Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Indy 500 Quals: Prepare For War

It wasn’t too long ago having even one car imperiled on Bump Day was about all the drama we could manage. Now? Now we’re looking at 40 serious entries, the likes of which we haven’t seen in a while.

Over and over, I’m struck at the overall quality of this field. Really, you can make a case for any entrants making the field, even among the rookies. Do they have a tougher hill to climb? Yes, but I wouldn’t count a single one out going into practice.

Honestly, is there not a plausible scenario for each driver in which they make this race? Scott Speed could do it, with his experience at high speed and long distances. Pippa Mann could do it, in a Conquest car that surprised us all last year. James Jakes could do it, ably assisted by a great teammate in Alex Lloyd.

I’m worried on Bump Day that some good drivers, drivers I respect and admire, are going home. And that’s exactly how Bump Day should be. We are in for an amazing round of qualifications this year. Hearts are going to be broken, plans upset, and even the best of us with our projected fields in tatters. The first three rows in quals won’t be what you’re expecting. Neither will Row 11.

Not having “The Unexpected” is the enemy of drama in racing. 40 drivers doing their damnedest to make the Centennial Anniversary 500, a stage like no other in this sport, and the whims and punishments of our historic cathedral of speed should ensure predictability won’t be in anyone’s vocabulary late afternoon on Bump Day.

We tend to gripe just a bit in this sport at times, and we all have things we wish were different or the way we’d prefer. When it comes to Indy, though, all that stuff seems to dwindle when in the scope of what we’re going to witness. There’s the drama of Indy, the joy of a once-in-a-lifetime celebration, and the excitement that we’re about to see the biggest knock-down, drag-out, brutal, no-holds-barred fight to make the field that we’ve seen in a long time. Prepare for all-out war, because that's what we fans are about to get.

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