The 2019 Indianapolis 500 is in the books, so let’s take a moment and review what we really transpired on race day, I mean besides the most inaccurate weather forecast in the history of the event.
While it may vary in terms of who you speak to, Chevrolet continues to provide its drivers with a horsepower edge, and it provided a big straight line speed advantage at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. While aerodynamics and balance play a role in a fast speedway car, the fact is, winner, Simon Pagenaud, was in a class by himself all day, and while runner up, Alexander Rossi, gave him a spirited battle in the final laps of the race with his Honda powered machine, the differential in speed was glaringly apparent to all in attendance.
We also saw the force that is Penske Racing showing its fangs, as they dominated the entire period of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. From winning the Indianapolis Grand Prix, to qualifying for the 500 pole, and then dominating the race itself, notice was again served, showing that they are still the most successful team in the history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with Pagenaud bringing home a mind boggling 18th 500 win to Roger Penske.
One of the reasons Penske is so dominant, is that fact he has no equal when it comes to recognizing talent and selecting drivers. With both Pagenaud and Rossi in the last year of their driving contract, many speculated that Rossi might indeed be leaving Andretti Autosport and joining the ranks of Team Penske next season, but the likelihood of a fourth full time entry being added to their stable appears to be unlikely. Then there is Pagenaud, who more than solidified his future with the organization by sweeping the racing at IMS in May as he captured his first Indy 500 crown in the process.
While the racing itself was solid this past month, the qualifying format for the Indy 500 continues to be woeful and in need of change. Currently, multiple attempts are allowed and the process is for some reason, stretched over an entire weekend. While the aspect of bumping other teams from the field adds some intrigue, the process can be easily completed in one single day, giving race team personnel a much-needed day off. Lets hope that changes soon.
Notes: The notice of youth was served in the 500 when rookie Santino Ferrucci ended his maiden voyage by finishing seventh and picking up the Rookie of the Year award.
Race winner Simon Pagenaud led 116 of the 200 laps, as he administered a beat down on the entire field. While Rossi mounted a charge at the end, he was no match for the winner.
If I'm going to rant about the qualifying format, let’s talk about my other two pet peeves with Indy Car, the gimmick known as Push to Pass, and the awarding of double points for a series event. Give all the cars the same amount of engine boost for the entire race, and pay the same amount of points at every race. It's just that simple.
It was good to see some legitimate star power at the Indy 500 in the form of big time Hollywood actors, Matt Damon and Christian Bale. The duo waved the green flag to start the race, and while the impetus for their appearance was to promote an upcoming movie about racing that both are in, having highly recognizable talent at 16th and Georgetown was key for the event and the series.
While it was not the capacity crowd that IMS has enjoyed in days gone by, the attendance was solid. The forecast of inclement weather certainly impacted the walk up gate, but its safe to say there was a crowd between 250,000 and 275,000 people on hand.
The traditional Victory Celebration Banquet was held Memorial Day evening and the WTHR telecast of such was interrupted repeatedly with severe weather warnings. Some drivers committed the cardinal sin of not thanking their sponsors, which proves even further that a number of these talented individuals just don't get it.
Television ratings for the Indy 500 were up marginally in NBC Sports' first foray as the broadcast network. While the overall telecast was solid, NBC missed a golden opportunity by not utilizing veteran motor sports reporter Robin Miller more as an analyst. He's simply the best, and his candid assessments of the sport, and the Indianapolis 500, were sorely missed.
The next stop on the NTT Indy Car Series is this weekend in Detroit, where a doubleheader event will take place on the Belle Island street course both Saturday and Sunday. You can watch both races on WTHR here locally, or tune in to it on the Indy Car Radio Network.
Danny Bridges, who has now attended the Indianapolis 500 for 50 consecutive years, can be reached at (317) 370-8447 or at Bridgeshd@aol.com