Monday, May 28, 2012

7 Drivers: Telling The Story Of The 96th 500

Quite frankly, after the checkered flag waved on this year's Indy 500 yesterday, I was exhausted. A whirlwind racing weekend featured record temperatures, along with a record number of lead changes. We know how it all ended on lap 200, but from my view in J Stand, this race seemed to be a story where various drivers took over the narrative at various points. Here are the seven I really saw as iconic for this race:

Ryan Briscoe: The pole winner fought for the lead early before falling back a bit. However, he did finish the best of the Team Penske cars, with Will Power involved in a crash and Helio often hovering around the P10 spot for most of the day. It was a good month for Briscoe, but didn't end up a great one.

Marco Andretti: Marco dominated much of the first part of the race, but it seemed as if his car faded in the late going. A late crash doomed any hope of a Top 10 finish, and will only serve to perpetuate the Andretti Curse. Early on Sunday, Marco seemed ready to fulfill the expectations so many had for his 500 run, but instead we're left with Marco to think about what could have been. With Ryan Hunter-Reay out of the race with mechanical woes and James Hinchcliffe alone able to secure a Top 10 spot, it's no lie to say this year's Indy 500 fell well short of Andretti Autosport's potential and dreams.

Ed Carpenter: Carpenter's great charge from the back of the field was ruined in a moment by his spin, but no one in the stands will deny his status as a fan favorite is perhaps even approaching that of Tony Kanaan. We saw drivers such as Carpenter and Oriol Seriva (P4, somehow!) move doggedly and determinedly from the back of the field on a day that did not lack for surprises.

Tony Kanaan: TK's amazing pass on the last restart on the race whipped the crowd into a frenzy, and judging from their mood, I think they would have been just fine with five more laps of caution to close things out. Kanaan remains one of the best in IMS history not to have a victory here, but there's no doubt he'll make things as interesting as possible until he's ready to hang it up.

Justin Wilson: Wilson represented many of the drivers we perhaps didn't expect to see fighting up front Sunday. Even his notable P7 finish is not indicative of just how great of a drive Wilson had. Along with drivers such as Charlie Kimball, there was no firm expectation these guys would be fighting at the front of the field, but they outperformed some great drivers and teams today.

Takuma Sato: Sato broke hundreds of thousands of hearts with his last-lap crash. He's always had a reputation as fast but reckless, and while there's the fear Sunday's wreck will cement that, his guts and brilliant run through 199.25 laps should bring him some new fans, too. I was initially surprised just how strong the cheers were for him throughout the race, but it does seem he's building somewhat of a following. Taku played his part in one of the most electric races in recent memory, even if the ending was less than what we wanted. I have to admit, I'll be pulling for him to partially make up this one with a Series win, and soon.

Dario Franchitti: Really, this spot should belong to both Target Ganassi teammates, who were part of one of the greatest back-and-forth battles the Speedway has ever hosted. Scott Dixon fought him every lap, but it was Dario coming back from an early spin in the pits to win that has to truly rank as one of the classic performances in 500 history. While taking his celebratory lap with his wife, Dario invited Susie Wheldon to ride with him. I know people were disappointed over TK or Sato not playing the role of spoiler, but full respect needs to be given to a man who handled the moment with class, and knows and appreciates the history and legacy of this very special race course.


  1. I was massively impressed with Sato, I think Rahal is having a good effect on him and it showed yesterday. I refuse to fault him for going for it on the last lap of the Indianapolis 500. Justin Wilson and Oriol Servia had impressive runs yesterday, especially considering Wilson is in an underdog team and Servia had no oval testing due to being with Lotus the first part of the season. I can only see what happened to Marco as a meltdown; if he could have kept his head in the race he would have been Chevy's best chance. As far as Dario goes, if it had been anyone but him or Dixon I don't think there would have been near as much vitriol spewed his way at the end.

    Rubens Barrichello also deserves mention. Starting P10 and finishing P11 doesn't sound like much but this race was unlike anything he had ever done before. To run in the top 15 throughout the day and almost finish in the top 10 in not only your first Indianapolis 500 but your first oval race ever is massively impressive.

    1. I understand why some folks booed in the stands--they wanted the underdog, and Sato was having an electrifying run. Hopefully, though, they got past it quickly to give the 3-time champ the respect he deserves.

      And I completely agree with you on Rubens. A very good day for him overall. I would have to give him the ROY nod over Newgarden--Josef had a good month, but Rubens improved slowly and both qualified/raced well.