Monday, May 25, 2015

2015 Indianapolis 500 review

The 99th Indianapolis 500 is behind. And what a great race it was! Exactly what the series needed after the practice crashes and difficult weather in the qualifying weekend.

Team Penske's Juan Pablo Montoya won the Indianapolis 500 for the second time in his career. After qualifying 15th, I was pessimistic about his chances but the qualifying isn't so decisive for the result, rather just an indication of one's pace. Montoya had a difficult start to the race when Simona de Silvestro hit his rear wheel guard during an early caution and he got as low as 30th. But he made his way through the field and was one of the front-runners at the last restart with 15 laps to go. On the fourth-last lap, he passed Ganassi's Scott Dixon for the second place into the turn 3 and half a lap later he passed his teammate Will Power for the lead he'd keep until the finish.

The defending series champion Will Power was aiming for his first Indy 500 win. This was the race he wanted to win and you could hear it in his post-race comments, saying he'd be happy with the second place everywhere else but at the Indy 500. But it was nice to hear how he enjoyed the racing, I'm sure the fans did as well. The outcome might have been different for him had he not lead so many laps in the end but instead learned how his car behaves when running second. That might have been the key to overtake Montoya on the final laps.

It was a Penske vs. Ganassi battle in the front of the field. Team Penske claimed the top 2 positions, Ganassi the 3rd and 4th. Ganassi's Charlie Kimball was the best American, finishing third. He passed teammate Dixon with three laps to go, soon after Montoya's pass on Dixon. The polesitter and 2008 Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon was one of the front-runners for the whole race but in the end finished only fourth.

Penske's Simon Pagenaud and Ganassi's Tony Kanaan had good cars but they got out of the contention for the win before the end of the race. Kanaan was having a very good race before crashing soon after his pitstop on lap 152. And Pagenaud seemed like the strongest Penske driver before clipping his front wing on the lap 176, costing him the chance to race for the win.

Last year's runner-up, three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves was one of the favorites for the race. But in the end, he couldn't challenge for the win, finishing only seventh. And it was unfortunate Sage Karam, last year's ninth, had to retire after a first turn incident. Given how well Ganassi's cars were doing, he might have had a strong race.

The race was dominated by Chevrolet with the only Honda drivers in the top 10 being Graham Rahal on the fifth place and Marco Andretti on the sixth place. Besides the last eight finished drivers were all powered by Honda. Honda surely can't be happy with the result; especially given their main focus was in winning the Indy 500.

Safety was a concern before the race because of crashed cars flipping in the practice sessions and James Hinchcliffe's leg getting pierced by a front rocker. Thankfully there were no serious injuries in the race, Sebastian Saavedra suffered a foot contusion in a three-car incident and a Dale Coyne Racing pit crew member broke his ankle in a pit road incident. The practice crashes were worrying but only one serious injury from them shows in my opinion that IndyCar is as safe as open-wheel racing on ovals can be.

The 99th Indianapolis 500 was a great race. Hopefully there will be plenty of other great races during the rest of the Verizon IndyCar Series season. And hopefully the 100th Indy 500 next year will be just as great, preferably with also Honda as a serious contender for the win. And with James Hinchcliffe in the field of 33 drivers.

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