Nearly a week late, but definitely not forgotten! That race was one of the most fun racing events I have ever been to. Never have I been vehemently against leaving the stands for a single lap as I was on Sunday. The incredible post-race buzz was tempered a bit as I watched the ABC coverage and witnessed just how easy it looked to suck up behind someone and complete a pass way before either T1 or T3. Understand this: what follows are not complaints, the race was incredible, just gut feeling observations that have dawned upon me the more I think about what we all saw on Sunday. However you experienced what happened that day, there is no denying that we witnessed one of the most competitive 500s ever.
Tony Kanaan – For the first time since 1997, my driver won. Indianapolis has a knack of causing all of us to pick a winner from the heart. But it has often been noted that during May, The Speedway chooses who she want to have hang out in victory lane. TK has been a crowd favorite and his eleven years of bad luck finally paid off as he found his way to the checkers first, placing himself next to Dario Franchitti and Dan Wheldon on the Borg Warner Trophy. Rare air for sure, and two of Dan’s best buds immortalized next to him. For how close TK has been so many times, The Brickyard owes him at least one more.
Downforce – Was the race unbelievably awesome? Yes, absolutely. But that doesn’t mean it was as sporting as it could have been. In 2012, drivers noted that there was simply too much downforce available to the, during qualifying and the race. Given a year of development, the search for more downforce, and a relatively unchanged aero package, I am echoing that sentiment again this year. Save for the few Hondas searching for more speed through less wing, the cars looked planted all day long. I’m not saying that I could have driven them myself, but the drivers looked to have next to no issue taking the DW12 anywhere they wanted to on track all day long. A reduction of available grip would be welcomed next year.
The Draft – In stark contrast to how a race possibly should play out, there was no way for anyone to get away from the freight train of cars all running in the lead lap pack. No matter how good your car was, a second or so was all you could hope to pull out before the pack caught back and relegated said lead driver at least a few spots back. If a driver has a totally dominant car, there should be no reason they cannot stay out in front. Not a mile in front mind you, but at least not be the complete sitting duck we saw on Sunday. The racing was epic, but I couldn’t help but feel a bit like I was watching a roulette wheel and whoever may have been out front when the laps stopped counting would be the winner. That kind of stuff is for Daytona and Talladega, not Indianapolis.
Records Fall – Total leader, number of lead changes and the average speed of race record were all broken this weekend. We all have the much maligned Dallara to thank for that. The Italian composites company has designed something akin to perfection, if this style of racing at Indy is what you desire. They have done a tremendous job of providing us with a safe and racy chassis. All the complaints about the race could be remedied with a bit of horsepower jump. Nevertheless, whether it was one of the “greatest races of all time” or just another one for the ages, the competitiveness of the field has been brought to the forefront all year and that very fact was punctuated by the record breaking weekend.
Honda – Common thought dictated that Honda, although slightly sluggish in the week leading to The 500, would be able to turn the wick up and compete with the bowtie brigade once the race was finally under way. What we saw could not be further from the truth and the fuel economy advantage from 2012 looked to be nearly totally negated as neither manufacturer had a discernible edge in economy. With all of the “wait and see” talk in regards to the Hondas performance, they ended up looking quite silly on Sunday. With the new F1 engine coming on line in 2015, one has to think maybe the Japanese manufacturer has moved its resources to another program for the time being… hopefully.
Sadly that does it for the “month of May” for 2013. Calling the month amazing would be an understatement from all respects. The carnage was kept to a minimum, the race was as close as anyone could have imagined, and TK finally stole the wholly deserved win that had eluded him for over a decade. As soon as the checkers fell, teams and drivers started the five week thrash that is ahead. As a matter of fact, teams have not really had time off since the week before Brazil. Thank your local driver and crew for the hard work they have and will put in, they totally deserve it. Next up is the first weekend of double header craziness. It will be totally interesting to see how teams manage the weekend.
A final thanks to everyone who stopped into the Social Media Garage and said hi. That is what it was all about; connecting all of us internet dwellers in real life. The Speedway seems to be latching onto the idea and during opening weekend the place was really hopping. Thank you to everyone who attended the twitteratti tweetup on race morning as well where I met most of you for the first time just a few short hours before the green fell. And a huge and heartfelt thank you to Brian Simpson, Cassie Conklin and The Indianapolis Motor Speedway for giving myself and my other four partners in crime the opportunity to enhance your coverage; even if it was just a tiny amount.