Sunday, May 17, 2009

J. Andretti & Hunter-Reay bump in and Tagliani is out of the Indy 500 field in final moments.

Let me state the obvious, the Indianapolis 500 in my eyes is not only one of the biggest races all season long in Motorsports, but the biggest. When it comes to the month of May, I always look forward to seeing who will be in the Indianapolis 500 and of course watching a damn good race. Of course, on that same Sunday, I am watching the Monaco Grand Prix in the earlier morning hours and after the 500, its NASCAR turn for the Coca-Cola 600.

But this time it’s the “Month of May” at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and its one week before the 500, so that means to race, you must first qualify and since this is not NASCAR with its top 35 being locked in, any driver whether you are a past IRL champion, Indy 500 winner or race winner, you must qualify your way in to the Indy 500 field on speed.

For the 2009 Indianapolis 500, there is four days of qualifying, first last Saturday or what is commonly referred to as “Pole Day”. Pole Day sets only the first 11 spots on the grid and showcases the battle between the big teams from Penske Racing and Ganassi Racing to Andretti-Green Racing all trying to get into the field. Each driver gets three attempts per day and in some ways, they used at least two of them.

I never understand the four laps equal’s an average speed nor the three attempts, but by the end of the day, it was a Penske Racing 1-2 start with Helio Castroneves on the pole, his teammate Ryan Briscoe in the middle and the return of Dario Franchitti from NASCAR for Ganassi Racing. A few surprises had to be Mario Moraes in 7th, Will Power in 9th and Alex Lloyd getting in right in the last spot.

Day 2 of qualifying locked in positions 12-22 with Paul Tracy finally getting in. Here is a guy that even I have been waiting to see if he was going to race at in the IndyCar Series at all this season and yet he used two attempts to get in. Paul was originally safe, however wanted to improve his position, so he had to withdraw his time and requalify and ended up in the 13th spot, of course nice to see Sarah Fisher in as well as Davey Hamilton in the final spot. Day 3 is one thing, but day 4 “bump day” and on bump day you are never safely in the field until the gun sounds at 6pm EST.

Bump day to me is interesting, however from what I saw was a complete nightmare to watch in the final hour. I never understand why some drivers and teams wait until the final hour on bump day to post at least one time, let alone defend their position. While watching the nightmare on pit stop is joke, watching the qualifying laps on the racetrack at the end is exciting. You always have that one or two drivers that are out and are threshing trying to get through tech and on to the qualifying line to go out.

I kept watching John Andretti struggle to find speed, at one point I’m thinking he is complaining that he can’t get turn 1 right, I’ll never get in, of course I think Tony Stewart’s advice to try another line into the corners and him holding his breath not only got him in, but put him 28th on the grid.

But you know it isn’t bump day without the last second drama of who’s in and who’s out and that last run was priceless. Once John Andretti got in, that put Alex Tagliani on the bubble and with only room for one more qualifier, it was Ryan Hunter-Reay’s last shot to get into the field. I have to give it Ryan Hunter-Reay, he gave it all he had and it wasn’t until that last second on the last lap that Ryan Hunter-Reay averages 220.597 mph bumping his way in and Alex Tagliani is out of the Indy 500.

It is what it is and for Alex Tagliani, he just didn’t have to speed is out.

Picks for the Indy 500, I have to give it to Helio Castroneves and Dario Franchitti with Will Power as a dark horse, so basically its Penske Racing vs. Ganassi Racing for the victory.

That’s what it’s all about, but I think the “Month of May” qualifying process is a nightmare and I would hate to go through that. The IndyCar Series needs to retool this process for 2010, the display I say on television was a result of this process and thrown out, it’s a waste of money period.