We had a really good time at the track yesterday. If you've never seen it before, nothing can prepare you for how fast the cars fly around Indy. My wife compares the sheer spectacle of it to seeing New York City in person. The weather was perfect. Here's a brief rundown of what took place.
1.) Helio won number three. Not the most surprising result, but very satisfying and important enough to garner time on the various news networks etc. A pretty amazing story. He by no means dominated the event, but he had enough to get past Scott Dixon when it mattered. And more than enough to pull away from Dan Wheldon and Danica Patrick. His car was hooked up.
2.) Dixon, Briscoe, and Franchitti blew their chances at a win. I am thrilled. There were large parts of the race where they were running 1-2-3. My worst nightmare, basically. Great racers, but the 500 needs exciting winners like Helio or Danica. Briscoe had a very interesting day falling back to 24th only to make a charge all the way to 2nd before refueling late in the race. Franchitti and Dixon both blew it in the pits with separate mishaps.
3.) Danica had a very nice day finishing third. Michael Andretti is a great race strategist. He always gets her near the front with a chance to win. This was a solid error-free performance that did more to legitimize her skills, in my mind, than her win at Twin Ring Motegi last yar.
4.) The field is getting more mature. Just like last year, there were lots of growing pains for a relatively inexperienced field. You have to remember that because of the split a lot of these guys have never raced on an oval, let alone a 2.5 mile super-speedway. This seasoning will be a big positive over the next five years. Rookie Raphael Matos ran strong and learned a world of lessons before crashing out big near the end. How about Townsend Bell finishing fourth? Total mind blower.
5.) The crowd size was good despite the economy. Always hard to gauge, but there was certainly no major dropoff.
6.) I am the master of getting in and out of Speedway with no problems. My dad has had a similar route for years and it always works. I'd draw you a map, but then I'd have to kill you.
1.) Marco! He was forced into the wall on the first turn of the first lap by Mario Moreas. Extremely unfortunate when your favorite driver goes out this way. Marco drilled MM in the exit interview. Hilarious stuff.
2.) Tony! Something broke on Kanaan's car midway through the race and he sustained two hard hits in a fiery crash. This one hurt because Kanaan appeared to be the only one who had anything for the Penske and Target teams. That guy has the worst luck.
3.) Rahal! Graham smack the turn 4 wall in the exact same place he did last year. Noticing a pattern? Several of the major fan favorites crashed out in the first half of the race. This race had lame written all over it, so its kind of amazing that it ended Helio-Dan-Danica.
3.) Too many crashes meant no green flag pit stops. There were five crashes right in front us or near us (Hunter-Reay, Rahal, Hamilton, Kanaan, Phillipe) so that was sweet. But for two years in a row the field was able to pit under yellow each time. This significantly reduces the potential for drama, mistakes, and strategy. We needed at least one long stretch of 40 or 50 laps without yellow. I believe the unforced crashes will dissappear with seasoning, but of course I said that last year.
4.) Penske/Target dominated the proceedings. The series badly needs the new chassis and engine formula that isn't schedule to arrive until 2011 or 2012. The big teams have the Dallara/Honda package down to a science. The teams with more money will always dominate, but it has gotten ridiculous.
5.) Vitor's crash at the end. He was badly hurt which is horrible. Also, this collision changed the whole race. The field had pitted on lap 163 so it would have been awesome to see them try to stretch their fuel to the end. Many would have run out of gas or slowed way down. Almost anyone could have won. This yellow allowed everyone, except Briscoe (who had short-pitted), to make it to the end without a problem.