Friday, February 28, 2014

Guido Watches the 2012 Indy 500 #ThankYouDario

Hello Internet! Well, I was hoping to have this to you in late December, but December, as you might imagine, is the second-busiest month of the year for us ministers (second only to "whenever Easter is"), so this got pushed to the back burner. But, I am now going to view the 2012 Indy 500, Dario Franchitti's last win, on YouTube, and write about it.

Fear not, however, the 2014 IndyCar Series is almost upon us. I shall break out of my hibernation, and provide data and "insight" to all the universe! At least, that's how they tell me the internet works...

Here goes, the video can be found here:

Pre-Race: It should be noted at this point that the most complete video that I find for this race is the SkySports broadcast out of the UK. There's a delightful half-hour studio show beforehand, which gets the British audience prepared for what is to come. It cuts away to Dan Wheldon's #98 from 2011 (driven by Bryan Herta if I remember right). I get misty. Then, there's Mari Hulman George in her cardboard Wheldon glasses saying "Ladies and Gentlemen start your engines."

Cut to Marty Reid: Brent Mussberger, quivering crescendo in his voice sends it up to the booth with Marty, Scott, and Eddie. After mentioning Goodyear's second place finish from 1992, it flashes to JR Hildebrand's 2011 final turn crash. I think to myself, "What could have been..." But, before I can ponder JR too long (my hunch is he deserves a ride, I wonder what the numbers say...) Goodyear says "Lotus" and I laugh.

The Field: If you, like me, need a refresher on where everyone started the race. Here it is:

Row 1 - Briscoe, Hinchcliffe, Hunter-Reay
Row 2 - Andretti, Power, Castroneves
Row 3 - Newgarden, Kanaan, Viso
Row 4 - Barrichello, Tagliani, Rahal
Row 5 - Beatriz, Kimball, Dixon
Row 6 - Franchitti, Jakes, Hildebrand
Row 7 - Sato, Bell, Wilson
Row 8 - Jourdain Jr., Pagenaud, Saavedra
Row 9 - Bourdais, Cunningham, Servia
Row 10 - Carpenter, Conway, Legge
Row 11 - Clauson, De Silvestro, Alesi

In the pits: While the field is flashing along the top of the screen, the pit reporters give some pre-race updates. Vince Welch is in Power's pit, reminding us of his "recent" pit problems at the 500 and of his 3-race win streak of Barber, Long Beach, Sao Paulo, going into the 500. Has Power finally caught up on ovals? Jamie Little, chronicles the Andretti Autosport turn around from 2011 to 2012, while Rick DeBruhl reminds us of the Ganassi struggles during most of practice and also the Dixon/Franchitti breakout performance on Carb Day. Dr. Jerry Punch gives us our "upset alert" picks: tabbing Newgarden, Rahal, and Tony Kanaan.

Pace Laps: We run through the on-boards, and before I get a chance to blink, the 2012 Indianapolis 500 is........ GREEN.

[Aside: That phrase is what I will miss the most about Marty Reid. Dear Alan Bestwick, say that at the start of every race. Well, not the "Indianapolis 500" part, but you get my point. Love, Guido /aside]

Lap 1: And, already a lead change. Hinch jumps up front, and the two phrases that I remembered hearing all day there in person get said: something about the "new cars punching a big hole" and "you can't see the numbers."

Lap 4: These laps go by fast. All future updates will likely result in pausing the coverage.

Lap 7: So, the thing that I liked the most about this phase of the race being there that (for good reason) is given zero air time in the broadcast is the gap between cars 1-31 and the two Lotus-"powered" entries. You could see it growing each lap. It made both me and Hoff laugh. Enough about the Lotuses now. They'll be gone soon.

Lap 14: We come back after a break and two things happen immediately. I hear the words "fuel mileage" for the first time since pre-race (in a radio message between Hinch and his crew) and Bryan Clauson spins and stalls it, bringing out a caution. Heck of a save on Clauson's part. The broadcast crew liken it to the spin and win. Spoiler alert: Clauson doesn't.

[Aside: Put Clauson somewhere around Number 7 on my fictitious "Gosh, I'd like to see him/her in an IndyCar full time" list. Right between Townsend Bell and Katherine Legge. /aside]

Lap 15: Here come pit stops. I cringe. We watch TK's stop. Very smooth. Briscoe's too. Then there it is. We see Dario get puled into his pit stall. We see the nose get changed. We see three replays of Viso spinning our noble hero. (Oh yes, this is going to be super-biased.) Dario rejoins the field under caution, as does Newgarden, who'd stalled. My new best friends from Britain make a comment about Viso always being "in the thick of the action." Thomas Scheckter sympathies with the Gallant Fox.

Lap 19: We go green. The field gets 4 or 5 wide. Everyone survives. Not sure how.

Lap 25: I personally watch the "Franchitti" on the scroll at the top of the screen go from P24 to P23. This reminds me of this point watching the race live, when I kept bothering Hoff, telling him how Dario was gaining a position per lap(ish). He did not care about what was happening two-thirds down the field.

Lap 33: Doc interviews Jean Alesi in the pits. Now I want Formual 1 season to get back underway. Me like fast cars. Why cars no going fast now?

Lap 35: We ride on board with TK. The crew in the booth says the phrase "I don't think I'd want to be leading going into the last few laps." I remember the scrum at the end of the 2013 500. I smile. You finally get there, TK. Don't worry. The focus then turns to Sato, and we get to hear Bobby Rahal say "let's be a little more conservative on those passes." Foreshadowing much?

Lap 43: While my British friends chat to us, coming back from a break, here's the cars on the lead lap from the Leaders Scroll on the top of the picture: Andretti, Briscoe, Hinchcliffe, Tagliani, Kanaan, Dixon, Sato, Rahal, Power, Castroneves, Conway, Hunter-Reay, Kimball, Wilson, Franchitti, Jourdain, Barrichello, Bell, Hildebrand, Carpenter, Beatriz, Jakes, Newgarden, Viso, Pagenaud, Legge, Bourdais.

Lap 45: Andretti pits. I must have started chirping about Chevy fuel mileage at this point. Hoff probably ignored me.

Lap 49: Dixon and Franchitti pit. If I wasn't chirping about fuel mileage before, I definitely was now.

Lap 61: We've seemed to settle into something approaching a groove with Andretti and Dixon 1 and 2, and an intriguing battle between Hinchcliffe, Briscoe, and Sato in the third through fifth spots. And, by lap 63 Sato's set up and reeled in Briscoe.

Lap 63: Speaking of Lap 63. We go on board with Hinch for a second. I see his red gloves. I miss Greg Moore.

Lap 68: Brent Musburger brings us back from break with an allusion to the "Andretti Curse." I'd put the Andretti Curse about third or fourth on my All-Time Curse Rankings. Definitely below the Billy Goat and the Madden Curse, but higher than say the Hope Diamond.

Lap 73: Checking in on our fearless hero in the #50, Dario moves into P4. I have told Hoff about every position that he has gained. Hoff has told me all the ways he doesn't care.

Lap 75: Andretti pits, as does Hinch. I'm sure I said words about fuel mileage again. Looking back, I'm shocked that Hoff didn't punch me SEVERAL times during this race. I want to punch me just remembering.

Lap 80: As I'm getting ready to reset the field after pit stops, Conway and Power get together. Cars get airborne. My breath catches in my chest. I remember being glad at that point watching live, that Power wouldn't win. Now, I just sit in shock. I attribute this to two things: 1) My views on Power have evolved from him being THE ENEMY, who must be prevented from beating Dario for things to a HECK of a driver, who really deserves a series championship. 2) That was a very scary crash.

Lap 82: Now that we're safely out of "Million Replays of a Very Nasty Crash" Land, here's who's still on the lead lap: Andretti, Dixon, Franchitti, Sato, Briscoe, Hinchcliffe, Hunter-Reay, Kanaan, Rahal, Castroneves, Kimball, Hildebrand, Barrichello, Carpenter, Bell, Wilson, Jakes.

Lap 87: The caution period ends. The restart is not nearly as scary as the last one.

[Aside: Marco says his boot is MELTED TO THE THROTTLE, and all his pit box can say is, "We'll try to remember that for Fontana." I guess there's not much you could do in that situation, but dang... If my foot were melted to a thing I would not like that one little bit. /aside]

Lap 90: We're yellow for Bia spinning. Pit stops are sure to follow.

Lap 92: Hinch bobbles it in pit road, with one tire change not completed before the air jack came down. Dixon and Franchitti are 1-2 with RHR third after okie-doking everyone by not pitting.

Lap 93: Hinch is in again, seemingly for fuel. Shouldn't kill him under yellow with over half the race to run.

Lap 98: Franchitti passes Saavedra. I love watching Dario pass people. I put on my cardboard Dan Wheldon glasses that I totally still have. RIP Lionheart.

Lap 100: Your lead lap drivers: Dixon, Franchitti, Hunter-Reay, Rahal, Sato, Wilson, Kimball, Hildebrand, Jakes, Bell, Andretti, Castroneves, Kanaan, Carpenter, Briscoe, Hinchcliffe, Barrichello, Pagenaud, and Jourdain. Lots of Hondas out front. I think I had told Hoff how awesome Hondas were about 734 times up there in stand HH. I am now convicted, since Ganassi's going to Chevy in 2014. Oh well, at least Dario always ran a Honda.

[Aside: This gives Marco Andretti a serious edge in the "Guido's New Favorite Driver Contest." /aside]

Lap 108: Jamie Little tells us how hot the gas men are down in pit lane. Didn't bother me live; I cooled myself with beer. Kidding; that's not healthy. I drank tons of water and relatively little beer. I'll have to go to a non-blisteringly-hot-500 some time.

Lap 112: Dixon and Franchitti are hanging out right behind Michel Jourdain. I'm sure Hoff was hearing how brilliant Dixie and Dario were for doing this. Scott Goodyear confirms my brilliance.

Lap 114: Hunter-Reay pits, leaving Hondas, Hondas, and more Hondas up front. This is because of Franchitti's moral superiority to all other human beings. At least, I think that's what I told Hoff. He may have hit me. He may also have pointed out that Dixon was in front of Dario. I may have given him the stink-eye.

Lap 119: Franchitti pits. Dixon doesn't. My heart sinks. At least no one punted him.

Lap 120: In goes Dixon. My eyes go to the end of pit road. The cameras don't, but Justin Wilson ran over a hose, so at least I saw that.

Lap 121: Huge chunk of rubber on the track. I'm pretty sure a NASCAR race would have been red flagged for that much debris. Seriously though. I must have watched this race 15 times, and I've never seen that before. A little surprised that there wasn't a yellow.

Lap 126:  RHR shuts it off. That stinks. I like him.

Lap 137: Things have been quiet for a minute or two, so the commentary folks take us through the field. We are reminded that all four Ganassi cars are in the Top 7 and that Townsend Bell has sneaked into the Top 10. Seriously, why can't Bell get a full-time ride? He's number 6 on my fictitious "Gosh, I'd like to see him/her in an IndyCar full time" list, as we learned 123 laps ago! I suppose I should figure out who the five above him are...

Lap 143:  Marco Andretti is upset with his race car. In other news, the sky is blue. The commentators fear that his car has developed Hunter-Reay-itis. Marco says the right rear is down to chords.

Lap 145: Marco comes in. The right rear does not look like chords to me. It doesn't to Jamie Little either. But, Marco's car doesn't look to be shaking. We go yellow for Saavedra being stopped at pit road exit. Here come the stops!

Lap 147: While my buddies in the UK chat, Sato pits as do Dixon and Franchitti. They come out Sato, Franchitti, Dixon (same as they came in.)

[Aside: Why is it still called the "United Kingdom" if there's a queen? Additionally, these are the sort of questions that keep me from being productive 75% of the time. /aside]

Lap 153: The restart goes: Sato, Target Cars, Logjam. Dario goes to the front. And, as we transition to 154, Dixon goes to second.

Lap 155: Justin Wilson passes Hinch for P4. Wilson had a good run at Indy in 2013, as well (which, for my money is more impressive, since the Hondas got eaten in '13.) If 2014 really is the last year of the Everyone-Has-The-Same-Aero Era, I'm installing Wilson as my early "I told you so" pick. He really seems to understand how to race this configuration in a draft. I base this on the two Indy 500s as well as the 2012 Texas race, which Wilson won.

Lap 160: Did you ever play sports in high school or something? When you were doing conditioning, did you ever have to do an "Indian Run?" (I don't know a less offensive way to say that.) It's where everyone runs along in a line, and whoever's last, has to run to the front, and once s/he gets there the new last person runs to the front. If you've done one, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, I'm not sure that helped. But, that seems to be what Dixon and Franchitti are doing, just switching spots at will.

Lap 163: Yellow comes out. Newgarden is in the grass. I probably say something terribly stupid to Hoff up in stand HH about Hondas being able to make it all the way home from here on one stop. Hoff says they'll need yellow. I tell him it doesn't matter

Lap 166: Literally everyone comes in for fuel and tires. Looks like Dixon, Franchitti, Sato on the way out. I'm still trying to convince Hoff that the Hondas can totally make it if it stays green. He's telling me there will definitely be yellow. I tell him I don't think there will be. I am wrong.

Lap 171: Hoff's dad is a HUGE Ed Carpenter fan (insofar as Hoff's dad, who might watch one race a year is a huge fan of any driver). He pointed out that Ed has a very good restart. I pointed out that Franchitti is now leading.

Lap 174: Dixon informs Mike Hull that no one wants to lead. He hopes this will help him save fuel. I point out that he is currently leading, and I enjoy a private moment of irony.

Lap 177: Carpenter moves into P3. Pretty much everyone sitting around me in stand HH lost it at that point. Turns out that they like Ed Carpenter in Indianapolis. It's almost like he's from there.

Lap 180: There goes Ed. Out comes the yellow. Everyone we were sitting with cried. I probably said something to Hoff about the Hondas TOTALLY being able to make it now. He reminds me that with this much yellow, everyone will be able to make it now.

Lap 184: Tony Kanaan restarts as only Tony Kanaan can. You can hear the cheers from the crowd as he sweeps through turn 4. You can hear the cheers from the Guido as Franchitti takes the lead back at the start of lap 185.

Lap 187: TK takes the lead back. Marco crashes. Yellow comes out.

Lap 191: Yellow stays out. Everyone sitting around us began to complain about how long this caution is lasting. Mussberger talks about Tony Kanaan a bunch. Tony talks about how cool it would be to have his face next to Dan and Dario on the Borg-Warner. I silently tell him, "Don't worry, buddy."

Lap 194: The restart happens. Franchitti gets out front, like a boss. With this areo package you just can't lead at Indy...

Lap 195: Dixon tags in and takes the lead from Franchitti. Kanaan is behind Sato in P4.

Lap 197: Franchitti tags in. Sato is starting to try and insinuate himself.

Lap 198: Dixon tags in. Goodyear says the words "Sato's car...seems to slide mid-turn." What delicious foreshadowing!

Lap 199: Sato follows Franchitti as he tags himself into the lead. TK tries to put a move on Dixon, but he can't manage it.

Lap 200: We see the white flag. Sato gets a run on Dario down the front stretch. Franchitti gives zero room. Sato spins. Franchitti wins. Ask Hoff, I lost it. I lost it hard. Festivities ensue, but the race is over, and I am tired.

And, that, friends is the 2012 Indy 500. A fitting introduction to live IndyCar racing, and sadly for 2014 it appears to continue being my only exposure to live IndyCar racing. But, enough sadness. We go green in St. Pete in just one month, so I'll be back to weekly posts from here on out. We've got a ton of 2013 review and 2014 preview numbers to drop in the next little while. And, after that we'll be into full-on race mode.

See you next Friday!

-- Guido