Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Unpredictability Of It All

If there’s one thing the Indianapolis 500 teaches us, it’s to never take any victory or success for granted.

-Ralph DePalma, in command of the race in 1912 when his car broke down, and he attempted to push it home to the finish as Joe Dawson sped by for the victory.

-Parnelli Jones, blowing the field away in 1967 when an inexpensive, $6 part broke, ensuring AJ Foyt would win his third 500.
Ralph knew a thing or two about Mercurial Indy.

-Buddy Lazier, qualifying an outclassed tub in 2008, ragged edge all the way.

-Last year’s Bump Day madness, with Sebastian Saavedra crashing his car, getting bumped out repeatedly, only to learn in the hospital he improbably made it in when Paul Tracy and Jay Howard fell short in the waning minutes.

Right now, there’s a lot of discussion over who’s going to make this field, and who’s going home outside the 33. If I were to ask a normal 500 fan last year which drivers would be on the outside looking in after Bump Day, plenty of lists would have looked a lot like this:

Mario Romancini
Bertrand Baguette
Sebastian Saavedra
Milka Duno

So Duno was a pretty safe bet, but the other 3 made it in the race, Romancini and Baguette in relative comfort.

This year’s list for a lot of people probably includes plenty of rookies, one or two of the backmarker teams; the usual suspects, as it were. It’s easy to pick the drivers that perhaps shouldn’t make it, based on what we know of the odds.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway doesn’t care about odds.

The only thing for certain for this year 500 quals, as the needle moves ever closer to 40 entries, is that some good teams are going home disappointed, some improbable entries are going to make the field, and the field of 33 that takes the flag this year will be nothing like the one we first envisioned.

I’m thrilled it’s May, ecstatic I have an entire month of Talk of Gasoline Alley on air, and am so very ready for Indy to throw us all another curveball.

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