Memorial Day Weekend – The Best Of The Year

Big Bend, WI (May 28th, 2012) – Once again the Indianapolis 500 reigned as the top / most entertaining race of the Memorial Day trio over the Monaco Grand Prix and the World 600 (Yea, OK, ‘Coca-Cola 600’).

With 35 passes for the lead and many more throughout the field, the 95th running of the greatest spectacle in racing was in my opinion, the best throughout. A great finish, but not the best, 2011 and 2006 personally I feel were better. But this race was entertaining and compelling from lap-1 to 200. One of the best remarks I heard after the race was, even if you were forced to watched positions 5-15, you still got your money’s worth.

Although a small footnote on the overall story of the race, I did not like the decision by race control to black flag the two Lotus-powered cars before they were even lapped. They most likely would’ve been lapped by lap 14 or 15, however look at this YouTube video of the 1993 Indy 500, you see cars being overtaken by lap-10. . My opinion, let the field work pass the cars of Jean Alesi and Simona DeSilvestro at least once, both are talented drivers.

The story not being covered – the booing of Dario Franchitti. Franchitti is a legend, a talented driver and someone who appreciates the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. However, three wins in six years causes some fan apathy. Perhaps they were booing car owner Chip Ganassi? I heard the booing on the front straightaway, and I have reports of loud booing in Grandstand B and E. Personally, I feel they were looking for a Tony Kanaan win, he electrified the crown when he went from fourth place to the lead before the first turn on a late restart. The fans were also cheering RLL Racing driver, Takuma Sato when he made his late charge. Perhaps some fans were frustrated with ‘same face’ in victory lane and were sent home disappointed, but entertained. Some supporters may have thought Franchitti crowded Sato into his accident? Overall, I feel Franchitti is highly respected as a driver and has his admirers but I was looking for someone other than the ‘red team.’

Fan favorite Kanaan was in a good mood after the race and spoke about his exciting restart. “I’m not going to say ‘plan to go to the lead.’ But I’m tailing Dario all day. I could see where Dario was going to try to restart. I just looked at him. By the time he accelerated, I was already pulling through my gears. I was six cars behind. With the draft on those cars, I timed it perfectly.”

He added, “I didn’t know where I was going to end up. But from the start, I already gained four positions on the first start of the race, I knew I could pull it out. He didn’t let me lead that lap anyway. He passed me back right away. But, you know, I saw the crowd, yes. I mean, I was leading. You can see because they wave. Obviously I couldn’t hear them, but I’m pretty sure they went bonkers. I can’t thank them enough. They make me feel so wanted here. The other day somebody made a comment that might be true, I tried to change it. But I think people like me here because I haven’t won yet. I became more famous for not winning this thing than actually winning, so I’ll keep trying.”

He also gave a good natured barb at the winner, “We can see old people do well here – Dario – so I think I still have a shot (laughter).”

The fans definitely had their favorites, Kanaan, Sato and especially Ed Carpenter. The hometown driver made a nice run up to third place before he survived in scary spin in heavy traffic and didn’t hit anything.

The Monaco Grand Prix is always special, the tight twisty corners on one of the most beautiful backdrops in the world always is a favorite of mine. Hats off to the Red Bull team and Aussie, Mark Webber on his masterful drive at Monaco. With intermittent sprinkles in the last ten laps or so really could have shaken things up if they intensified. That’s one for the bucket list.

The Coca-Cola 600 was honestly a stinker. Don’t blame Kasey Kahne though he’s finally seems to have righted the ship and I think we’ll going to see more to the talented kid from Enumclaw. I thought it was interesting that during the Hendrick Motorsports 200th win party, all the drivers to win in a Hendrick car was introduced onto the stage. Kahne was introduced later, that’s motivation. It was pit troubles for Jimmie Johnson and drivers and teams such as Greg Biffle and Kyle Busch who just couldn’t keep up at the end that made Kahne’s last twenty laps or so easy.

Disappointments – the two drivers who led the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 in the last turn last year weren’t able to excise that demon. J.R. Hildebrand ran out of the top-10 most of the day to end up 14th. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. ran better but still is in midst of a 141 winless streak. Earnhardt, Jr. came across the finish line in sixth place. Those two really would’ve loved to get that monkey off their back.

Danica Patrick didn’t appear to be missed in Indianapolis, she raced in the 600 on Sunday and came home 30th. In a historical flashback, in 1976, Janet Guthrie missed the “500” and drove in the 600 and came home 15th. It’s going to be tough for Patrick on the NASCAR circuit, but as Liberace used to say, “I’m crying all the way to the bank.” She’s doing just fine.

Oh, one more thing. In my friendly public debate with IndyCar CEO, Randy Bernard regarding the size of the numbers on the current IndyCar I have one question to ask. If car numbers are so insignificant, why did Target change theirs on the eventual winner?

Hope everybody had an enjoyable and safe Memorial Day weekend.

Inside the numbers – courtesy of

1 – Driver who has have completed every lap of every race in the first five IZOD IndyCar Series events: James Hinchcliffe.

3 – Indianapolis 500 wins for Dario Franchitti, the 10th driver to win the Indianapolis 500 three or more times.

4 – Drivers to lead the Indianapolis 500 for the first time: James Hinchcliffe, Takuma Sato, Charlie Kimball and Rubens Barrichello.

5 – Indianapolis 500 wins for car owner Chip Ganassi (1989, 2000, 2009, 2010 and 2012). Ganassi tied Lou Moore for second among Indianapolis 500 wining car owners.

6 – Different teams represented in the top 10 in the IZOD IndyCar Series standings.

8 – Different teams represented in the top 10 of the 96th Indianapolis 500

9 – Different drivers to finish on the podium in the first five races of 2012.

16 – Starting position of Dario Franchitti. The only other driver to win from 16th position was Dan Wheldon in 2005.

23 – Positions gained by Oriol Servia en route to his season-best performance on fourth at Indianapolis.

31 – Indy car wins for Dario Franchitti, tying him with Sebastien Bourdais and Paul Tracy as the active leader in victories.

34 – Lead changes among 10 drivers. It was the most lead changes in the 101-year history of the Indianapolis 500.

36 – Points separating Power (200) from Helio Castroneves and James Hinchcliffe (164) in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship standings.

50 – Number carried by the Indianapolis 500 winner for the first time.

59 – Laps led by Marco Andretti. He had led 31 laps at Indianapolis in his previous six starts. It was the seventh time an Andretti had led the most laps at Indianapolis. Mario led the most laps in 1969, 1985, 1987 and 1993. Michael led the most laps in 1991 and 1992.

62 – Positions gained by Servia in the first five races of 2012. (An average of 12.2 positions per race)

91 – Degrees, the high temperature in Indianapolis on May 27, 2012 – tying the 1919 and 1953 as the second-hottest 500 Race Day.

109 – Top five finishes for Dario Franchitti in his Indy car racing career.

186 – Consecutive Indy car starts for Tony Kanaan dating to the 2001 CART race in Portland.

1,366 – Consecutive laps completed by Scott Dixon at the Indianapolis 500, a race record. The previous record stood for 71 years and belonged to Wilbur Shaw, who completed 1,351 consecutive laps from 1935-41.

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