Monday, May 28, 2012

Race Day Diary: Indianapolis

Here are my accounts of things I saw, things I did, and some thoughts on the race that I had visited, the 2012 Indianapolis 500:


Waking up after a surprisingly good night of sleep, my only train of thought during the morning of the 96th Indianapolis 500 was, "What history will be made today?" Some of the most historic racing moments have taken place at Indy, and some of these moments have been and will forever be remembered in history, and I was hoping something historical happened today.

Arriving at the track, I felt like I was in heaven! I felt like I was home. I immediately ran to our seats (joining me at the track was my mother and father), and my oh my, what great seats they were. Brilliant. We could see the end of the front stretch, turn one, short shoot, and turn two. Unreal seats. I was envisioning what was about to take place.

At about 8:30am, I arrived at the Social Media Garage next to the Pagoda, where I had the utmost  privilege of meeting the Gruenholz brothers, Mathew (aka THE STIG @MagooTheStig) and Nathan (@Fleshwound_NPG), where we had a nice chat, and I was surprised with Stig's old pair of gloves! What an amazing gift. They are both amazing dudes to talk to and hang with. We ran some simulator runs on the SimRaceway DW12 simulators at Indy, where Stig beat me by a tenth and a half, but I still finished P112 out of a lot of people who tried, so I was lucky, especially since it was my first time on the DW12, or on a simulator at all!

Then I met some big hitters, the first being Dillion Battistini, who was working for SimRaceway helping develop the game. We had a nice chat about racing, his future plans, Milka Duno, and much more! Dillon says he doesn't plan on running in 2012, but his goal is to race in the 2013 Indy 500. His last race was at Kentucky in 2011 where he raced for Conquest in the Indycar Series. He won the 2008 Freedom 100, and also won the most races that season in the Indy Lights series.

Myself and Mr. Battistini 

After meeting Dillion, Pippa Mann walked by me while I was waiting in line for the simulators, and I was like, "(to Stig) HOLY SHIT, that's Pippa Mann!" Stig introduced me, we chatted for a quick minute as she had stuff to do, and we went about our day. She has this nact to being a great driver for the fans. To be honest, I wish I hadn't met her in the SM Garage. I would have rather met her in her pit stall where she would be standing next to her DW12 before the race, but it is what it is, I just hope she gets into an Indycar sometime this season.

Was a bit disappointed that I didn't get to meet Swinger (@TheKing0fSwing) as he was probably throwing an amazing party in the Snake Pit, but I left the garage with a wide smile after meeting some great people. In our seats, I just wanted the race to get going. When the 98 car that Dan Wheldon drove to victory in the 2011 Indianapolis 500, whilst "Taps" was playing, the tears were flowing. National Anthem was boss, flyover was boss, but "Back Home Again in Indiana" was a drag with Jim Nabors not being there live.

Race time. I didn't even notice the heat, I was too focused on the start! It was a great formation and the field made it clean through turns 1 and 2. The one thing I did notice on the start was Townsend Bell passing at least five cars in Scheckter like fashion. As the laps went along, I began to fall in love with the Turbos. They weren't significantly quieter than the old cars like some suggested, but they sounded so much better. The Lotus cars were having their own battle, drawing sarcastic cheers from the crowd when they passed by. I noticed Bryan Clauson having mega amount of issues with handling, and this was confirmed a couple laps later in a spin. Dario got hit in the pits and dropped to the back, causing my father to get fuming, as Dario is his favorite driver.

Then it became Marco Andretti hour as he led for the next 50 laps before the most frightening incident of the day, as Mike Conway spun, collected Will Power, causing Conway to get airborne and almost getting into the catch fence. This quite literally happened right in front of use, and there was a gap between cars, so everyone's eyes was on the next car entering the corner, which was Conway. Everyone was okay thankfully.  I couldn't tell from where were sitting how much damage Power had, but he fortunately, he was okay. Also, Wade Cunningham's engine sounded like a dying walrus.

It could have been so much worse
It was exciting to see Dario carve his way though the field. Sato was leading for a nice amount of time, and it was building for a great finish. All the sudden, I hear, "Hey (Honey) Badger!!" I turned, and who do you think is sitting two seats away from me, who had been sitting next to and chatting with my mother all race?! Swinger himself (@TheKing0fSwing)! What are the odds that in a place with 250,000 seats, I am sitting next to not only someone I know, but one of the coolest people you'll find?! Unreal! I enjoyed our chat even though it was for a short time.

 Then there was the last 30 laps, maybe the most exciting 30 laps I've ever witnessed in person, or watched on TV. Back and forth battles for the lead, drivers making ballsy moves, and close quarters. The single file restarts were amazing.

Then Tony Kanaan made the best move I have ever seen, right up there with Vitor Meira's pass in 2008 on the restart. TK passed 5 cars on the restart as he made it four wide then towed onto Dario and slipped passed into turn 1. The crowd exploded. Then Marco crashed, and I was kind of hoping they would stay yellow for the last 11 laps, but I knew it wouldn't happen.

The last 6 laps was some amazing, heart-pounding action. I was jumping up and down. With two laps to go, Sato followed Dario into the turn passing Dixie for P2. As they came down the straight, I suddenly thought, "HOLY SHIT, this is the last lap! Who is going to win?!" And then Sato spun and crashed. My dad was going crazy, and I felt so gutted for Sato. He got the loudest ovation when he got of his car, and he deserved it, can't get mad at him for going for it!

A finish they will remember for a long time

Just an incredible race, and I am glad I got to witness it! The DW12 was fantastic, just like every other race this season. Here are some of the drivers that really impressed me other than the usuals:

Alex Tagliani
I don't know where Tags faltered as far as the strategy because he had an amazing car right from the get go. He was fast all race but the result didn't show for just how quick his car was.

Michel Jourdain Jr.
Michel didn't put a wheel wrong all day. Like Tags, I think his result didn't show just how well he ran. He had a solid race and I wouldn't mind seeing him back in 2013.

Justin Wilson
J Dub ran just a fantastic race, as he had a rocket ship of a car. He made some great passes and showed us all that his oval skills are well refined and that he should be taken seriously on the ovals from now on.

Townsend Bell
The restart king, he used the outside lane like a master, especially at the start of the race. T-Bell raced very well, and finished P9. He was strong all day.

Charlie Kimball
One of the top five drivers of the day (in order: Dario, Sato, Dixon, Servia, and Char Dog) in my opinion. He was fast on restarts, fast in the pits, and just fast all day. He made great passes and he's finally proving he belongs at Ganassi.

Oriol Servia
What a drive. Oriol went a lap down, got that lap back, and fought his way to the front. And not a lot of people gave him enough credit following the race. He did another fantastic job! Amazing what he can do with a real engine.


Thank you very much for reading. Have a thought? Share it with me!

-Matthew Hickey

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