Marcus Ericsson celebrates with car owner Chip Ganassi. Indycar photo by Joe Skibinski
Everything about yesterday’s 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 felt like a race day in the 1980s- the huge crowd, the electric tingling buzz in the atmosphere, even the way the race played out- had an 80s feel to it. Roger Penske and Doug Boles have worked hard to restore the glory of the 500 after two devastating years of the pandemic. The real proof of their success will be in seeing the momentum of 2022 continuing for the next several years.
The Speedway expected 300,000 fans. i think they had more than that. It was great to see the stands packed again. G stand, where I sit, was fuller than I’ve ever seen it, including in 2016. The infield crowd across the way was definitely larger than I ever recall.
The Race- Classic Style
This was not the best 500 I’ve ever seen, but it was far from the worst. It was darn good race, though. Most of the drama came in the pits where strong pre race favorites Alex Palou and Scott Dixon lost their chances at winning.
The race had a feel of a race in the 1980s, where a strong favorite would dominate only to drop out out of contention due to some misfortune. Yellows occurred at untimely moments, jumbling the field. One driver, usually a darkhorse like Marcus Ericsson, would emerge victorious.
The Lost Boys of Indy
Two teams that used to dominate Indy, Team Penske and Andretti Autosport, have been MIA the last two years. Yesterday Josef Newgardens’s 13th place finish was the best for the team. Both Newgarden and Will Power had issues in the pits. neither was a serious threat to win.
Alexander Rossi’s fifth place finish salvaged a miserable day for Andretti. Rookie Devlin DeFrancesco was the next best on the team with a 20th place result.
The four rookies with long term futures finished in a tight pack from 16th to 20th, with veteran Ed Carpenter in 19th. David Malukas ran a steady pace all day and ended 16th after starting 13th. Kyle Kirkwood arguably had the best drive of the day among the rookies, coming from 28th on the grid to come home 17th.
Christian Lungaard finished 18th. Crashes took out Jimmie Johnson, Callum Ilott, and Romain Grosjean.
I still maintain that the red flag was a horrible call and did nothing to enhance the finish. I will die on this hill. Fans are not entitled to a green flag finish. Some races just don’t have exciting finishes. This is not a video game.
The race ended under yellow anyway, so stopping the race was a moot point. If track safety structures weren’t compromised, there is no need for a red flag in that situation.
21st Century Mario?
Scott Dixon is becoming the new Mario Andretti. He has one Indianapolis 500 victory, which is a great accomplishment. He also has six Indycar titles and needs just one more win to tie Andretti for second place on the career win list.
Yesterday Dixon passed Al Unser for the most laps led in 500 history.
Like Mario, Dixon has had multiple chances to win a second 500 and has come up short. Similarly, he does not need to win a second 500 to seal his legacy. Dixon is one of the all time greats in Indycar racing no matter how many 500s he has won.
His role, however, is becoming clear as his window of opportunity narrows. Dixon will be an excellent ambassador for the sport when he retires as the mantle passes from Mario.