Tires and Fires (2020 Indy 500)

Despite none of us being there, this year’s Indianapolis 500 did not disappoint. It was, to borrow a phrase, a spectacle of racing. Multiple cars caught on fire, we had all sorts of lead changes, and questionable calls. While we couldn’t sit in our normal seats, it appeared as a lot of people made this race their own. Quite a few gathered outside the gates at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the rest of us gathered with friends and family to watch the race.  

The first third of the race (there is no method except splitting the race in half is too long) started off with Scott Dixon taking the lead spot from Marco Andretti before Turn 1. It really appeared that the green flag hadn’t even started to wave before Dixon stole the lead. Then Ed Carpenter had to pit on Lap 3 because he and Zach Veach bumped into each other. That pit stop included suspension damage, and while Ed got the car back out, his race was basically over. Two other cars ended their race is quite dramatic ways. On Lap 6 James Davisson’s tire exploded into fire. It appears as if the wheel itself was broken or cracked and just overheated. That care looked as if it belonged to the Hell Rider. Then on Lap 25 unlucky Marcus Ericsson had his car step out into Turn 1 and stop in Turn 2, also catching on fire. It also should be noted that rookie Rinus VeeKay came to race! He was stepping up and putting pressure on veterans, he did end up with a bad pit stop on Lap 64 which included stalling and hitting his crew.

The second third of the race belonged to fuel strategy. By lap 100-ish, Alexander Rossi and Dixon were working together, trading off leading the race to save fuel with each other. That ended with Alex Palou’s crash on Lap 122. In the round of pit stops during the yellow Rossi was released early and then served a back-of-the field restart. I’ll get to talking about Race Control calls later, but I do agree that it was an improper release. This third of the race also saw two very violent crashes. Back on Lap 91, during a restart, Daly got low in Turn 4 and lost control of the car. In a completely separate crash, though it may have been related, Oliver Askew spun out hitting the inside wall and spinning back up the track, hitting Daly. Both drivers walked away, but it took Askew a few minutes to get his bearings.

What would be the theme of the final third? Rossi, though he passed six-ish cars on the restart, had his race ended by Lap 145 when he also crashed out. The fight went to Takuma Sato and Dixon. Now I thought Sato blocked Dixon on the straightaway, but apparently that wasn’t the call. Sato held onto the lead. The race ended under yellow following the most violent crash by Spencer Pigot into Turn 4 on Lap 196. Takuma Sato repeated his win from 2017, and as always was the most joyful and genuine winner.

Going back to the end of the race, the ever perfect AMR safety crew had Pigot laying on the track being strapped into a back board. Here’s my very big irritation. The race ended under yellow, that’s fine, we don’t add arbitrary laps to our races (I discussed this two years ago after the Iowa race). What isn’t fine is that we had cars going past this medical triage event, as apparently they couldn’t go down pit lane as the attenuator was broken. Instead they should have just red-flagged and called the race. It would have been no different then finishing under yellow, and would have maintained the safety of the AMR Crew and Spender Pigot. It isn’t safe to have medical events on the track while cars are going buy, especially when the crash site is being cleaned up. Race Control made some wild and inconsistent calls this race. If anyone can tell me the difference between a Pit Safety Infraction and a Pit Safety Violation, and how you can make a ruling for Lap 90 after the race has ended…well I’ll buy you a drink.  

In the preview, I discussed Honda v. Chevy during this race. It appears Honda won. They swept the podium and held eight of the top ten spots. The 2020 Indianapolis 500 ends with Sato as the winner. He had a good race and will be a great ambassador for the race as we all start to get excited all ready for the race in 2021, where we can see it in person!