With a quick turnaround between the Indy GP and the start of Indy 500 practice at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning, it’s going to be a shorter dive than usual into out post-race analysis and reactions.
IndyCar communications VP Dave Furst walked out into the media center a few hours after the checkered flag had waved and offered a wry smile as he read aloud the passing stats that were tabulated:
There were 471 total passes at the Indy GP. The former record was 269, set at August’s Harvest GP.
There were 362 passes for position, with the former coming in at 190 from last August as well. And 142 passes were completed inside the top 10.
That’s just crazy.
I loved racing in the rain in my Formula Ford. I loved crewing on teams when it rained. And I certainly loved the long overdue arrival of rain for an IndyCar race. I’m not sure why, but it seems like a quarter of NASCAR’s races are hit with rain delays, and yet on our end, we’ve gone more than two years since the skies opened on an IndyCar race.
It’s not like we can control the weather, but if we could, I’d pencil in at least two rain races per year on road courses for the exact reasons we saw on Saturday. Wild changes of fortune, big strategy calls that either blew up the race in good ways or backfired, and eight cautions that created an insane number of opportunities for passing and mishaps on restarts. Whether it’s rain or a bunch of restarts, either can turn a normal race into something spectacular. Combined, they make for an instant classic that was absolutely insane.
The AMR Safety Team deserved a day of pampering on Sunday with catered breakfasts and lunches, massages, and whatever else they wanted after tending to a countless number of incidents during the frenetic two-hour race.
We were lucky no significant crashes occurred late in the race when the rain and spray coming off the cars all but blinded drivers who were running close together. Colton Herta reckoned the problem with the front of the aeroscreen being blanketed in water and grime would have been the same if a halo were used, or if there was nothing at all, but that doesn’t change the fact that IndyCar has some work to do ahead of the next wet race.
First, I’m not sure when the change happened, but I was positively shocked to hear the likes of Run DMC and A Tribe Called Quest played over the IMS PA system. Second, of all the things I expected upon returning to the Speedway after a three-year absence, hearing golden era hip hop was not on the list.
Saturday morning, Run DMC’s ‘It’s Tricky’ was cranked up, and the song came to mind after the race when Colton Herta told RACER that he was keeping his plan (to pit first and get off the rain tires he and the rest of the field were required to use to start the race) a secret by not divulging it until the last moment over the radio. Afraid that others would follow suit, Herta waited until the last moment to tell his No. 26 Andretti Autosport team he was headed for the pits on lap three to trade rain tires for brand-new alternates.
The bold call shot Herta from P15 to P1 after the other 26 drivers did the same on laps four and five. By then, Herta was in control. Sometimes the best strategy is to avoid revealing your strategy and using the element of surprise to your advantage.
GOOD ON YOU
Great to see so many IndyCar fans embrace Ed Carpenter Racing’s charitable initiative with Rinus VeeKay’s No. 21 Chevy at the Indy GP. The top of the left and right sidepods carried hundreds of names during the event, with each name representing a $75 donation to Building Tomorrow. According to BT, “We raised $55,000, which will help us enroll 4,000 additional children in our reading and math program in rural Uganda—helping improve literacy and numeracy rates in a country where only 6% of fourth graders can read a simple paragraph.”
I had quite a few people tell me there are funding issues at A.J. Foyt Racing and the Rokit-sponsored Nos. 11 and 14 Chevys could be in jeopardy to complete the season. Speaking with Team president Larry Foyt before the race, he offered a succinct and defusing response: “I’ve heard some of those rumors as well, but we’re all good.”
NEXT GEN RACERS AND EMPLOYEES
IMS hosted approximately 300 students, mostly kids of color, from nearby schools and the Boys and Girls Club who learned about the different vocational opportunities in motor racing and Roger Penske’s Race For Equality & Change program.
Over 300 kids from local @IPSSchools and charter schools were introduced to racing today and heard from incredible speakers like @edwelburn, @bethparetta and more as part of the Race for Equality and Change.#INDYGP | #ThisIsMay pic.twitter.com/7FbsWnVb6c
— Indianapolis Motor Speedway (@IMS) May 13, 2022
Force Indy team principal Rod Reid’s NXG kart racing initiative was also in action during the GP where some talented kids and a lot of proud parents and families cheered on their sons and daughters. Afterwards, Reid, Roger Penske, Rob Dyson, IndyCar team owner Beth Paretta, Force Indy Indy Lights driver Ernie Francis Jr and more dignitaries spoke with the assembled group and shared words of advice and encouragement to continue progressing in the sport.
* Uncharacteristic errors from Alex Palou. On a day where it seemed like every driver had at least one spin or off-track adventure, Palou’s weren’t particularly special, but it doesn’t change the fact that we just don’t see his No. 10 Honda sitting backwards on the grass or in the wall elsewhere on all but the rarest occasions. There was a point in the early part of the race where the former championship leader had fallen down to fourth in the standings, but after Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin had troubles of their own, Palou was saved and only dropped to second behind new leader Will Power.
* Juan Pablo Montoya arrived with an explosion of hair atop his head, and after complaining of high temperatures within his helmet, he chose to get the salty mop trimmed. A call to mutual friend Steve Shunck provided a resource to solve the problem, and on Friday evening JPM got his hair cut by Tracy Brown, Robin Miller’s hairdresser of 40 years! Who’da thunk it…’Monterior’ sitting in the same chair as Miller for a fashion tune-up… I don’t know why, but this one tickles me.
* Photographers reported seeing lightning moments before the start of the race and during the Indy GP. Another worrisome matter that thankfully didn’t go wrong.
* Staying with the points picture entering the double-points Indy 500, the Indy GP saw more leading drivers fall back than anything else. Herta was the one exception as he leapt from 11th to fifth. Pato O’Ward dropped from fifth to seventh after his rough end to the day. Same for Rinus VeeKay who traded seventh for 10th. Graham Rahal went from 10th to 12th and Rossi fell from 13th to 15th. And while it’s deep in the pack, Conor Daly’s great performance moved him from 19th to 16th.
* In an odd bookending note, Team Penske holds three of the top four spots in the championship while the Foyt team holds three of the four bottom spots.
* Nice job by Foyt’s Tatiana Calderon, who was rewarded with 15th in the race, her best result to date, after driving within herself while her teammates did everything but cover themselves in glory.
* Similar note for Dale Coyne’s Takuma Sato, who produced a fine seventh – his second top 10 for the team in five races — and was elevated to 13th in the standings, directly behind former teammate Graham Rahal.
* Sticking with the Rahal team, Graham was hit twice in the same corner by Romain Grosjean at Barber. Grosjean was hit a good three or four times in the same corner by Rahal’s Jack Harvey. Let’s hope the back-and-forth nonsense was put to rest going forward.
* Amazing weekend for the Herta family on Saturday as Bryan’s son won the IndyCar race and four hours east, the Bryan Herta Autosport IMSA team won the Michelin Pilot Challenge TCR race with Parker Chase and Harry Gottsacker.
* A number of interested parties have expressed interest in supporting USF2000 driver Myles Rowe, whom we wrote about last week. One IndyCar team owner reached out about wanting to bring their sponsors into the loop, an ex-IndyCar driver with connections said he would be introducing some funding options to Rowe, and it’s believed The Captain could continue assisting the three-time race winner to keep his season alive after exhausting his budget last weekend.
* IndyCar’s Arni Sribhen was kind enough to hold onto my little disco ball I’ve used on the RACER desk inside the IMS media center for years. Not only was it waiting for me when I got to the track Friday morning, but thanks to a great IndyCar fan by the name of Jim Debosik, I was given a laminated figure of our late hero Robin Miller to hang from the mirror of my rental car. I thought it would work better as a topper for the disco ball, so we have Miller being Miller… going round and round… flipping the bird and telling us what he thinks of us, just as he did for all those years.
My disco all has its first #Indy500 topper of 2022. @RACERmag @PPfanner pic.twitter.com/m0AzvyBjwi
— Marshall Pruett (@marshallpruett) May 14, 2022
Thanks for following along last weekend. We’ll be on the throttle for the rest of the month!