FIRST IMPRESSIONS: 2013 Indianapolis 500

First Impressions, IndyCar — By on May 27, 2013 8:25 pm
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We’ve made our way to our respective homes, and like every other IndyCar fan we’re still buzzing. Below are our first impressions of the 2013 Indianapolis 500.

STEPH’S IMPRESSIONS:

It’s possible that there has never been a more perfect day at the Brickyard.

It was record-setting. It was thrilling beyond belief. And Tony Kanaan finally — finally — etched his likeness in the Borg-Warner Trophy. And if I try to talk about it any more, I’ll wind up writing for days. On this race, and just about this entire season, there’s just not a single negative thing to be found. In terms of IndyCar’s on-track product, these may be the sport’s most exciting times in its history.

My fiancé, who was viewing the Greatest Spectacle in Racing live for the first time this year, turned to me about a third of the way through and said, “This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.” Let’s hope there were a whole lot of other people who thought the same thing and might stick around for more  — because if that race won’t hook them, there’s nothing on Earth that will.

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PAUL’S IMPRESSIONS:

I don’t even know where to begin. The 500 has been completed for over 24 hours now, and I’m still trying to soak it in. I thought after 2011 we would never see another race like that. I thought after 2012 we would never see another race like that. I think after 2013 we will never see another race like that again.

Everything about yesterday’s race went according to hopes, but nothing about the race went according to script. I vividly recall thinking at 185 laps, “There are 15 laps to go, and I have no better idea who is going to win this race now than I did 185 laps ago.” The IZOD IndyCar Series might be at its finest period in history right now with the collection of drivers and car that it puts on track week in and week out. People have claimed it isn’t what it used to be because it’s more of a spec series than it was 20 years ago, but yesterday proved that setting these cars to run 500 miles is as difficult as it has ever been. When a team like Target Chip Ganassi Racing combines to lead but a single lap while the race produces 68 lead changes among 14 drivers, it says that the margin for error is minutely slim. Several cars moved up and down the standings throughout the day, but in the end, the cream rose to the top.

And standing atop the racing world was the driver that won the hearts of fans year ago. Tony Kanaan’s victory in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing might have been the most celebrated and popular in the 97 runnings of the great race. Feeling the excitement and watching the emotion of fans, fellow drivers, and rival team members as TK basked in the spoils of victory cemented his status as a fan favorite and a cherished ambassador of the sport. It was truly a race, and a win, for the ages.

There will be plenty of time this week to analyze, criticize, and break-down every aspect of the race. But for the time being, let’s just enjoy what we were privy to witness yesterday and celebrate why so many of us fell in love with the sport so many years ago.

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JOHN’S IMPRESSIONS:

While some may decry the amount of lead changes as giving the race a “restrictor plate” feel, I thought it made for fantastic theatre. A storybook winner, a rookie taking 2nd place, Andretti and Dinger running strong; this race had it all!

I was very impressed with A.J.’s two charges to the front, but Lady luck really hates that guy. Seat belts coming undone?! I hate to think what she’ll come up with next for Allmendinger, but I thought he had the car to beat once the gear issue was sorted.

Big congratulations to Tony Kanaan on the victory. As a Lloyd Ruby biographer, I think I took a special interest in TK breaking through to finally get that elusive jar of milk. This will definitely go down as one of the most popular Indy 500 winners yet.

The Greatest Spectacle in Racing was definitely one for the ages this year, and the Duel in Detroit has some impossible shoes to fill. Let’s just all agree to judge it by a different standard!

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BASH’S IMPRESSIONS:

Here it is, a day later, and the only words that come easily are “wow” and “finally.”

This season has been tremendous and the 500 lived up to expectation and then some. With so few cautions, we were treated to an afternoon of constant 220 mph leap frog as drivers tried to balance their instinct to lead with their need to conserve fuel until the final stint and avoid being the sitting duck that the DW12 makes the leader on restarts at IMS. Records for the number of lead changes and number of leaders as well as average race speed were all rewritten. It was a thrilling 200 laps with a speedway-sized cherry on top with Tony Kanaan FINALLY getting to drink the milk. I had a feeling about this back in March when he married his long-time lady Lauren Bohlander — getting married seems to bring luck to a driver, and I picked TK to win the 500 in our preseason predictions here at MFW. To see it happen yesterday was one of the most powerful “all-is-right-with-the-world” moments for me as a race fan, and from the joyous reception he got all the way around the track, most everyone at the speedway felt the same. A long-deserved win for TK, and a 500 I won’t ever forget.

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CHAD’S IMPRESSIONS:

The only people not still smiling 24 hours after that epic Indy 500 are the ones that (for some odd reason) wanted a GWC finish. Listen, it’s the Indianapolis 500, not the Indianapolis 502. Just drop it. With Tony finally getting his face on the Borg-Warner, it feels like all of us have gotten a giant monkey off of our backs. There has never been a driver more celebrated in the 97 Indy 500 races that have been run. Records were crushed, emotions were high, and it all just felt “right” when Tony grabbed that glass of milk.

The 1992 references to this race were eerie. It felt like the 1992 race in many ways. It was unseasonably cold, and Andretti led a lot of laps but did not win. Ed Carpenter also had a moment early in the race where he nearly spun trying to warm his tires under caution. Remember, Roberto Guerrero did that in 1992, where he was also the polesitter. Then there’s this. Kanaan won the race today after starting in 12th position. Only one other time in the history of the race has a driver started in 12th position and gone on to win the Indianapolis 500. The year? You guessed it: 1992.

I can’t stress enough how impressed I am with Carlos Muñoz. Sure, when he was at the top of the first few days of practice we said okay, it’s just practice. When he qualified in second, none of us thought he would be up front after lap 3. To finish in second place in the biggest race in the world in his first ever IndyCar race, is beyond outstanding. He was patient, made great moves, and nailed every pit stop he made. I don’t think enough people have really thought about what he did yesterday. Simply stunning.

Finally, the stories about the good luck charm Tony got back yesterday, and the gold medal that Alex Zanardi loaned him before the race were very touching. The best part though, was that when that yellow flag came out with two laps to go, Dan Wheldon was upstairs smiling and celebrating with the rest of us.

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