Monday, May 18, 2015

Qualifying parade offers few clues on Indy winner

Mark Glover will be attending the Indianapolis 500 for the 53rd time on May 24. Here is his take on what might happen on Sunday, when the world-famous race is run for the 99th time.

Sacramento, California – My take is that I have no idea what is going to happen during Sunday’s race.

I’m not sure I can remember a month like this at Indy.  The closest I can come is 1973, ominously a year that most would like to forget.

In 1973, it rained constantly (the rain-shortened race took three days to run), and there were some brutal crashes during the month.  The race gods pointed to speed advancements in the cars that were running ahead of safety concerns.  Rules and officials changed after the 1973 affair mercifully ended.

Fast-forward to this year, specifically Sunday, a day such as I’ve rarely seen at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Ed Carpenter’s sledgehammer crash before the scheduled run for the pole set instant rules changes in motion as it was the third upside-down-flip crash within a week, following frightening shunts by three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves and the most-capable Josef Newgarden.

I admit, those hard hit/flips got my attention.  Why would all three cars flip over onto their tops after wall impact?  The aero package?  Odd weight distribution?  Coincidence?

Doesn’t matter.  I knew what was going to happen, and it did.  Aero kits were axed, downforce was increased and horsepower was decreased.  Essentially, we saw a Sunday qualifying parade with cars in race trim.

I think it had to be done, but at the same time, it pained me.  I’m that old-school Indy fan who has long believed that the series -- and particularly the Indianapolis 500 -- was about super-high speeds, pushing the envelope out to the far frontier.  I actually was looking forward to some runs in the 232 mph-233 mph range on Sunday.

That was the goal of series officials, to baby step up to Arie Luyendyk’s nearly 20-year-old Indianapolis 500 qualifying records, in excess of 236 mph.

Alas, it looks like they need to go back to the drawing board.  Maybe someday, right?

As for the race, Sunday’s procession of qualifying speeds in the 224/225 mph range didn’t tell me much, other than I like pole winner Scott Dixon’s chances, car and talent.  If Scott has it dialed in on race day, it’s hard to bet against him.

From there on back, take your pick.  Will Power will start next to Dixon.  He has the right car and the Penske Team machine on his side, but somehow, Power always seems to encounter a critical mid-race drawback that keeps him from dicing for the lead late in the Indianapolis 500.  If he keeps his wheels in line, he too has a chance.

So do Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti and Simon Pagenaud.  Ryan Hunter-Reay came from a mid-pack starting position to win it last year.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make it to the front from his 16th starting position on Sunday.

Ed Carpenter is in a back-up car, but I like his ability to adapt quickly and hustle a car around a high-speed oval.

Throw another five drivers in there, and your picks are probably as good as mine.

Cornered to make a call, I like Castroneves to use his savvy and challenge for the win late.  I like Kanaan for the same reason.  Dark horse for me: Newgarden.

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