IRL Preview: 2009 Indianapolis 500

IRL IndyCar Series
– 93rd Indianapolis 500 Mile Race (4/17)
– Indianapolis Motor Speedway
– Speedway, Indiana, Indianapolis, United States
– 200 laps
www.indycar.com and www.indy500.com (check both)

Event History
The second of the two great events occurring today, though perhaps only in terms of scheduling. I’ll leave the Monaco vs Indy debate for others and of course readers of this blog must surely agree the N-Word thing happening later isn’t even in the reckoning.

The 500 is one of the longest-standing events in the world if not the longest, it having started way back in 1911. As you can imagine, there is a lot of history and tradition here, right from retaining the yard of bricks at the line, to releasing the balloons before race start, to the three-wide start.

There have also been some very tight finishes!

1992:

2006:

Circuit
On the face of it the track is just a couple of very long straights connected by 90-degree corners, like a rounded rectangle, and while this is somewhat true it very much hides some interesting nuances.

– The banking isn’t very steep for an oval, especially not an oval of this speed, so it requires some balls-out commitment to head into turn one when all you see in front of you is a concrete wall. It is a little bit better now they have the SAFER barrier – but you still don’t want to hit it.

– Unlike many ovals, each turn is unique and has its own characteristics. Dan Wheldon in this week’s Autosport magazine says turns 1 and 2 are tricky and often have crosswinds, while 3 and 4 are easier and allow you to set up a run on someone along the main straight.

The bigger issues at Indy are the traffic, the fuel mileage and the other drivers!

Check out this video of Helio Castroneves on a restart two years ago, if you’ve never seen this you won’t believe how close he gets to the pit retaining wall, and neither did he…

Form
The Penske and Ganassi teams are largely unbeatable on the ovals, yet Indy is the place the smaller teams hope to score an upset because anything can happen. You’ve got to say it is between Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon though, and anyone else is an outside bet!

What to Watch For
– The warm-up lap. Seriously! This is the only oval race I feel the pre-start tension in the same way I do with F1, and it really kicks in on the final warm-up lap as the cars come off of turn 2 and form up in the classic 3×3 formation, which they hold until turn 4. Goosebumps.
– A fast and furious opening section, a long middle section, and a fast and furious closing section.

UK TV

R: Sky Sports 3 and Sky Sports 3 HD will air the Race live at 6pm

US TV

R: As usual, ABC (in HD) will air the Race live at Midday.
US viewers should remember to switch to Versus when the ABC coverage is over for an extended post-race show!

Enjoy the race!

Advertisements