2012 Indianapolis 500

The F1 Monaco Grand Prix and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 were nothing to write home about but the Indianapolis 500 provided a terrific race.  The race certainly didn’t go as I expected.  Temperatures were in the mid 90’s with resulting slick track conditions so I didn’t expect to see very many long green flag runs and expected a higher than normal number of crashes; the opposite turned out to be the case.  With new engine programs for 2012 and the Indy 500 being the biggest race of the IndyCar season I expected multiple engine failures but those didn’t materialize either; there were two mechanical failures and two electrical failures out of the 33 starters.  Never mind that Indy was the first oval race on the new chassis with new engines.  Never mind that it approached near Tattooine conditions in Indianapolis. Tthe 2012 running will be considered one of the better ones in the history of the Indianapolis 500.

There was a lot of worry early this year about how these cars would race on ovals. Early days in the race, but they’re racy. #Indy500  I think that a lot of IndyCar fans, whether they admitted it or not, were worried about how the DW12 would perform on oval tracks.  Indianapolis 500 practice sessions pointed toward the cars being racy but no one would really be able to tell until the race.   Passing started right away and continued throughout the race.  The DW12 was able to draft up and pass going into turns 1 and 3 off of the straights and passes were even made off of the short chutes into turns 2 and 4.  I can’t wait to see how the DW12 races on the different kinds of ovals at Texas and Milwaukee.

As expected, the two Lotus cars are blacked flagged for being below 105%. An embarrassment to the Lotus name. Sorry, Colin Chapman.  I just can’t put it any other way.   De Silvestro completed 10 laps and Alesi completed 9 laps before being black flagged by Race Control for being unable to maintain speeds within 105% of the leader.  This IS NOT a reflection on the drivers, it’s purely a reflection on the how underpowered the Lotus engines are.  HVM and De Silvestro and FFU and Alesi’s efforts these last two weeks deserve better than the engines Lotus supplied them.  Both teams put their heads down and worked hard to find speed throughout the month but in the end the power of the Lotus engines just didn’t match the effort expended by the two teams.  Sure, Judd may build the engines and Lotus just badge them but that doesn’t exonerate Lotus.  They’re the ones funding the program and they haven’t funded it properly (for a number of reasons).  They have been unable to provide engines for testing, so their teams were behind the 8-ball from the start.  This race was and this season will be a black mark on the history of a famous racing marque.

.@IndyCar It’s more obvious on the oval than a road/street circuit – the numbers on the wing endplates have to be made bigger.  IndyCar needs to make the numbers on the rear wing endplates larger so the cars can be more readily identified.  They’re currently tiny and at many viewing angles it’s hard to see the car numbers on the nose.  There are a number of similar liveries and color combinations that can make it hard to tell the cars apart at speed.

Looks like at least a 1-2 lap advantage for Honda on fuel stints. #Indy500  The Hondas were consistently able to to go farther on a tank of fuel than the Chevrolets were.  A Honda still won the race (actually finishing 1-2 and could have finished 1-2-3) but if not for the way the final caution periods fell, Honda could have really put their stamp on this race.  The Chevrolets had more power but it wasn’t enough to generate an advantage that could overcome the Honda’s fuel economy.

Big Crash! Conway and Will Power, car in the fence, tires bouncing along the track. #Indy500   This was the only big crash of the race and it didn’t have to happen.  The Foyt team should never have sent Conway out with a broken and dangling front wing.  With the wing in that condition, Conway was slow in the racing line and spun in front of Power who simply had nowhere to go.  As the two cars crashed into the outside wall, the DW12 of Conway once again displayed it’s tendency to rotate up against the wall and fence.  Dallara had made a change earlier in the week to try to solve that problem but it didn’t seem to work.  It’s a worrisome tendency, but I’m sure that IndyCar and Dallara will be working to solve it.  Some problems only reveal themselves over time; this is one of those problems.

With all due to respect to Marco, if he would settle down and quit screaming on the radio, his crew would be able to understand him better.  I can’t describe what happened to Marco Andretti from the point his car developed a big vibration on as anything more than a meltdown.  He lost his cool and it showed in his radio transmissions. I work in dispatch; I understand and I’ve experienced how keeping calm and not screaming on the radio makes a difference in how a situation is handled.  There was no excuse for how Andretti responded to what happened. Sure the team missed an adjustment he asked for but it very well could have stemmed from an inability to understand him on the radio; the vibration was noticeably effecting readability on the radio and his screaming just made it worse.    Marco was fast early in the race and he set the fastest lap in the race but if he wants to win a race like the Indianapolis 500 or win a championship he’s going to have to work on the mental aspects of his racing.

What was Dario supposed to do? It was the last lap – go “by your leave, sir?” I just don’t see it as a block. #Indy500 #IAmNotAGanassiFan  What I saw in the replays. Block on the front straight but it was fair play in the turn.  After watching the replays, what I saw prior to turn 1 was a block, but what I saw in Turn 1 was not a block.  Sure, Dario didn’t give Sato any room but it was the last lap, he didn’t have to give him room.  Both drivers were going for the win in the biggest race of the IndyCar season.  If Dario should have been penalized for anything, it should have been for the weave in front of Sato just before the turn but not for what he did in the turn.  I can’t help but think that if it had been another driver besides Franchitti, there wouldn’t have been as many negative comments about the finish.

He might have crashed on the last lap, but he was going for it on the last lap. Massively impressed with Sato today. #Indy500  Takuma Sato led 3 times for a total of 31 laps which put him 3rd in the number of laps led.  He didn’t back in to leading those laps either, he legitimately led them on performance and speed.  Sato has been known for getting excited then over-driving or making mistakes when he does well, I can’t help but think that having Bobby Rahal in his ear during the race is what is making a difference for him this year.  I’ve seen arguments that Sato made his move too soon (and that was my impression at the time) and that he didn’t have any other choice but to make his move (a position that I’ve come to accept) but you have to understand that it was the last lap of the Indianapolis 500.  After watching the replays I think that if he would have backed out and tried to wait until turns 3 and 4 to make the pass that he would have lost second place and wouldn’t have been in the position to make the pass in turns 3 and 4.  He went for it and I’m not going to fault him for it.  It was good to see Sato run that well and it was good to see the Rahal team run that well!

I’m also massively impressed with Servia and Wilson. Great races and finishes for both. #Indy500  Servia started 27th and finished 4th.  He was a Lotus driver to start the season so other than practice in qualifying he had no oval testing time in the DW12.  What an outstanding performance from one of the most underrated drivers in IndyCar.  Justin Wilson, a driver not noted for great oval performance, started 21st and finished 7th in the underdog Coyne car.

You also have to give it to @Rubarrichello – First #Indy500 and he finished P11 and ran in the top 15 all day long.  A hugely experienced Formula 1 veteran, the Indianapolis 500 was Rubens Barrichello’s first oval race and in all honesty I don’t think he could have asked for much more.  Even having the benefit of Tony Kanaan’s experience I didn’t expect Rubens to finish this well!  He came close to finishing in the top 10 after consistently racing in the top 15 for most of the race.  He may have started 10th and finished 11th but qualifying as a single car is one thing, racing Indianapolis with 32 other cars is another.  It was unlike anything he’d ever done before and deserves the respect of all for taking top rookie honors.

On the whole this was a well officiated race, unlike many IndyCar races in the past few years.  Beaux Barfield, the new chief steward, and his team have really made the difference.  In the past, the officials were  the talk of the race and the topic of the headlines.  Now the officials are in the background; when you’re not hearing their names you know they’re doing their jobs right.  I do, however, have one complaint about Race Control in the 2012 Indianapolis 500.  Last night on Twitter, Barfield admitted extending the next to last caution to ensure that the race wouldn’t end as a fuel mileage race.  In my opinion, that is not the job of Race Control and it isn’t the purpose of caution periods.  Race Control’s job is to make the race is safe, properly run, and enforce the rules and regulation.  The purpose of a caution period is to slow down the field and allow crews to make the race track safe.  Extending a yellow to ensure everyone had fuel to the end is no different from throwing a “phantom yellow” to bunch up cars.  It artificially creates a “better” race.  It could also have killed the strategy of a team that was working on a fuel strategy; if that strategy got killed because of how a caution period naturally fell, fine – but if it was ruined because Race Control extended a caution period to create a more exciting finish then that’s not fine.

I’d hate to end this post on a rant, so I’m going to end on the TV coverage of the race.  Last year was not a good year to watch the race on TV.  There were too many commercial breaks and the timing of the breaks split the race up into tiny, barely bite sized pieces that made the race hard to digest.  This year there didn’t seem to be as many commercials although they came close to missing several of the restarts.  So how did ABC on ESPN cover the race? I’ll give them an improved; they still leave much to be desired but they did better than last year.  The pre-race show, something that ABC and ESPN are good at, was an outstanding piece of work.  The Dan Wheldon tribute was tasteful and well done but what I really like was how they concentrated on drivers throughout the field rather than just focusing on the more popular or successful ones.  If ABC and ESPN will just move away from covering predetermined story lines and tell the story of the race as it unfolds they’ll continue to improve.

After watching seeing the DW12 on an oval for the first time, I can’t wait to see how it does on the rest of the ovals, Milwaukee in particular.  Here’s to a great rest of the season!

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