Monday, May 14, 2012

25 Thoughts After IMS Opening Weekend

1) There are very few things as pure and as fun as watching your 3 year-old son go wild with excitement every time an IndyCar zooms past.

2) It's far too early to tell, but if Sebastian Saavedra can stay on top of the Firestone Indy Lights standings and manage a good result at Indy this season, his decision to focus on Lights while just running the 500 this year will seem like a very sharp one indeed.

3) Jay Howard and Pippa Mann are still hanging around, and don't seem ready to give up on a ride at Indy this year. I hope their perseverance pays off; there very well could be more to be written this month, in any case.

4) On a possibly related note, the entire situation with Dragon Racing and their lawsuit with Lotus remains pretty nasty, apparently. Every person I spoke to in regards this week used one of two expletives to describe the situation--and one used both.

5) If the Dragon Racing deal isn't put to bed by the middle of the week, I just don't see how the team has much turnaround time to get anything done. Legge needs her Rookie Orientation, and installing a Chevy in a car isn't quick job. There's a Dragon presence at Indy, but it's pretty sparse just now.

6) I have no idea how the Lotus Fan Force United effort will end this month, but that car looks way too good to not be going fast..

7) Not to be Mr. Obvious, but the Lotus HVM team is struggling so far, and in a big way--even more than their Lotus FFU counterparts, it would seem. That's a tough position to see Simona de Silvestro in.

Whatever else, the Lotus FFU car doesn't lack in style.
(Credit: Eric Schwarzkopf. Courtesy
Used with permission.)
8) So what's the pole speed going to be? I'm still thinking in the 223 range, but it's hard to tell precisely how much that Pole Day boost is going to provide.

9) On the subject of speeds this year, I will point out this is hardly the first year the 500 has seen a drop in speeds during the Month of May, and it's far from the most drastic. We're talking about a few tenths of a second, honestly. Yet some people act as if we've switched to running soapbox derby models out there.

10) The turbo engines really sound great, though I think some folks are surprised by how relatively quiet they are compared to last year's normally aspirated V-8s.

11) I still have not had my first pork tenderloin of the month. That honor is reserved for the morning of Pole Day, where my thermos of coffee, the track coming to life, and a newly-purchased pork tenderloin give me my most relaxing, zen moment of the year.

12) Let's talk Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing for a moment. Let's all agree that Penske and Ganassi haven't released the hounds yet, but SFHR has to be really proud of both their rookie drivers so far. There's a lot of May left before we crown Bryan Clauson or Josef Newgarden the Next Big Thing, but neither has looked like a rookie so far. In particular, there's something about the way Newgarden drives--as if he's showing everyone precisely why he's here.

13) Back to Clauson for a moment; there's been a lot of skepticism about his readiness for this track, and I suppose we won't know for sure until the checkered flag waves in a few weeks. But everyone I've spoken to thus far has been really impressed with his focus and performance so far.

14) Staying with the rookie commentary for a moment, let's appreciate the depth of the rookie ranks this year. We have two accomplished F1 drivers in Rubens Barrichello and Alesi, a burgeoning All-American in Newgarden, a two-time USAC National Champ in Clauson, the longtime Freedom 100 ace in Wade Cunningham, and an apparently improved James Jakes in the mix.

15) Attendance at IMS looked pretty good Saturday, but on Sunday, it was sparse. With any luck, crowds will be better for this year's Pole Day--I think we're in for as good a battle as we've had in recent years.

16) Over the weekend, I asked my three children who they thought will win the Indy 500 this year. In a stunning upset, we had one (strident) vote for Scott Dixon, and two for Bryan Clauson. Did I mention we live in Noblesville, Indiana?

17) Speaking of Noblesville, nice work, Conor Daly. Congrats on the GP3 win, but I hope you'll understand when I say it'd be great to see you back at Indy one of these days.

18) I don't know about you, but walking in and hearing the Gordon Pipers playing just really sets the mood for a great IMS morning.

19) I remain convinced the best way in which any fan can help grow the sport is to simply treat people to a day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The atmosphere, the history, and the accessibility, combined with up-close action, is simply the best.

20) It was funny to see Takuma Sato sitting on the back of the cart, using his camera to recording his car being rolled out to pit lane. Taku is only the middle of the speed charts so far, but seems pretty at ease so far this month. The Rahal Letterman Lanigan team should give him a good car; it could be interesting to see what he does with it. We know he can pedal on ovals as well as twisties...

21) I'd have a hard time deciding on the best livery so far, but Ed Carpenter's Fuzzy's Vodka car and Lotus FFU's designs both really stand out nicely in person. I'm also a sucker for the Dollar General livery Josef Newgarden is sporting, but I'd like it a lot more if it were less temporary (hint, hint, DG).

22) It is really, really odd to see Dario Franchitti driving the #50 car.

23) It was busy week for interviews last week, but hopefully you didn't miss our questions with Lotus Fan Force United's Tyce Carlson, SFHR's Bryan Clauson, or 500 veteran Dr. Jack Miller.

24) We're getting to the end, but let me just put a bug in your ear about the IMS Social Media Garage. Some of my fellow bloggers will be joining me as part of the social media experience at Indy this year, with a dedicated space featuring exclusive driver interviews, meetups, giveaways, and lots more. The social media garage will be in MotoGP garages 34 and 35, and will be open as long as the gates are starting on Fast Friday. I hope I'll see some of you out there.

25) Finally, I just want to say it remains an absolute privilege to be at Indy during the Month of May. I am reminded once more of the Eddie Sachs quote:

"I think of Indianapolis every day of the year, every hour of the day, and when I sleep, too. Everything I ever wanted in my life, I found inside the walls of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I love it all, from the first to the last day in May".

I'd say that sums it up nicely.


  1. Lotus is putting the bulk of their assistance and resources into FFU effort, and it shows. Maybe they want to be down to 0 full time teams now?

    1. It's easy to picture it going that way, Jim...

  2. Re: #19 ... saw an older couple on a tour yesterday and the guy was standing next to me looking over the railing on top of Gasoline Alley - two drivers were stopping and signing things for people. The man said "wow, everyone is extremely friendly and accessible around here, that's refreshing." It made me smile and reminded me of one of the reasons why I love this sport.

    1. Absolutely. New fans are usually floored just how easy it is to obtain autographs. It's something that never gets old to see.