impossible to tweet updates on because as soon as you were done typing, another lead change or storyline was developing. For the last several years I’ve been saying we need shorter races, fit races in tighter television windows, etc. This was a Saturday night sprint race. This certainly held the attention of even the most novice race fans.

The pre-race ceremonies never get old. One of my favorites are the parade of vintage Indy 500 winners prior to the race. This year it was Parnelli Jones in his 1963 winner, “Old Calhoun” a traditional front-engine Watson “roadster.” Kenny Brack the 1999 winner, drove Gordon Johncock’s recently restored 1972 Eagle-Offy Gordy won the 1973 race in. Tom Sneva drove his March 83C-Cosworth he used in winning the 1983 Indy 500. Plus the parade of previous “500” winners always gets the crowd cheering, this year saw Jones, A.J. Foyt, Bobby Unser, Johnny Rutherford, Sneva, Bobby Rahal, Arie Luyendyk, Brack and Gil de Ferran take a lap on the back of new blue 2014 Corvettes pace cars.

Are incredible “500” finishes becoming the norm? 2011 was Wheldon’s unbelievable last corner pass of J.R. Hildebrand, last year saw the Franchitti and Takuma Sato’s last lap battle, this year saw the fastest “500” and 68 lead changes. Sounds like you should get your tickets for next year.

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