It would be easy for the eternal pessimist to look at the low car count at Indy this season and immediately conclude this year’s run-up to the 500 is doomed to be a tepid, drama-free affair. Yet thanks to some new competition, a new car, and new engines, nothing could be further from the truth.
Anyone who’s watched Indy 500 practice so far will tell you there’s something riveting in watching these car/engine packages try to find their potential. Although speeds are down a bit from last season, to most fans, it hardly seems to matter. We have progressed from laps of 218 at IMS to Marco Andretti’s 223 mph. Watching teams develop, test, and work these new machines is something that was missing, and we’ve got it again.
The engines battles, trying to guess if teams are sandbagging or running with a tow—it’s all this tremendous mystery, one that’s revealed bit by bit as the month goes on. This year’s Pole Day is going to be something to see, with so many drivers and teams seeming to have found something at various points. Yet we won’t really know until they do those first four laps that really count, will we?
There's a vibrancy to the proceedings this year. Of course, there's always passion and excitement at Indy, but the wild Happy Hours at the end of each practice, the continual one-upmanship on speeds, and the mix of new drivers showing the old guard that they mean business has made this into one of the most intriguing Month of Mays I can remember. We get to watch as each team tries to put all the pieces together. Perhaps most intriguingly, there's no guarantee that the traditional powerhouses will be the first or only ones to solve that puzzle.
While I still think we have some possible driver surprises in store, even if we don't, this has been a great month so far to be an IndyCar and Indy 500 fan. By all accounts, that will continue through the weekend at IMS. The weather is perfect, the action is tremendous, and the unknowns legion. I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be.
Headed to the track? Check out the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's Social Media Garage, featuring contests, social media displays, driver appearances, tweetups, bloggers on location, and more! Stop by MotoGP Garages 34-35 by the Pagoda starting on Fast Friday for more!