With the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 just over a week away, I'm having a hard time concentrating on anything else. Therefore, this week's column is all about Indy.
Qualifying for the race is Saturday and Sunday, and while there will be no bumping with only 33 cars entered, I'm just excited to see what kind of lap speeds the drivers will reach. As of Wednesday's practice, Ryan Hunter-Reay held the top speed of the month at 228.202 mph. While I'm sure speeds will climb, I'm glad to see those kinds of speeds this early in the week.
I've been watching highlights of past races for weeks, due to my pilfering of a DVD collection I bought my dad some years ago that highlights every Indy 500 from 1960-99. The DVDs are narrated by the track's former public address announcer, Tom Carnegie, and it's great fun re-living those races. Carnegie retired after the 2006 race and passed away at age 91 in 2011, but his booming baritone voice proclaiming, "It's a new track record," is almost as famous as Indianapolis Motor Speedway itself.
Since the DVD collection stops 17 years short of this year's race, I've depended on YouTube to find highlights of all of the races since 2000. Not surprisingly, I've found many complete races and highlights of most races from 2003 through 2015.
The Indy 500 is like Christmas to people such as my dad and me. It's the biggest race in the world, and it's the one we look most forward to the entire year. As a matter of fact, we often comment soon after the race ends (like, as in, minutes after it ends) that we can't wait until next year. There's just something about the excitement, prestige, tradition and size of the event that makes everything else pale in comparison.
This weekend, I fully expect the Chevrolet teams, especially Team Penske, to dominate qualifying, and I will be surprised if the team doesn't qualify all four of its drivers in the top ten. I just hope the Honda teams can perform better than last year, when they only qualified two cars in the top ten. As a matter of fact, only two Honda cars finished the race in the top ten, so the teams have some work to do.
Hunter-Reay's top speed thus far was in a Honda, however, so that's a good sign.
INDY 500 STORIES FROM AP
The Associated Press has gone all out in advance of this year's race, and we have plenty of great content on GazetteXtra for you to check out:
—Indianapolis 500: A look back gives you highlights and photos from every race since 1980. As the days leading up to the race wind down, we will post highlights up to last year's race.
—Indianapolis 500 All-Star starting lineup: A completely subjective all-star, 33-driver starting field.
—Indianapolis 500 moments: The AP looks back at some of the most memorable moments in race history.
—Indianapolis 500 moments photo gallery: Photos of the memorable moments in race history.
FUN WITH COMMENTARY
The race will be broadcast on ABC on Sunday, May 29, as it has been since 1965. Alan Bestwick will provide commentary along with former drivers Eddie Cheever and Scott Goodyear.
The only saving grace of the telecast will be Jon Beekhuis reporting from the pits. Beekhuis probably knows more about the intricacies of IndyCar racing than anyone.
The duo of Cheever and Goodyear has provided commentary since 2008, and they make me want to slit my wrists. The biggest issue I have with them is they aren't familiar with today's cars and competition. Cheever hasn't raced in IndyCar since 2006 and was never really that good. He only started winning races after the CART/IRL split in 1996, when he had no competition in the IRL. At least Goodyear won a couple of races before the split, but he retired after the 2001 Indy 500. Beyond that, they're just incredibly boring.
ABC should do what NASCAR did by bringing Jeff Gordon into the booth and getting recently-retired Dario Franchitti as a commentator. He won the Indy 500 three times in six years and could really share interesting insight on the cars and the competitors, and he's only been out of the cockpit for a couple of years.
When the IndyCar Series airs races on NBC Sports Network, I love the broadcast team of Paul Tracy, Townsend Bell and Rick Allen. Beekhuis, Robin Miller and Marty Snider add a lot as pit reporters as well. I wish they would use that team on the ABC broadcasts.
In any case, to have some fun with the telecast, I got an idea for a game while I was watching old races and highlights. If you are one to imbibe, I recommend using a Miller beer product, otherwise you can just tally these things down and see where you end up:
—Anytime the commentators say, “You become a passenger” when talking about a wreck.
—If the commentators refer to the Safer barrier, that a driver is “out of the groove” or anything about “clean air.”
—If a wreck occurs after coming back to green from a caution period and the commentators say, “Cautions breed cautions.”
—If a car loses a tire following a pit stop.
—Anytime Cheever or Goodyear refers to “When I was driving” or “When I competed.”
—If a driver forces another driver into the grass in turn three.
—If a car stalls while leaving the pits.
—If a driver crashes while being followed live by the cameras.
—If the leader crashes.
—If the leader crashes and takes the second-place car with them.
—If the caution comes out with under three laps to go, just turn the TV off and wish that wouldn't have happened. There's always next year.
—If you try to use “100th anniversary” or “centennial” as your magic words and you are enjoying alcoholic beverages, you'll be in a coma due to alcohol poisoning before the race starts.
Coverage of Indy 500 qualifying will air on ABC from 3-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.