Monday, May 26, 2014

Thoughts Following Indianapolis

There are a lot of talking points following a great race at Indianapolis! Here are some of the things on my mind:

Ryan Hunter-Reay's Legacy
Ryan Hunter-Reay is now an Indianapolis 500 champion to go with his Indycar championship title. What does that mean? That means that Ryan Hunter-Reay is one of the best drivers in Indycar at the moment. I'd slot him behind Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves, and maybe Juan Pablo Montoya with best active drivers in Indycar. Also, Ryan uses a great deal of time to deal with fans and his Racing for Cancer charity. Really pleased that Ryan has won the 500!

Ryan Hunter-Reay driver of the #28 DHL Andretti Autosport Chevrolet Dallara celebrates winning the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 24, 2014 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana.
One for the ages (Photo: Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images North America)

The Race Itself
The race was not what I expected at first. I mean, who expects an Indianapolis 500 to go 140 laps with a caution?! The previous record (since 1976) was 60 laps before the first yellow. I remember seeing lap ten go across the ticker and thinking, "So, who will be the first to wreck?" The lap twenty... Thirty... Forty....... 150 rolls around and Charlie Kimball spun coming out of turn two. I think, while the racing was good in the field and while I never want to see an accident, a caution was ideal to give those who had to battle through field a chance to fight with the leaders. Plus, restarts are one of the reasons that Indy is intense! The last 50 laps was what I expected! Close racing, dramatic incidents, lots of lead changes, and a heart pounding finish! Really happy with the net result of the race. It had a bit of everything!


#SKMoney
Sage Karam proved that he was not an Indy Lights Champion by fluke. The reigning Lights Champion could not find a way into Indycar at the start of the season. He was given a shot at Indianapolis for the 500 with a combined effort between Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing. Qualifying wasn't his best effort, as Sage qualified P31. On Carb Day, Sage had one hell of a save after making light contact with the wall. He would later go on to finish second in the pit stop competition! While this is mostly on the pit crew and their efforts, it offered a glimpse at things to come. In the race, Sage battled through the field to get as high as eighth. A caution caught him up, shuffling him back to P18. He did not panic, and worked his way back up to ninth, where he would finish. I think the nickname given to him, #SKMoney, is very appropriate. This kid needs a full-time deal ASAP.

Sage Karam driver of the #22 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara Chevrolet during the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 mile race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 25, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
#SKMoney (Photo: Robert Laberge / Getty Images North America)

What Sophomore Slump?
Carlos Munoz did everything I expected him to do. What I expected from him was a top-ten effort. He went above and beyond that, finishing P4. If you remember, Carlos dazzled the Indycar world in his very first Indycar race in 2013, fighting for the win, eventually finishing P2. Yesterday, Carlos ran well, kept a clean nose, and finished solidly in the field, once again putting himself in a position to contend at the end of the race. Well done from Carlos to back up what many called a one time thing.


Nightmare Continues
Graham Rahal is having his worst season by far. I said before the race that if Rahal didn't have a decent-at-best result at Indy that this would be the low point of his career. Graham was the first car to retire with an electrical issue. Before that, he was running P32, only beating out Ryan Briscoe who pitted early for new tires and a change of shorts. Graham has now amassed 79 points in five races. Kurt Busch earned 80 points at Indy, putting him ahead of Graham in the championship. How comical is that?! The part that doesn't make sense is Larry Curry, longtime engineer who was most recently with a successful Justin Wilson-Dale Coyne Racing pairing, has come to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and has seemed to have no impact. Something has to give with this team!


Double Outlaw
Not only is the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 possible, but Kurt Busch proved that it is not out of the question for someone to put up two quality results in the same day. Busch ran at Indy all month with Andretti Autosport. In the race, he drifted back, giving me the impression that this was all a farce. I spoke too soon. Through good driving and keeping a clean nose, Busch rallied to finish P6! That is an incredible result. He jetted off to Charlotte, where the race I thought he would do better at ended in an engine failure. Nonetheless, Kurt deserves a lot of praise for the job he did.


Rough Day for Ganassi
P9*, P18, P26, P29, and P31 was the kind of day Chip Ganassi had. The * denotes that that result was made possible by a partnership with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing with Sage Karam behind the wheel. Scott Dixon and Charlie Kimball both crashed. Tony Kanaan suffered some sort of gearbox issue. And Ryan Briscoe was off the pace at the beginning and end of the race. A bleak spot for the super team headed by Chip Ganassi. You know he will be a very salty man for some time after this.

The #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara Chevrolet  of Scott Dixon of New Zealand gets towed after crashing during the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 mile race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 25, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Scott Dixon's car on the hook after his crash (Photo: Robert Laberge / Getty Images North America)

Davison Impresses
James Davison was the last entry to enter the Indianapolis 500 field. On a short program with KV Racing, Davison had little time in his car leading up to qualifications. On Day 1, he initially qualified in the back row of the grid. That was everything I expected of him. When the gun went off to signal the end of the day, Davison was on the track. My honest thought was, "Why on Earth is this muppet on track? He will go from P32 to P31 which does nothing. Why not let someone try to get into the fast nine?" Damn, was I wrong. I know it doesn't sound like much, but Davison got up to P28. His speed went from a high 226mph to a low 228mph in a car he's barely driven! Come race time, Davison had a scare early, avoiding an almost spun Ryan Briscoe. He would continue to learn about the car in the race, working his way around traffic on his way to a P16 effort. With little time in the car and no experience on ovals in an Indycar, Davison went way beyond the limited expectations I had for him. He earns a tip of the cap from me. Hope to see him back again in 2015 for part two.


Good Call
Townsend Bell crashed with nine laps to go. A feeling of "Here we go again" settled in. In 2013, Graham Rahal crashed with a handful of laps left. The field was dramatically slowed down so the race could finish under green. Ryan Hunter-Reay lead them to the line with two laps to go. Tony Kanaan passed him, and a caution came out, giving TK the win. Back to Sunday. Nine laps to go with a yellow out. Hunter-Reay was once again leading. But this time, instead of wasting precious time circling the pace car, Indycar race control threw the red flag, freezing the race. I think we can all agree it was the right move. Instead of going green with three-four laps to go, we had eight laps to go.


Hildebrand Bounces Back
No doubt that I was a bit nervous for JR Hildebrand heading into this years Indianapolis 500. If you remember, JR made it through.... *frantically scribbles out the long mathematical equation in his hand* Three laps before crashing out. This year, JR started P9, which was a good start. He battled his way to as high as P3. He was looking good. Unfortunately, as the case for several other drivers, the yellow flags caught out JR. Still, a P10 result is a 180 degree turn from last year's 500. Hopefully JR can slowly but surely work his way back into Indycar full-time. Sunday was a good start.


Double Points
For those who remember, I was absolutely incensed at the idea of double points at the Triple Crown Races on the Indycar schedule (Indy, Pocono, and Fontana). Although I am still not completely onboard with the idea, I am warming up to it. The amount of emphasis put on doing well this weekend was incredible. I felt the tense pressure of getting all of the possible points coming out of the television in the last sixty laps of the race. Let's see if the other two races are as intense as this one.

James Hinchcliffe, driver of the #27 Andretti Autosport Honda Dallara, leads the field during the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on May 25, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Another great show was put on at IMS (Photo: Robert Laberge / Getty Images North America)

Close Again
Marco Andretti was once again right in the hunt for an Indianapolis 500 win, but once again, his efforts came up short. I think Marco's day will come soon enough. However, if I hear the words "Andretti" and "Curse" in the same sentence, I might force myself to watch a NASCAR race. Marco said that his car was very good, but it wasn't a dominant car like Ryan Hunter-Reay or Helio Castroneves. Still, it's hard to complain about a third place finish. Maybe next year. Prepare yourself, the "IS THIS THE YEAR THE ANDRETTI CURSE ENDS?" I say all 33 drivers in the 2015 Indianapolis 500 legally change their last name to Andretti just so we don't have to hear that phrase for another 50 years. But seriously, I hope Marco gets the job done soon.


Team Penske
A bad day for Team Penske is one where opportunities are squandered. Helio Castroneves was the class of the team, leading them all the way, finishing a close second place. Juan Pablo Montoya was in the catbird's seat in the first half of the race, making excellent fuel mileage while also being insanely quick. However, Juan suffered a pit speeding violation. Although he finished P5, one can't help but wonder what could have been. Will Power was in the same boat. Having a solid car, Power ran in the top five for a large portion of the race. He too, however, was caught speeding on pit road. He also finished a pretty good P8, but again, what could he had done given the penalty that set him back? Team Penske got solid championship points, but this one is definitely one that got away.


Ed Carpenter...
I get pissed getting cut off on a highway. I get that. We are all human. So when Ed Carpenter, who was fighting at the front of the field, was involved in an accident with James Hinchcliffe and Townsend Bell, I expect him, or any driver for that matter to be pissed off. Ed had no part in the collision. Some blame Hinch, some blame Bell, and some pin it on a "racing incident." But his post race remarks were out of line. I don't mind emotion or speaking out, but there's a line. Here's what he said:

"Hinch tried to make three wide in Turn One with 25 laps to go. Not a smart move. It wrecked both of our races. I told him if he didn't have a concussion last week that I would have punched him in the face." -Ed Carpenter

Then Tony George or Helio Castroneves's sister or some idiot who runs Ed Carpenter Racing's official Twitter account had the genius idea of lashing out at fans who were angry at Ed, (seen below). Both the actions of the PR and Carpenter following the race were unacceptable and classless. Hopefully the team and Ed get on damage control ASAP.





So, if you didn't notice, there was a lot to write about following the 98th Indianapolis 500!! Please let me know your thoughts!!

-Matthew Hickey 

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