It was just me...and a few other die hard race fans...not in my group, mind you...but in total, at the most famous race venue in the world yesterday. The cavernous stands that can seat 300,000-plus fans had drapes covering a few sections, some additional empty seats and around 60 or 70,000 fans in attendance. But those who came saw a good product. We got there early, watched the under card races, got used to seeing young drivers missing their marks coming into, and sometimes blasting through the hard right turn that is #1 in the new course configuration...but when the big boys took the stage, it was fun just to watch the great ones work with surgeon-like precision as turn one was a stage of heavy passing all day.
But for every Scott Dixon, who seemed to win every passing battle leaving the first turn, there were guys like Andretti, Conway and Servia...solid drivers, no doubt, but their machines just weren't cooperating. Andretti seemed to be in reverse for much of the day. He mixed it up with Rahal a few times; one of those yielded him a busted up car after he got airborne from hitting a curb with a nearly-open throttle, but he was never in contention.
Fuel strategy was obviously important...it always is. But, Pagenaud was near the top for most of the day. And unlike his F1 counterparts who used to race at this venue (with a few changes), his rear view mirror was full for much of the day as driving in traffic was the norm.
From the beginning, it was fun...in fact, I'm not sure if I've ever seen a first lap as tight from the top to the bottom of the field as that one. But, as you know if you've seen highlights, the beginning was far from perfect.
After a few warm-up laps, the drivers came to a stop to have a standing start as to pay homage to Euro road course races. But when Saavadra's car didn't move after he let the clutch out, hell simply broke loose. Hunter-Reay missed him narrowly, and so did a few others, before Munoz then Aleshin smashed into the pole sitter. The debris field damaged cars, and looked like it might have tragic consequences...But Saavedra walked out of his car and the other two drivers were fine as well.
I just watched highlights of the race via EsPN for the first time. This race was televised by ABC/EsPN...but the jackface that was talking over the top of the highlights didn't know how to pronounce any of the drivers' names and clearly didn't watch the race based on his half-assed assessment of the contest.
If you don't like racing, you wouldn't have liked this race...if you do, you would have liked this one. Clearly, much of the city of Indianapolis and IndyCar fans didn't feel like this one was worth their money or time. They were wrong.
IMS and the league made the right moves on this race. The normal pomp and circumstance that surrounds the start of the 500 wasn't really there. There was a little pre-race spectacle, but all of it was really over in quick order. No "Back Home Again...", no balloons, no Purdue band, no parade of stars and has-beens, not much build up...just a day of racing...good racing.
A decade ago, when F1 was still running at the track, I expressed my disdain for that event and that league by not ever going. Just when I had gotten myself to the point where I was thinking about going, Ecclestone and his clown posse pulled the tire stunt and I was done with that idea. I hated what F1 was in those days- Tremendous machines, a high-speed parade, drivers that were asked just to manage races, not go out and race, and a board of directors comprised of the world's most-arrogant people.
F1 has improved its product tremendously since IMS and the league parted ways...the cars are actually racing and the drivers have more control as many of their assists have been lifted...but I can't forgive them for the tire debacle at Indy. The best thing that could happen to that league would be Bernie steps down and leaves the sport...his hot Megan-Fox-Pre-Surgery-Looking daughter takes over for him...and we at least get to hear her talk about the series instead of her old, arrogant windbag of a father.
My friends and I rooted for a road course with the Indy cars on this former F1 course...we finally got to see it (with a few mods, of course)...and I think it lived up to my expectations. But I'd like to see one more tweak.
Instead of having two races in the month of May at IMS, I'd like to see the series champ crowned in Indy in late September next year. Most of the teams are located in Central Indiana anyway, so it would still be cost effective...because a big part of me still longs for the good ole days when the month of May was just the Indy 500...not two weekends...but the entire month.
But, as time passes, and Indy Car struggles to keep its financial head above water (as does almost every racing league), it seems pretty clear that my wish probably won't come true. So if the lead-up to the 500 isn't going to include two weekends of qualifying, this Grand Prix is the best alternative it seems.
Well done, IndyCar. Your schedule was clearly designed to make it easier on the teams...but it seems everyone wins with the new May format. I get to feel a bit of that old feeling that May means racing in Indy, the expensive F1 course goes to better use than having motorcycles run on it, and I will attend at least one road course race each season. Hopefully, other fans start realizing what I already have about the new early-May event for the sake of the series and IMS. If not, I'll continue to enjoy great seats for a relatively affordable price with a handful of die hard fans.