Saturday, May 19, 2012

24 Thoughts After Pole Day

Here are 24 idle thoughts and notes I took before and after today's Pole Day action.

1) We have to start with congratulations to Ryan Briscoe for winning the Pole today. With that said, you definitely get the feeling that there are drivers throughout this field who feel race day could be a very different animal indeed.

2) The Andretti Autosport not only qualified their main drivers in the front two rows, both of their associate cars (Ana Beatriz, P13), and Sebastian Saavedra (P24), managed to qualify today. I really thought they might send Bia back out, but it was still a very solid run--pretty clearly her best ever at Indy.

3) The Pole Day crowd was nice--perhaps not quite as big as I thought it would be given the size of the crowd on Fast Friday, but a pretty good showing regardless. I am worried about tomorrow's attendance--with multiple sources stating no bumping is involved, and a big Indiana Pacer game in the afternoon, that could really hurt the Sunday crowds.

4) Speaking of the projection of only 33 cars for this field, I'm not sure what to think. On one hand, we have Randy Bernard very clearly stating on Twitter that entries for Bump Day have not been made verboten. On the other hand, I know of at least two Bump Day deals that sounded pretty solid, and both mysteriously and suddenly evaporated this morning. I'm really bummed for Pippa Mann, as I think it would have livened Bump Day up tremendously to see her out there.

5) Staying with Pippa for a moment, she appeared at a tweetup with fans at the Social Media Garage barely an hour after receiving the crushing news her deal for Indy had been killed. If it were me, I would have stayed somewhere and pouted, but Pippa did an entire Q&A session with fans. If you have ever questioned why her popularity with fans endures, that's a good indicator right there. That's pure class and graciousness in a moment when she was probably feeling anything but making that effort.

6) I'm torn on the idea of no bumping. On one hand, if the number of entries is being artificially limited, then that goes against the idea of Indy in a pretty big way. On the other hand, with the job Lotus Fan Force United has done, I'd hate to see them bumped. Competition would win that choice for me, but after talking with fans around Gasoline Alley today, there seems to be no doubt that their valiant effort this month has garnered fans and goodwill in equal measure.

7) I thought James Jakes' second run to solidly land himself in the field today was an excellent run under pressure. I'll admit, I thought he might be a second-day qualifier, but the Dale Coyne Racing cars did what they had to today.

8) It was also great to see Sarah Fisher's team land a car in the Top 9 for the second straight year, and I'm not sure Josef Newgarden could be much more popular with this Indy crowd.

9) We also have to discuss Sarah Fisher's other car, which unfortunately had a much rougher day. Bryan Clauson was at the tail end of a great qualifying run when the car came around on him. Fortunately, it doesn't  sound as if he was badly hurt, and can qualify tomorrow. Clauson has done a great job so far this month, and hopefully he's able to compete for that P25 tomorrow.

10) Clauson, of course, wasn't alone on crashes,with both Oriol Servia and Ed Carpenter being involved in some heavy qualifying crashes. It's a good reminder that Indy can bite seasoned veterans just the same as rookies.

11) If I'm Chip Ganassi's team, I'm disappointed in today's results, but also realize that the boost won't be in place for the race. We've not heard the last of that team this month...

12) I didn't expect either Dragon Racing car to be a first-day qualifier, but I did expect at least one of AJ Foyt's cars to make it happen. Wade Cunningham didn't look particularly comfortable on his qualifying runs, and Mike Conway just didn't quite have enough to get it done.

13) If we're continuing with Honda woes, how much is the fact that only a single Honda car made the Fast 9 going to be dissected and scrutinized over the course of the week?

14) Back to the Lotus cars for a moment: I think both cars have a bit left in them for qualifying. They should be able to qualify in relatively cool air, and hopefully their speeds creeps up a bit. It would be great if both teams were able to get that much closer to the median speed of the field.

15) Seeing Parnelli Jones drive Ol' Calhoun around the track was amazing--the sound of that engine even more so.

16) I have had a lot of fun meeting readers over at the Social Media Garage, and we've also been lucky in having special guests such as Wade Cunningham, Pippa Mann, Shannon McIntosh, and Ashley Freiberg swing by. I'm hoping we have a lot more in store between now and the race.

Seeing Parnelli driving Calhoun: Magic.
17) Drivers I thought would go back out for one more attempt at the Fast 9, but didn't: JR Hildebrand, Scott Dixon, and Ana Beatriz.

18) If JR Hildebrand is going to avenge his narrow miss at 500 glory last year, he'll have to make history: no one has ever started from P18 and won the Indy 500 (though there's always got to be a first).

19) There remains no better breakfast known to man than a pork tenderloin and coffee early at the Speedway while the Gordon Pipers play in the background.

20) Rubens Barrichello looked really sharp today, despite his practices up to this point not really showing consistent speed. Starting P10 in his first Indy 500 is pretty great to see.

21) James Hinchcliffe wearing Greg Moore's gloves over his heart was a special moment, one that will be remembered a very long time, I think.

22) Today's stats: 24 cars qualified, 2 pork tenderloins eaten, approximately 17 gallons of water consumed (plus 1 thermos of coffee), and 3 layers of mostly useless sunscreen on my pasty, pasty blogger's complexion.

23) It's no contest: Sebastien Bourdais' #7 machine and the #64 of Jean Alesi are easily the two most stunning liveries when they're on track.

24) I can't honestly tell you right now if we'll have any Bump Day drama tomorrow, but let's hope it's a safe, productive day. If there isn't any bumping to be had...there could be some very awkward attempts at keeping attention focused on the track. Have a great evening, and we'll see what tomorrow brings at the Greatest Race Course in the World


  1. It does seem odd that Pippa's Deal fell apart, And Of Course I do not know the details, But The feeling surrounding this all is that Lotus Needs to make the race at all cost and that may in fact include backroom deals with those who would otherwise be scrambling to put last minute drivers in backup cars. Imagine the shame internationally for Lotus if all they worked for ends up being lost by not making the Indy 500, They and other euro Automakers look down at Indy car as "lesser". Some well greased palms from some deep Lotus Pockets could save a lot of face for them...Just Saying....

  2. How about a thought #25: (Yes, I understand your pick of 24 thoughts). The Star Spangled Banner was a complete disaster. Many around me in Turn 3 didn't even recognize they were playing the SSB.

    1. I was wondering if someone would bring that up, Dean. I couldn't be sure if it was a case of where I was standing relative to the PA, but I think you're right. It did not translate well at all.