The Roar Is Over

I'm an Indy 500 the race. While many around me can barely stand by the end of the day due to drinking a bit too much, I'm always buzzing from the event I just saw. I love the whole thing- from the salute to the soldiers, sailors and marines to the traditional baloons being released to the smell of rubber and ethanol; it's a great day for me.

My family has sat in the Southwest Vista in the first row for over 30 years...I've been going to the race since 1986 and it doesn't get old for me. But, about every three years, I witness a crash that reminds me how dangerous of a sport the 500 is. I watched one of those on lap 174 yesterday. As Meira and Matos headed into one, it was easy to see something bad was going to happen. Both cars had a pretty high line and Meira simply didn't give him Meira shot past us riding the wall like a skateboarder to a rail, Matos slowly spun to a stop...And Matos head hung down as he had been knocked out. We couldn't really see #14 from where we were, but we did see that two ambulances came on the track- an unusual occurrance in this era of Indy Car racing. At the end of it all, Meira had a broken back in two places and Matos was just a but battered and bruised.
The ending of the race didn't have the drama that we've come to know in recent years...the two-second gap between Castroneves and Weldon was one of the longest in the last 9 years...a testament to the parity of evenly-matched machines and a talented group of drivers and teams. But, there were some surprises and story lines of note.

-Paul Tracy was racing like a madman all day...coming out of the front stretch, he tried to pass high all day just to see his under-powered machine allow his opponent to race away from him. He took the risks it takes to win a race, but didn't have the equipment. His top-10 finish was all that could be expected with that machinery.

-Graham Rahal was running strong and near the front before making the exact same mistake that he made last year at Indy. He tried to pass too high coming out of four and got into the marbles forcing him into the wall...He's gotta learn, because clearly, he has the skill to do great things, has a great team and sponsorship package, but keeps making sloppy errors. He's still young, but if he's not careful, his sponsors might not stay patient forever.

-Thomas Schechter, Scott Sharp, Sarah Fisher and even Milka Duno were remarkably unremarkable. None of their cars were very fast, none really got in the way of anybody, none were mixing it up and being aggressive...For Duno and Schechter it's noteworthy because both have a knack for being in wrecks and trouble...for Sharp and Fisher it's kind of expected- neither are full-time in the series and neither have teams with particularly deep pockets or experienced crews.
-Fan favorite Tony Kanaan's back right suspension broke jettisoning him into the outside of the the entry of turn four. The wreck was violent and unexpected. When I first saw that he crashed due to mechanical failure, I thought how unlucky he was...when he got up and walked out of the car under his own power, I saw how blessed he was to have not been seriously injured. One thought- he's gotta get out of the green car! I'm not superstitious, but no one has won an Indy 500 in a green car since the 60s and a lot of talented drivers have driven them.

-Dan Wheldon, Townsend Bell and Will Power all raced well and impressed me. Wheldon and Bell don't have the wealthiest, best-prepared teams...especially Bell. He was running hard and making difficult passes all day. I hope that both have the opportunity to upgrade their teams, equipment and sponsorship agreements after their performances. Will Power, the red-headed step-child of the Penske team reminded us yet again that he's talented and deserves a full-time gig...if not for Penske, for somebody.

-Danica Patrick did what she does, but her AGR team's pits helped catapult her to a top-3 finish. She hung around the 7-9th spots all day, as usual, staying out of trouble and racing solid...good performance for her, but she continues to not live up to her hype and billing by the TV networks, sponsors, etc. in my opinion. That said, she was AGR's strongest finisher and her team mate Mutoh had an even more-quite top-10 finish.

-Dixon and Franchitti ran strong for much of the day, but couldn't match the Penske speed in the last-third of the day...and a tough break in the pits for Dario probably kept him out of the top-3. Franchitti had the fastest lap of the day at over 222 and at times looked like he could go where ever he wanted on the track...his team mate, at one time during the race held the record for aps led, all-time at Indy in the Indy Car league...the record was relenquished late in the race as Helio iced it.
-And finally, Castroneves capped a typical dominant Penske month with an emotional victory...I think everyone who watches racing really knew that this was his race to lose. Even as he dropped to 3rd-5th place in the middle of the race, many of my friends and I all were reminded of Rick Mears employing a similar tactic in his last two victories at Indy...Penske and his engineers know how to win at the greatest racing venue in the world.

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