|Dario Franchitti Leading the Pack at 2012 Indy 500 Race|
My brother and I grew up watching the Indy 500 on TV back in the days when the popular names were Parnelli Jones (won it in 1963), AJ Foyt, Jim Clark, and Dan Gurney. Things have changed quite a bit since then. Parnelli Jones was the first race car driver to break the 150mph limit in qualifying, today the qualifying leaders are just shy of 230 mph. This year it was Ryan Briscoe at 226.484mph.
|Irma & Ricardo|
My wife, Irma, and I flew from McAllen, Texas to Indianapolis, Indiana on a Friday afternoon so that we have plenty of time before Sunday's race. We stayed with my son's father in-law, Marvin, in Carmel, a bedroom community to Indianapolis with some great history and plenty of green spaces. Marvin and his wife live in a great area with a small lake behind their backyard. The race starts at 12 noon on Sunday leaving Memorial Day (Monday) for a possible makeup day if there's a rain delay on Sunday. We made our way to the track by leaving Carmel at 9:15am. Marvin had given us directions to the raceway via the back roads which would get us close to the track without having to deal with the long traffic lines, just imagine 300,000 people all headed to the same place at the same time!
We parked on a side street just across the massive parking areas reserved for the race which left us with about a half mile's walk to the track. To give you an idea of how big the track area is, the loop is approximately 2.5 miles and fits 10 Rose Bowls within the track. Fortunately our gate was the closest to us as we walked up to the the stadium. We were inside before 11am, but too close to the pre-race ceremonies to try and get inside the race track. Within the oval there's a museum, the race car paddock, and lots of other stuff going on, but it's a good walk since things can be over a mile away from you.
|My son Geraldo & his wife Ali |
The pre-race ceremonies had past champions parade by as well as antique race cars, a parade honoring our veterans, and a special ceremony honoring Dan Wheldon the 2005 and 2011 Indy winner who died last year in a racing accident. They passed out white sunglasses to everyone as we wore them on the ceremonial lap as well as on laps 26 and 98, his car numbers when he won the Indy 500.
This year's race was the hottest on record. Without a cloud in the sky the temperatures quickly shot into the 90's and the track temperature was at 120 or 130 degrees. There was another major difference as well, the race cars changed dramatically from last year. Before this year the Indy cars were V8s, now they're turbo-charged V6s so racing dynamics changed. Turbo lag caused cars to drop off if they released the accelerator at the wrong time making it tougher to makeup any lost time. This was evident in another record set that day, there were over 31+ lead changes in this race, a new record. So all in all, it was a historic race and a great one to see. As it was stated by the drivers, this race was not one of preserving gas, just flat out racing which made it more exciting.
My money (play money) was on two time champion Dario Franchitti simply because he was bumped in the rear during the first yellow caution flag, sometime early in the race, well under the first 20 laps, by another driver pulling from pit row. It spun Dario into his pit damaging his car's nose and it had to be replaced. By the time he was back out on the track, still under yellow, he was dead last.
Dario was in the Number 50 Target Honda powered vehicle. The Honda cars were getting less mileage than the Chevys during the month-long time trials, but for some reason during the race the Honda cars were getting better mileage than the Chevy's, about two laps more per tank is what I remember hearing. That was a great advantage for the Honda cars and apparently they had been taking a beating this Indy season from the Chevy power plants prior to this Indy race.
It was somewhat ironic when I went down under the stands about the halfway mark to get a cap for myself and one for my brother. I picked the one I really liked, of which they only had two remaining, and as it turned out they were Dario Franchitti's racing cap. So it's without question that I brought Dario enough luck to win his third Indy 500. Dario is a Scottish racer married to Ashley Judd the movie star who was prancing around once Dario won the race. Times are different today than in the past. The field of racers had 24 foreign racers and only nine American drivers, and the field included three women. A very different makeup from the 90's.
Noteworthy were the two Lotus powered race cars that were black-flagged (pulled from the race) for going too slow. Reminds me of the British MGs and Triumphs I use to drive, I remember the Lucas electrical stuff, affectionally known as the Prince of Darkness.
Dario must have some basic racing skills because he went from trailing the field after that pit stop incident to winning the race. He was not the home town favorite, but he did put on a great race. The finish was under the Yellow flag and all three of Dario's victories have been under Yellow. This time, on the last lap and entering the first curve, Takuma Sato made a charge to pass Dario, but was squeezed out by Dario. Sato bumped Dario's rear left tire, spun out and Dario managed to keep his car from skidding out. Dario stayed in front of the field so he was declared the winner since there's no passing under yellow. As Sato said the following day, "I'm a small guy, but I needed one more inch".
The next day I read some of the radio communications between drivers and their pit crews and it seemed apparent to me that Marco Andretti was the biggest whiner in my opinion. He complained about the cars in front, his car, and the pit crew's failure to adjust or replace his rear tail section. One of the fan favorites had to be Tony Kanann. He briefly led as he zoomed past four or five drivers as they lifted the yellow and went to green.
|Three Across Going Into Turn 4!|
All in all, it was a great race to see. Seeing it on television for years still doesn't prepare you for the absolute rush that comes over you as they speed by on that very first lap. All the senses are in play as you see the entire field, hear the hum as those engines revving to the 12,000 rpm redline, and smell of the track and rubber. It's an unforgettable experience and definitely something I've had on my bucket list.