Into The Crystal Ball: It’s Duals Time Edition

Now, for something totally different. Before the ink is even dry on the 2014 Indy 500 chapter of the season, the circus moves to Milwau… nope… Tex… nope… Detroit? You got it. Nothing against the event, but it really feels odd going road racing a week after the 500. Not a bad event by any means, just the opposite in fact, but possibly sitting in the wrong place in the season. But the strong Penske death state can sway many a feelings, so to Detroit we go! The lengthening of the facility and aesthetic additions for the 2013 race went a long way in quenching the fire many fans had about the 2012 shemozzle on a track that was literally impossible to find room to pass on. This is definitely not old Detroit.

5 Things to Watch

Gorgeous Facility? – The off season has seen the addition of new curbing, moved walls, and a bit of grass added to previously barren areas. It may not be Barber, but the Belle isle facility is looking better and better each year. Add an additional 4 million dollars of pavement for 2015 and we could be looking at yet another premiere road course facility for indycar to race on. Penske is plowing the way and I expect nothing less than perfection out of a project spear headed by The Captain. Chevy has also resigned a multi-year extension to sponsor the race so it feels like we have a long term partner with Belle Isle.

The Conway Factor – it’s hard not to expect the Destroyer Of Worlds to not play a factor in Saturday and Sundays races. Past event winner, 2014 street race winner and all around bad ass, the quiet Brit has nothing standing in his path to absolutely crushing the weekend. The more I think about Conway, the more I feel that he is not bothered by the big three, and that all the work Derrick Walker did with the team in its formative years is finally paying off. Conway is so cool

Double Header – The double headers in 2013 were hard on teams and drivers to say the least. After three tries and an off-season to work the kinks out, I imagine everybody involved will be much more prepared for what may happen across two days of racing. Although there were no cases of a team being unable to make the Sunday race, there were teams that were thrashing to be ready for race two. Drivers have also had quiet time to really think about the best way to prepare for these weekends. It is very hard to make in season changes to much of anything without upsetting the balance of a team so I wouldn’t be surprised if we seem some operations attack the weekend slightly different with an offseason of preparation.

Title Race – Can RHR ride the momentum of the season and place a crippling blow to the rest of the title contenders? Every single time I bet against RHR, he makes me look like a fool. Instead, I hope a few of the other contenders are able to step their game up. At this point, Mike Conway is just steeling points from the field and is making RHR’s job just that much easier. The competition not only needs to beat Hunter-Reay, but they must also neutralize the Conway Factor. And will all of the talk of the big 3 and who is and isn’t a title contender it’s easy to forget Simon, The Giant Killer, Pagenaud. It’s almost as if his historic GP of Indy win went unnoticed; it was hot news for all of a single evening before the world went oval racing.

Concrete Canyons – The biggest fear I have when entering into a street race weekend is a track blockage. GP2 suffered just such a blockage last weekend and received the ire of the racing world, but it wasn’t unexpected in GP2 because they are a true development series in every sense of the word. Indycar is supposed to be so much more, yet we still suffer from development series issues on track. Having half of the season contested between concrete jersey barriers only adds to the frustration; drivers have nowhere to go as said concrete is pretty unmoving and unforgiving. Getting everyone through a street racing weekend relatively unscathed will be a huge win for the series, and not something I believe even F1 can do on as regular a basis as indycar racing is contested on the streets.


Pole – Helio Castroneves – The Brazilian knows how to get around Detroit, and looks to regain his historic strength at the island circuit.

Race 1 Winner – Simon Pagenaud – The dude just will not miss a beat.

Race 2 Winner – Ryan Hunter-Reay – I have never chosen him as a race winner. As a new believer, it’s time to put my money where my mouth is; we all know he can do it.

Epic Performance – Marco Andretti – The young prince has been showing increased speed this year. Another podium on a street course could go a long way for the who just doesn’t seem to believe in himself.

Biggest Loser – Graham Rahal – Will he be able to overtake Kurt Busch in the points?! Tune in this weekend for two more episodes of “watch Graham continue to squander possibly the most important sponsorship in the paddock” !!!!!!!

All that’s left to do is race this thing! I actually really enjoy the double header weekends, and I don’t really care if the teams and drivers don’t. With how compressed the season it, it’s nice to have a few bonus races thrown in for good measure. Given the huge lead RHR was able to notch, it will be very interesting to see how the dual race weekend can temper the lopsided table we are seeing right now. No matter what kind of silly stuff that may happen this weekend, I feel it is most important that the drivers avoid blocking the track if at all possible. It’s bush league, plain and simple. And frankly, our drivers are better than that.

Eric Hall

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The Weekend Rewind: Are You Happy Edition

How about that for a race?! After a few years of trying, and thanks to a well-timed red flag, we finally saw The 500 finish under green flag conditions. I welcome the use of the red flag instead of arbitrarily adding extra laps. The race pace was blistering fast even with the 150 laps of quasi-fuel save running, and turned into a one-on-one knife fight in the closing laps. 500 of the ages? I’m not so sure, but it was at least one hell of a race. The 3-6 drivers in the lead were reminiscent of a pack of sprinters biding their time until it’s go time. If we only have a handful of ovals on the schedule, then I’m glad we can kick them off at Indy. It’s only fitting.

Lead 3 – Unlike 2012 and 2013 where literally anyone in the top ten could draft to the front and lead a few laps, 2014 presented something totally different. Marco, Helio and RHR were in the top 5 all day long and were able to pull a lead and fight amongst themselves multiple times through the day.

Sure, Ed was playing up there during the first 80% of the race, but he was already out of the game when he met the wall. It was the first time he found himself playing with TBell and Hinch all day long, and that was because he had already lost the plot of the race.

Montoya and Dixon were able to cross the gap from the front of the chasing pack to the tail of the leaders, but they could never make any real progress to the pointy end. Looking back, there was no question of who would be in contention for the win.

Fuel Mileage – The manufacturer fuel mileage seemed to be nullified for the 500. Neither mark had a clear advantage, and it looked like it would eventually come down to driver controlled fuel mileage. One guy had a clear advantage all day. JPM went deeper into the race than any other driver and did so each and every stop until his pit lane speeding penalty. He was able to stay out 1 lap more on the first stop, 3 on the second, 5 on the third and 8 on the fourth when compared to RHR.

Literally unbelievable. He must have learned something about fuel savings during his time in NASCAR because he was clear of the field on every single stop. Although he didn’t show the speed, he could have had it given his economy had he been in the final fight at the end of the race. Pit lane speed limits bite JPM once again…

150 Laps of Green – For 150 laps of green flag racing that included four pitstops, the action was incredibly close. There was never any doubt who had the fast cars at what time in the race, but the field was able to thwart off the spread out field that usually accompanies long green flag oval runs. This was a pristine example of how a bobble in the pits can cost you the race. TK lost his race early on due to sitting in the pits for nearly a lap. However, you could almost still muff a stop and climb through the draft if your car was fast enough. See: Juan Pablo Montoya.

Ryan Hunter-Reay – Ok, I’m on board. RHR has always struck me as the guy who is always there to pounce on another drivers’ missed opportunity, not a guy who makes opportunity himself. What we saw on Sunday was the fastest guy covering the field all day long. He executed veteran moves in the closing laps of the race. Specifically, returning every strategic move that Helio made right back to him, but with more finesse, skill and force. There was no way RHR was not going to win that race, and it was amazing watching two of the most skilled oval drivers fight it out tooth and nail. Marco lost the track with 20 or 30 to go, and Ed was plain robbed. It was always going to come down to the two bright yellow cars, and it was nice to see the stars and stripes in victory lane in Indy.

Kurt Busch – Hard to talk about 2014 without mentioning the double outlaw (a silly marketing name I’ve always thought). Kurt did a great job throughout the entire month of May and definitely turned some haters into supporters with the way he handled himself. Everyone thought it would be the same ol’ KuBu yelling and screaming and cussing, but he held himself with poise, class and welcomed the rookie label. A hard fought sixth place was the reward for all of his travel stress and strain.

I truly think Kurt Busch was in awe for the first time in a long time. Hopefully he speaks well of his time with no fenders. And who knows, maybe this was exactly what he needed to regain his focus in NASCAR. It is good to note that although Busch didn’t fall too far into the field, he also didn’t make any real on-track progress. His sixth place was mainly due to the plethora of high runners crashing out in the last quarter of the race.

So that closes what can only be described as an epic month of racing at Indianapolis. Don’t blame the locals for loving their race, especially after the huge TV numbers the series pulled locally. The fire is back in the city and that always goes a long way for indycar racing as a whole. RHR leaves The Brickyard 40 points ahead of the competition with P2-4 separated by only 42. The championship race is so very close with a single dude shot out of a cannon up front. It will be interesting to see how the double headers and remaining Triple Crown races play out. Detroit in 2 days… wow

Eric Hall

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Unfiltered Race Notes: 98th Indy 500

Welcome back! I know there was no action on here leading up to the 500, but that is the busiest time of the year for me with friends and family coming into town and the coordination of the annual Coke Lot Extravaganza. There should be a full review of the weekend in the coming days.


yea right. All the local stations come on at roughly 5 am with continuous pre-race coverage.

DVR started ABC broadcast at noon so I get about 15 minutes of pomp before the green.

I did get the old/new footage montage thing; thats how you do it.

lets do this.


Beautiful formation through 3 and 4 to take the green.

Smoke in the back, goodyear/ cheever (cheyear) already irritating me. This is gonna be a long 3 hours. Thank goodness for Bestwick.


Briscoe in. Put himself in a terrible position on exit if 2, I guess thats what happens when you qualify so far back in the pack. Painfully underperforming in awesome equipment will now be know as rahal-ing


We haven’t seen the leader not wanting to lead. The aero package looks like it is racing better than in previous years. Hinch has been able to pull a slight lead.


-back from commercial

Ed up front. he was catching hinch, I wonder if he can pull away even if slightly.

Than Pennzoil car looks damn good.

Drivers braking into T1. slow playing the race. I don’t really blame them.

Little reports that Hinch gave the lead up due to fuel mileage. I can understand that, but it still has a different look than in 2012 and 2013.


-2nd KuBu update of the race.

Montoya says first half of 500 is all about learning. I dont think it will take him that long, but good strategy.

JR to 5th… Something tells me he will be a yearly addition to ECR for the 500 if they cant sign him outright.

Flowers in the SAFER barriers flanking the camera positions. Beautiful touch, and a great example of IMS keeping it classy.


-back from commercial

average speed >217

Ed dropping to 213 mid corner while flat footing. need to lose the fuel knob, but an interesting way to control the pace.

cheyear calling tear-offs visor strips… really?!


Ed in 1 lap sooner than Hinch, but led longer and different engine manufacturers. last Chevys in 2 laps later, but running deeper in the field, last Hondas in 1 lap after. manufacturer fuel mileage may not be a factor today.


-back from commercial

Power around Hinch. It really looks like the drivers aren’t avoiding the lead.

I can’t tell if Karam’s car is yellow or green… so so bright. Love it. Nice outside pass.

Rahal having problems… shocking. Can I drive the National Guard car? I’ll even change my name.


JR into P3. slowly but surely. ECR P2/3

Helio and Marco just kind of lingering in P5/6. Managing the race for sure.

Rahal probably out.

HC warned for blocking. onboard from HC looks pretty tame. Could have been peaking under Hinch, could have gone either way.

Top 6 starting to slightly gap the field.

Helio is kind of a bully. he really gave JR a hard time for a 1/4 of the way in.


-back from commercial

Rahal circulating the warm-up lanes

TK plays pinball with the wall and TK. I saw this from the stands. NUTS, and I’m positive this is the second example of this already today. I don’t think TV caught the 1st.

JPM under TBell in the north chute. THAT is a power move.

Marco takes the Munoz line to take Ed


Helio is moving. Looks like he is practicing the end of race rush before his 2nd stop.

Caution free

cool onboard close up of Marco’s wheel. very cool.


Marco added wing during 1st stop. Hope he’s still quick enough when the race speed picks up later,

JPM driving around people on old tires.

TK with a 43.4 second stop. Hes done


-back from commercial

Ganassi stripped the started on TK’s car. ammeter hour

First time we see Pippa is because she is struggling…


Ed around Marco.

Continuing my lack of faith in Power, I say it will be a three way battle between Andretti, Ed and Helio

RHR running a quiet race. made it into the top five without being mentioned.


-back from commercial

RHR with a vibration. Still latched onto the top 4. Dixon is back there but seems unable to suck up to the fast four.

Power P6, leading the chase pack. They don’t have the speed either. if the vibration for RHR goes away, it will be a 4 horse race. Top 4 has pulled away from the chase pack.


caution free. average speed 213. we didn’t keep records of yellow flags until 1976?

3rd round of stops. if we stay green, the guys may be able to race all out at the end. will be close to a fuel save race.

Montoya going very far on fuel. This could be his race if he can get in-sync with the leaders.


-back from commercial

JPM to 4th but the lead 3 have pulled way. It’s becoming clear who has the fastest cars of the race. HC, MA, RHR.

as quick as I say that, Ed has closed the gap and latched onto the rear of Marco.

I need to be the announcer. cheyear repeats what I say a lap after I write it. BS.

HC is strong

catching Plowman

Heat and Pacers in race ad… get outta here and give me my racing back please.

Marco under plowman into 2. ballsy

Commercial break at lap 110. 6 laps of green with an in race ad. again, BS.


-back from commercial

HC and RHR are getting kind of racey. they need to keep stretching the lead.

Plowman balks Power who gets freight trained by dixon and JR.

Ed in early?

cheyear says yes.

leaders catching lapped traffic.


caution free

top 4 nearly an entire straight ahead of field. Much better aero package than the previous years.

First time through the field?

haven’t seen KuBu spotlighted recently.

check that, top 3. Ed is a lap down but running with the top 3.

We see the blistered tire from Ed’s car, he’s very lucky he didn’t have a failure.


Lazier out. Why?

4th set of green flag stops

bobble in the pits for HC. 3 turns of rear wing. need to ask how the adjusting works on that.

Newgarden ran it out of fuel coming into the pits and now having trouble refire-ing

TK’s car with the red endplates and bumpers looks better than the all silver of Dixon.

Ok, lets see what JPM does here.


-back from commercial

JPM really fighting with his tear offs.

Wow, Power wasn’t even close to hitting the speed limit.

JPM in with a pit speed violation as well. ouch. lets see how each recovers. served 2 laps apart.


-back form commercial

YES, I love the in-crowd shots. especially when they are deep inside the covered grand stands.

same guys up front. I bet a yellow cars wins.

Dixon is still leading the chase pack. He just doesn’t seem to have the speed to catch, but he is noticeably faster than the remaining drivers.

LAP (no hat)

-back from commercial

Kimball into the wall. seriously? Please CK, find a shred of consistency so I don’t have to complain about you every other week.

Still no indication of lap

Dixon sounds a bit lost on setup today. put DF in during first few stops, contemplating taking DF out to stay fast. He’s searching.

Power and JPM back in it with this caution.

First real sweeping shots of the grounds and grandstands. The crowd looks fantastic. just a handful of empty seats here and there. Mounds and GA areas look like standing room only.


-back from commercial

long yellow as expected. sweepers in the corners.



RHR drives around Ed.

front group already starting to gap the chasers

The speed is up

Ed and RHR fighting out front. very well matched cars. Ed did not come in on the last yellow so he is slightly off strategy.

Helio has dropped back. Montoya up to 11

Booth giving due props to KuBu. Running in top 10 on merit. great day for him no matter how it ends.


RHR has a stronger car than Ed.


-back from commercial

Dixon got bit by his indecision. Backed it into the wall. caution.

Newgarden out. ran over someone slowing for the Dixon crash.

Very interesting top ten.

Mike Hull commenting on the Dixon crash, says any of the top 4 could have lost it as well. They clearly had better preforming cars than Dixon did. I feel like he was probably just pushing too hard. Ganassi continues to be lost at the 500 with the DW12


-back from commercial

last american winner: Hornish 2006


-back from commercial

Bell in the top 5. watchout

Bell into Ed who takes himself and Hinch out. Ed PISSED at Hinch. looks like Ed is the innocent party. 50% on Tbell, 50% on Hinch

Re: Bell shouldn’t have come down, Hinch shouldn’t have gone 3 wide.


-Back from commercial

Bell is just being a bully. There’s still 20 to go dude.

Helio gives it right back to Bell. I can respect that form HC

Munoz takes bell around the outside. wow

Montoya on the lead pack P6

fist pump from Mr. Penske. Excellent.


It. Is. On.

RHR exiting 4 under the pit lane entrance. We are rocking and rolling now boys and girls.

lead 3, chase 3, pack. Again, clear who has the speed.

Marco can catch HC and RHR but just can’t stay with them. not your year young andretti.



Bell into the wall. Karma? wrecked after indycar called for debris yellow.

Looks like the debris is on exit of 2. not a contributing factor.

Red Flag.

Can hear the cheering from the grandstands.

I’m good with this decision.

Of course the debris is from Saavedera.

cheyear trying to say something broke. Possibly, but he was probably pushing too hard.


Interviews, fly over shots, artsy driver shots… lets get on with it. DVR skip engaged.

no pit work allowed


Mario is a cool cat. “take the lead as soon as possible”

Marco couldnt do what Munoz did just a few laps earlier

Defense. HC to the front

Split screen with the WAGS.

Not your year Marco

Helio is driving RHR to the wall. excellent defense, but i think RHR is playing with HC.

As soon as I say that RHR to the front.


Marco lifting. Not enough wing

POWER move by HC. around the outside.

strategic lift by RHR


RHR ahead well ahead of T1 turn in

HC not close enough into 3


RHR for the win.

2nd closest finish ever.

amazing race. Helio is crushed and doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry; what a guy. Mini-RHR is too cute. DVR quits during Michael Andretti Interview.

Check back tomorrow for more Indy 500 goodness. After ten days of hibernation, we are about to kick it into high gear for the summer stretch of the season.

Eric Hall


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Unfiltered Race Notes: Grand Prix of Indianapolis 2014

Welcome back to the Unfiltered race notes! I was on the ground at IMS this weekend, but didn’t really have a good grasp of what had gone on during the race. Honestly, it surprised me how exciting the end of the race actually was. I read the complaints about the fuel run, and I had a few of my own, but all in all it was a pretty dang cool race. Enjoy!


Local ABC had a 2 and a half hour pre-race show before national broadcast. The Indianapolis Children’s Choir who sang the national anthem had to sign a contract saying they would sing the song as intended.

I fall asleep for the remaining 2 hours and 15 minutes…


gorgeous facility…

Good intro by ABC, feature-ettes are always on point from them.

Need more in-car footage of wet practice. RHR was working it.

Happy birthday HC; cool day for him.

Kanaan notes the tires. This surface is so different than anything else indycar sees all year. I wonder if the mix is tuned for motogp, there doesn’t seem to be the same “abrasive surface” comments as the new surface at barber.

The RHR practice crash was the loudest impact I have ever heard at the track. Speedway crashes into the SAFER barrier sound more like a thump, this was a crunch screech; start crash was more of a cracking plastic, exploding panel sound. was about the same distance from both.

…sigh… cheever and goodyear. I’m watching this replay slightly late at night… I hope they don’t crush my soul.

epic season review. Not happy they kept the goodyear blaming power for the SP crash in the cut. lol Aleshin clearly tried to roll back into bourdais at barber.

MHG is a cool link to the past, but not the most enthused command giver.

Cars look unbelievably trimmed on the grid walk; should make for some exciting braking.

The CG track layout review thing is odd. Aren’t we beyond this kind of cheese? it’s 2014…

What?!? they don’t include the 8 foot elevation change in the track fact box? Come on ABC!! (I kid, I kid)

Telling comments about the standing start. I was in attendance, but I really only know about the start, Montoya’s stall and penalty, the Hinch Incident, Andretti’s cracked chassis and the Plowman crash.


Ok… maybe the 20 screaming engines kind of muted the sound of the start crash. That was pretty violent.

Saavedera is 2 for 2 and I refuse to listen to his excuses.

Plowman was lucky to not be taken out by Munoz; good heads up driving.

Announcers are over simplifying the standing start procedure, but I have to wonder where anti-stall is at over two years after the debut of the new engines.

Great move by Kimball as well. Too bad the guys short on skill hide others true talent.

Montoya’s back… excellent.

Props to Dallara for sure.

Announcers yelling at Saavedera for having his arms up. I thought these guys were in the drivers meeting. SS did exactly as told. second bold but incorrect statement that didn’t need to be said.

I love you Eddie, but you are a complete wet blanket.

I *think* Munoz said he was already in 5th gear… that’s bad fast, I bet Aleshin was going even faster.

The grandstands and viewing mounds look full exactly where they need to. IMS should have opened a lower outside section adjacent to the standing start to GA.

Sounds like guys are saving from the start. may need to add 5-10 laps next year if 7 cautions laps is enough to push it into a two stop fuel conservation race.

restart looked awesome.

WOW marco bunny hopped that chicane. Impressive indeed.

Mr director is already frustrating me.

The hat tells me Hawksworth took the lead on lap 1… I don’t think thats right.

Hawk looks trimmed, as does dixon and RHR. Pags may have the most rear wing out of all the front runners. Penske guys might as well be running a speedway wing.

Booth guys say they haven’t seen this much bumping and shoving at the start of an indycar race… ever. Clearly haven’t been watching this year.

14… finally

Montoya to P9 from dead last. cue the jaws theme.

snake pit section grass looks like it could use a drink.

Hawksworth’s car looks great.

Marco falling back and the car sounds like it’s going to hell. long day ahead.

oh man, I really like the entire white underwing of the HC paint job.

Booth fills us in on tire rules and strategy. good info; props earned.

Looooong pit lane

Bestwick makes a good point that with wet qualies, the race is really the first time teams and drivers have had the chance to run on the reds. managing their usage could be key to finishing well.

Booth justifying fuel races. boo.


RHR doing a great job surviving until his window opens up. I dont really feel like I know whats going on farther back than about P5… I wonder why.

Side by side is kind of silly. I always feel guilty skipping but, you know we’ll get filled in if anything actually interesting happens. Maybe…

The 7/8/9 viewing mounds look packed. I was honestly surprised at how full they were when I was in the house.

Green flag stops


Here comes Pagenaud… he’s been fast all weekend. I doubt Hawksworths can hold him off. Bestwick saves the booth again by remembering JH’s pitstop was slow. Bestwick is starting to grow on me, but it may be just because he’s simply competent.


Briscoe penalized for hitting a hose

Booth mentions that the track is rubbering in. It really does look like its taking the rubber nice. Seems like the tires and track surface really like each other.

save fuel save fuel save fuel… it’s still so early in the dang race…

I don’t really think that Pags is actively chasing down JH.

Hinch flapping his arms at Helio. HC clearly had the corner, Hinch shouldn’t be surprised when hard racing is repaid with even harder racing.


Charlie Kimball is the highest mover. I feel like we’ve already said that this year. Probably needs to step his qualy performances up.

The laps really click off when you’re lapping in 70 seconds.

Booth giving BHA well deserved props. Need to see one or two more strong races this year to really solidify themselves.

41. Halfway.

2011 500… Yes.

Big mistake from Dixon. That is a tough corner to pull a pass off. Booth says it looks clean; I don’t necessarily disagree, but it looks more like a racing incident. So uncharacteristic from Dixon.

Montoya with a broken car, but they fixed it in a lap? interesting. I wonder what was going on.


Divergent strategies. Power hits a hose. Again I ask why they do the whole throw the gun thing in indycar. why in the world cant we use hose gantries. wouldn’t be too $$$ to implement.

Little bit of bump and run on the restart. not too bad. The field looks so good heading through 5/6.

FCY 35 to go

Plowey gets loose under braking and just crushed Franck. That was crazy, FM is very lucky.

Hinch unhappy about something. the HCN move maybe? Is hinch usually this butthurt during the races?

Booth mentions power penalty. Looks like the plenum was sheered off of FM’s car. No wonder he was told to shut it off so quickly.

Man, that restart was a bit too slow. I like the idea, but the flagger needs to have control of the field. GR fingers JPM for the punt. I think it was more of a reaction to the extra slow restart. GR also says JPM shouldn’t be playing with the leaders when hes a lap down… Graham, you aren’t really a leader dude.

Lots of debris, is the DW12 too frangible?

And with a little more speed, that restart looked absolutely picture perfect. Thats how you do it.

26 to go.

Hinch sounds dazed.

Multiple strategies. I’m not really sure how this is all going to play out

20 to go.

Ah, Servia around Pags. He’s just got to be lapping too fast. SImon stated later that he had to hit an obscene fuel number.

Could servia have been short filled?

Good stop for HC, at least we will see a few guys pushing to the end.

Aleshin and Bourdais in the same shot, because of course they are.

11 to go

servia out front with a 1.2 second lead. SP on reds as well. He must be pushing. Obviously not the winning strategy.

9 to go

7.5 second lead.

Servia pulling over a half a second a lap. Pretty clear what is about to happen. Pags and RHR are good to go. Huge props to Servia and Rahal for pushing to the bitter end. totally respectable.

Servia in with 4 to go… Aaaaand he nearly stalls it. insult to injury.

Come on HC, chase these guys down.

2 to go.

surprised HCN can’t get to RHR.


Alright, for a fuel race that was pretty dang good. Looks like they opened up the grandstands behind the flagstand at some point during the race.

Pags is very excited about the win. good to see so much passion in the cockpit. And he even made it back to the winners circle.

DVR stops midway through the Schmidt Interview.

Wish the teams and drivers could have pushed hard until the end, but still an entertaining race if not for the questionable booth.

Eric Hall

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On The Grounds: Grand Prix of Indianapolis Edition

Saturday was the day that changed it all for one mid-twenties place fan. I had convinced my younger brother to attend the inaugural GP of Indianapolis with me and I was determined to show him the intricate nuances of road racing and hopefully making a more well-rounded racing fan out of him.

We arrived around 2pm, (yea yea yea, I don’t want to hear anything about missing the development series races. I had already seen them run and I didn’t want to push my brothers patience with a long, possibly boring for him, day at the track) and made our way into a pretty close spot in Lot 7. This would be our biggest rookie mistake of the afternoon, but more on that later.

We purchased walk-up GA tickets, because why would we buy GA tickets early? The ticket ladies had no idea where any GA seating was aside from the viewing mounds, and they got very snippy when asked if there were any grandstands open to GA ticket holders. Luckily I had seen on twitter a few minutes later that the Tower Terrace stands were open to view the standing start in.

The Indy Lights race was a handful of laps in so we dutifully made our way to the chicane fence and walked the entire length of Hulman Boulevard and  well into the 7/8/9 complex.

Tire smoke, wiggling cars, lost traction, exhaust pipes belching fire… he was immediately hooked on the sights and sounds of road racing. He is a diehard Indy 500 fan of about the last 6 years, but had never been much of an IndyCar fan or really a racing fan. 15 minutes was all it took to open his eyes, but I digress.

After taking in the last half of the race, we made our way into the Pagoda Plaza. My brother wanted a koozie, some type of Verizon gear (he was hoping for a 2014 TK jersey as he felt a little dated rocking his TK Sunoco jersey) and a bite to eat. We parted ways and I headed for the pre-race grid walk open to all bronze badge holders.

I got in line about 50 yards from the victory circle gate and the line finally started moving about 5 minutes after the posted start of the walk. I made it into pit lane and made a b-line for the trench walk over. I was quickly stopped by three yellow shirts and two state troopers and told “you need more than just a bronze badge, the rules changed in the last hour”.

Hmm… I was not a happy camper to say the least. Sure, I blog… Sure, I run an indycar twitter account… But I am just a lowly regular ‘ol fan that likes to write about indycar. No press credentials, no special treatment, no free perks; I pay my way for every indycar event I wish to experience. That grid walk was very important to me.

The calm on the grid is magical. I have stood on the Indy 500 grid twice, as well as the Mid-Ohio grid. It’s an experience that I cannot miss if I have the chance to participate. Dejected and deflated I polled a few other whipped fans I saw. I met a group of four out of town Indy 500 fans. They’ve been going for 15 years, but had never had the chance to stand on the grid. They purchased bronze badges specifically for this grid walk. “It may not be The 500, but it’s still indycars on the yard of bricks” they quipped before agreeing that they would “never spend 125 bucks to be taken by IMS again”.

Pointed words for sure, I wonder if they renew their 500 tickets?

The bronze badge has increased in price this year by 25 bucks from 2013, and they have also taken away preferred parking for holders. Not having close infield parking when no one is in attendance at a practice day will really decrease the chances of me heading out for an hour after work when I’d spend the hour just getting to the garages. I know this isn’t connected to the GPofI specifically, but this fits in well with the ‘overpriced and underserved’ feeling I’m getting from my 2014 bronze badge.

Anyway, I met my brother in said Tower Terrace seats, but he didn’t have a koozie or a new shirt! He said the merchandise shops sucked and he didn’t want to throw his money away on something he wasn’t sold on. Fair enough. He did get some chicken fingers from the new café thing and likened them to restaurant style chicken. High praise indeed from this kid; IMS gets a huge atta boy from him on the new grub.

We all know what happened once the green fell, and of course my brother was worried about the bystanders, but he described what he saw as “spectacular”. That’s a word that goes exceedingly well with indycar. I asked “what if the crash didn’t happen?” he responded: “still spectacular, we saw the MotoGP standing start and that was awesome, but these are indycar at Indy”. I don’t know If I could have said it any better myself.

Once the race got underway, we circulated the inside of the track, first stopping at the T1 mound and took in the view. “spectacular” he muttered again; I simply could not disagree. The speed, the sounds… it was almost overwhelming.

The Chicane mound was next and this is where he really liked the view. He could see the cars squirming under the downforce while still being caught by the sticky tires. Honestly, he was more than content here, but we moved down into the 7/8/9 mounds and met the real race fans in attendance. Laughs, high fives, hell yesses and oh no’s were shared among good friends, and the real aura of road racing appeared to him. He understood the difference of sitting in the grandstands for The 500 and hanging out in the grass for road racing.

“Are you in for Mid-Ohio?” I asked. “Hell Yes!” he responded. This oval fan even went as far as saying he think he likes road racing more than oval racing and told me to keep him abreast of the broadcast schedule so he could catch a few more races. Well my goodness, Grand Prix of Indianapolis, it looks like you did your job for one ‘place’ fan. And that was really the whole point, to expose oval fans to the awesomeness of road racing. I know his fandom isn’t as important to the arm chair reporters because he lives in Indianapolis, but indycar still made a new fan. I call that a huge win.

We made our way back to our car in the North 40 and proceeded to watch yellow shirts physically block the exit so infield parking could clear out. We sat for nearly 90 minutes, about half an hour more than I have ever waited to exit the Coke Lot after The 500. There were angry drivers, drunken fights and a real volatile feeling in the lot without a cop or yellow shirt to be seen… except to block the exit gates remember.

It was my fault for parking in the North 40 and a total rookie move. I should have parked in Lot 1B, where I have never had an issue leaving after a race whether it is NASCAR, Sports Cars, F1 or MotoGP. But waiting 90 minutes to exit a race that had at most 30k people? Totally unacceptable. Mid-Ohio and Milwaukee welcome more people each year, and I have never waited more than 30 minutes to leave either facility.

The GPoI was definitely a tale of two experiences. The casual fan had a blast, and the diehard was frustrated. The actual race experience was amazing, but the IMS experience was infuriating.

I did run into the always awesome Mr. Douglas J. Boles on Sunday and had an excellent chat with him. He commiserated with the bronze badge holder complaints. He said “You are our core fans at this facility and we do not want to underserve you guys. We know we had a bad day and we will try to make it up to you guys.” He also said the State Police called and apologized for the traffic snafu. Nice, but I’ll believe it when we go again next year.

My brother had a rockin’ day, and I had a frustrating day. It happens to everyone, but it wont keep me away from indycar or IMS.

Eric Hall

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Into The Crystal Ball… Turning Right at IMS edition

crystal ballWelcome to Indianapolis, where we seem to be headed down the front straight the entirely wrong direction! The “greatest race course in the world” (read oval… you haven’t earned any claim to fame with the road course yet Mr. IMS…) awoke a few days early this month and welcomed The machines that made this track famous for a weekend of road racing on the newly configured infield road course. Obviously, being the inaugural race, any kind of true preview is tough other than “watch out for the big guys” so I’ll share a few things I have learned while walking the track for two days.

Five Things to Watch

Oval Transition – While exiting turn 11, the drivers will have a slight transition onto the banking for the quick blast down the south short-chute. During testing, it was quite clear how soft or hard sprung the cars were. All three Penske machines had nearly no give and were almost skipping back onto the banking as opposed to the softer sprung cars that made the transition much smoother. In the heat of battle, this transition could cause the stiffer sprung cars to become slightly unsettled if they are forced away from the normal driving line.

Downforce – The largest unknown of the weekend will be how much wing is the right amount to produce both speed, and grip in the corner. With 750 horses on tap, the balance between grip and speed will be key. How easy will it be to pass an out of shape car in the twisty bits, because you know they will pull away as soon as both cars hit the straights. The reports out of the garages seem to point to… nothing. No one has the right answer yet. However, remember back to testing. The cars had much more downforce cranked into them that the first practice day and guys were breaking into the 1:09’s and breaking 190 miles per hour on the straights. Maybe high downforce is the correct answer.

Mechanical Grip – One of the plusses of racing on a repurposed F1 track is the quality of the racing surface. The roadbed is expertly prepared and the entire infield received a fresh coating of high-end racing asphalt. The track is also wide, and flat; perfect for carving quick racing lines around the facility. With so much grip, one would think peeling off as much downforce as possible would make for a great idea, but on such a grippy surface without the wings to help the tires will slide. This undoubtedly shortens the tire stint and could possibly force another pitstop. The balance of aero and tire grip will be more important here than at just about any other road course the series visits.

The Chicane – Already this morning, Ryan Briscoe had an off track excursion. This was probably cause from bounding over the wet curbing and landing just a little wonky, but into the tires he went. A fast lap and possibly the race will be determined through this chicane and the speed the drivers can carry through the straight and into turn 7. Get it right, and you wont have to crack the throttle even a hair to make it through. Get it wrong, and you lose time hand over fist down the same straight as drivers watch their competitors easily pull away from them. And any kind of side by side shenanigans through there will almost guarantee some kind of contract.

Top Speed – With so many downforce option available, and teams working through an insane amount of permutations, we should see some variable top speeds. Drivers have crested 195 already, and for an indycar on a road course, that a pretty big deal. The cars are just not as slippery or aerodynamically efficient as their european counterparts, so catching this type of top speed is impressive. My main complaint about indycar road racing is that most cars aero-stall at about the same speed. And that speed can be low, anywhere from 165-175 at most facilities. I love speed, so seeing the drivers bomb into turn one that fast is very exciting. And it could present some separation as drivers reach different speeds at different places. This could cause more than some action and confusion into the braking zones.


Pole – Simon Pagenaud – AKA, the giant killer. He’s close to the top of the time sheets in the wet and the dry. Seems like him and Schmidt have it figured out.

Winner – Juan Pablo Montoya – He’s been quiet this weekend, but this is exactly the type of track he could claim is first victory on… and start his steamroll over the competition.

Epic Performance – Martin Plowman – The guy finally gets a shake at an IndyCar, and with Mr. Foyt no less. Simply surviving the Foyt garage should be an accomplishment in of itself.

Biggest Loser – Anyone not watching – Of course someone has to finish last, or crash, or start the downward slide away from a championship hopeful, but by all accounts this event is going to be a hit in every possible way.

So thats it, Make sure you check out my youtube videos from the first few days of practice. The 98th running of the Indy 500 is up next, but first drivers will have to tackle IMS headed down the front straight the wrong way. i think the word of the weekend will be “unknown” and nothing will start to make sense until after the final fuel and tire stop of the race. Of course the fast guys will be fast, but this is exactly the kind of event that could throw a totally random finishing order into the mix. Please, enjoy the Grand Prix of Indianapolis for what it is: another event on an ever growing schedule. Sure, we’re at The Speedway, but just live every other race, this one will still have to prove itself to the fans, teams and management.

Eric Hall

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The Weekend Rewind – Rain Rain Go Away Edition

The lush green hillsides of Alabama were made even greener as torrential rains fell on the facility for most of the weekend. We had a time shortened race, some pretty sweet driving and a few guys who just couldn’t keep it between the white lines. The race was very unpredictable into the final pit stops, and we also got to witness Will Power overcook a corner and hand  a P1 finish to Ryan Hunter-Reay; aka, the IndyCar unicorn. It does exist! This weekend was an excellent example of how different the races in IndyCar can be. From the ham fisted slop show in Long Beach to the clinic in wet weather racing in Barber, what a difference two weeks made.

Qualifying Broadcast – In a word, I was salty on Saturday night/ Sunday morning. The tape delayed qualifying broadcast was scheduled to go down at 12:30 AM Sunday morning. From what I can gather, that time was already pushed back from midnight a few days earlier, but thanks to the modern glories of DVR’s, I was not worried. However, late Saturday night, word came that the broadcast would be further delayed until 1 AM Sunday morning.

It’s already unacceptable that qualifying was tape-delayed by nearly eight hours, but I can understand the intricacies of playoff futball… is it the play offs? I have no idea how that sport works, but I digress. No harm no foul for right now. It is nice to remember though, that airing qualies after midnight forces most people to consume that programming via time shifted viewing, and not giving fans time to react to the change is unforgivable.

I was lucky, and preempted the preempt by adding an extra hour to my scheduled recording, because I have missed the end of enough races to know better. More than a few people weren’t as lucky.  They awoke on Sunday morning totally excited to watch qualifying, and upon firing up the recording they were welcomed with 30 minutes of overtime futball and the first 30 minutes of qualifying. The last half of qualies lost to the pushed-back ether.

What if a new fan was actually interested in qualifying and recorded the show on a whim, what are the odds that they won’t care enough to record again. Tough to make new fans, and keep old fans happy when half of your weekend programing is not broadcast or recorded correctly after you force most of your audience to DVR.

Rain Delay – I completely understand why the series delayed the green flag. There were literal ponds and rivers all over the track. And at best, IndyCar has drizzle tires available to them… still waiting on those promised updated wets Firestone, still waiting. The race was green flagged maybe 15 minutes after the track was actually ready for racing. Not and awful delay, and understandable considering this would be the first time the DW12 would see rain in race conditions.

Due to the delay and the hard window because of upcoming hockey on NBCSN, the race was changed into a timed event of one hour and 40 minutes. As the race played out, the broadcast ran well over time; nearly five minutes into the hard window. NBCSN did an excellent job looking out for their properties, and thank you for getting this one right.

It’s not all rainbows and kittens on the race directing side though. We sat through a 30 minute post race, why in the world did we not run to the historic two hour time window? If it’s still too treacherous for racing, start the clock and send the field behind the pace car. The track would have been more dry well before the delayed start time had we circulated for those 15 questionable minutes spent waiting for the green.

To add insult to injury, this timed race which was already shortened, but had more than enough time to run for two hours, finished under yellow due to a big impact by Mikhail Aleshin into the Armco barriers. Teams planned for a 100 minute race when doing fuel strategy so extending the race a la NASCAR green-white-checkers is not an option. However, the league has already proved it isn’t scared to throw the red in the waning moments of a race; stop the clock, fix the track and let us see the guys at least attempt a run to the checkers. We obviously had the TV time, so the only limiting factor was the race clock ticking precious seconds away. Plus, had we run to the traditional two hour timed window, this wouldn’t even be a discussion point.

The Actual Race – Wet racing is always a blast, and Sunday was no exception. The time spent on wets, and the first stint with reds strapped on was electric. Cars were sliding, drivers were fighting the elements and each other and the wet line was obviously faster. It has been a few years since we have seen IndyCars race in the rain, and it is often easy to forget how skilled these drivers are. We have noticeably less downforce than Formula 1 and a super torque-y engine capable of producing nearly 750 horses. These machines are no treat in the rain.

After the final round of stops, most of the field had settled in and were making the final sprint to the finish. Admittedly, the drivers were pretty lock-step for the rest of the afternoon, but the drying track was still testing the drivers. Fast lap after fast lap was being set as drivers searched for grip and found enhanced speed corner after corner. It was in this phase of the race that drivers earned their money. Go off line by an inch and all your adhesion is gone; welcome to the guard rail. The last third of the race was definitely a clinic in shaving the gap and managing wing angles. It may not be your cup of tea, but it’s refreshing to know these guys can really attack violently shifting conditions successfully.

Three races in and Will Power looks like he could run away with the championship, but at least we were reminded that he is human and can make mistakes just like anyone else. We know Power will lose some consistency as the season wears on; while other drivers  not catching fire until the second half of the season. This is always an interesting time in the championship as the contenders really start to present themselves. With the inaugural GP of Indianapolis on the horizon, there is only one more chance to bag precious championship points before the summer grind starts in full strength. And yes, it’s almost May.

Eric Hall

PS. Did you know I had a YouTube channel as well? I was out for the very last few minutes of Rookie Orientation Practice and captured some short clips of Jacques Villeneuve and Kurt Busch turning laps. Video is here. More on the ground clips will be added as the season pushes on.

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