Drama!…It is the one word that best describes Indianapolis 500 qualifying.
This past weekend I went to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Tom Carnegie Pole Day and Bump Day for the 100th running of the Great American Race. In 2010 IMS adopted a single weekend qualifying platform replacing their old back-to-back weekend style. This new schedule is much more fan-friendly and makes for an exciting time. Also in 2010 they added what is deemed the “Fast 9”. At 4pm on Pole Day qualifications for the top 24-spots are locked, and those compromising the front three-rows must re-qualify for their starting order. With prestige and extra cash on the line, it is a great thing to see the fastest drivers push their cars to the limit one more time in an attempt to capture the pole honors.
This year the Sam Schmidt Motorsports No. 77 machine driven by Alex Tagliani set the pace in round 1, and although it didn’t look like he would be able to stand tall against the Ganassi teams when it came to the “Fast 9”, Tagliani proved that he had the drive and determination to lay down 4 consecutive laps with average speeds topping 227 MPH to claim his spot at the front of the field for Sunday’s race.
Although Tagliani had the crowd on their feet, the fan favorite of 2011 is undoubtedly Simona DeSilvestro in her HVM Racing No. 78. DeSilvestro experienced a nasty crash on Thursday which left her with 2nd degree burns on the back of her hands. Working through the pain, DeSilvestro was determined to make it in the top 24, and after having to claw her way back in after being bumped out once; she laid down 4 solid laps and will start 24th on the grid.
Sunday was no less exciting as storms shortened the qualifying window leaving some heavy-hitters including Danica Patrick wondering if they would be watching from the grandstands come Memorial Day Weekend.
For over an hour Marco Andretti sat in his Venom #26 car knowing he held the 33rd spot, just waiting for someone to knock him off the starting grid. With only a few minutes on the clock that is exactly what Alex Lloyd did, with one qualifier in between it looked as though Andretti wouldn’t even have the ability to defend himself, but with just seconds remaining before the gun sounded Andretti took to the track and bumped out teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay for a spot in Indy 500.
My weekend at Indy was definitely an exciting one, and getting to sit in turns 3-4 with fans like Sudsy and Jim who traveled from Eastern Ohio for the event, made it all the better.
Sunday is sure to be an exciting race, and although I won’t be in the stands I can guarantee that my TV or radio will be tuned in to see who will win the honor of being the winner of the centennial Indianapolis 500.