I rode my motorcycle to Indy on May 23 in order to watch qualifying and get to know the drivers and cars, but I stayed home yesterday and saw the 500 on TV. Hearing it told that the last 49 Indy Racing League oval races had been won by entries from Penske’s or Ganassi’s teams let me know what to expect at the front of the pack. And eyeballing Sarah Fisher’s heft during driver introductions suggested what over-ballasted car would be bringing up the rear. If Dollar General ever drops its sponsorship of her team, MCL Cafeterias might pick her up with the proviso that she appear in the chain’s restaurants as mascot on all-you-can-eat night. ABC’s graphics gave the height and weight of all the male drivers during live interviews, but I don’t recall anything like that for the females. Could it be too much information? Fisher seems to be following the tradition for pudgy drivers established by Foyt, Ruby, and McElreath.
The national anthem made me feel sorry for Jewel. Her folksy rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” was great. But during the first bar, a bald-headed interloper stepped onto the stage and handed her a second microphone. Maybe it was for the encore. She handled the awkward situation like a pro, clipping the bonus mike into a nearby stand and continuing the song without missing a beat. Meanwhile, the bald guy disappeared, evidently returning to his regular job of plugging the Gulf oil leak.
Speaking of ballast, the race’s honorary starter Jack Nicholson is lucky he didn’t topple from the flag stand when he first waved the green. (On a completely unrelated matter, it would be interesting to hear his reflections about Dennis Hopper?) Likewise, I’m waiting for a member of the winner’s party to slide off the back of that Corvette roadster during the victory lap. One day, it’ll happen.
Davey Hamilton crashed on the first lap. In his subsequent interview he called Tomas Scheckter an idiot. What would a race be without one driver calling another an idiot? I don’t think it’s possible to have a race without the hurling of epithets. Last year it was Marco Andretti deprecating Raphael Matos after less than one lap.
The Belgian rookie driver Bertrand Baguette didn’t crumble under pressure, but he loafed along, completing only 183 of 200 laps.
Simona de Silvestro, the 21-year-old rookie from Switzerland, placed 14th, the last car on the lead lap, and afterward invited Baguette over for fondue.
Just when I thought I’d seen everything at Indy, Helio Castroneves killed his engine during that pit stop, and therewith killed his chance for a fourth Indy 500 victory.
A perfect race is needed to win, and that’s what Dario Franchitti and his team pulled off. It’s always nice when he triumphs, but I never care what Ashley Judd has to say unless it’s something snide about Milka Duno.
Finishing second for two years in a row, Dan Wheldon must feel like he keeps winning free tickets to see a Twisted Sister tribute band.
The only reason anyone watches is to see a big crash. At least some express this belief. My first visit to Indy, in 1986, numbed me with fear. I wondered how anyone who crashed at such a high speed could possibly survive. In a way, yes, you want to see a big one. But you also know it could tear apart a driver. The first glimpse of Mike Conway’s wreck drew a gasp. Then I held my breath, realizing he was on his head inside what used to be a race car. But as soon as the rescuers got the chassis turned over, it was evident that he was moving around, which meant he wasn’t dead. Today’s report of fractures to his left leg and a broken vertebra suggest reason for optimism.