The Big Machine Spiked Cooler Grand Prix (which I realized I kept putting the word “Vodka” in title) was a prime example of good clean racing. Good clean racing in the NTT INDYCAR Series doesn’t mean everyone follows the leader like a parade, elbows are out, and paint is traded, but we don’t get the stupid mistakes. The race was certainly Will Power’s race from Lap 21 on, but there was still a lot of action to watch.
Starting off with the mid-pack action big thank you to Christian Lundgaard, Alexander Rossi, Jack Harvey, Pato O’Ward, and Sebastian Bourdais for mixing it up during the race. Rossi and Harvey had two different fights, which of course led to announcers not properly identifying the cars (hint: Harvey’s car is pink and black, Rossi’s car is pink and gray). Rookie Christian Lundgaard who qualified fourth, suffered food poisoning, and then went on to lead a few laps, was not letting his rookie status hold him back. He was at times in a three-wide battle with former Indianapolis 500 winners. I know Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing is searching for a driver of their third car and while auditions aren’t over…this kid is good! As usual both O’Ward and Bourdais could be counted on to give some great action during the race. Though if I had to pick my favorite moment it would be Lap 71 where O’Ward passed Rossi on Turn 1, but then Rossi got that spot back on Turn 3. You know my driver Rossi isn’t giving up spots that easily at IMS. These drivers held down the action in mid-pack throughout the race really creating some enjoyable moments.
Of course, racing tragedy has struck current points leader Alex Palou. He switched engines out right before Nashville, but at the start of the race there was all ready indication of engine issues. Then on Lap 66, no joke, the announcers indicated that “Palou is now in the fight for a podium” and then Lap 67 his engine blew. Not sure what’s going on with Honda, but they better get their shit together. RC Enerson and Top Gun racing had a second attempt at racing at IMS this past weekend but were out by Lap 12 with an engine issue. Hopefully this young team gets some good luck their way soon. Jimmie Johnson tied his best INDYCAR finish of 19th…which some people felt was something to celebrate.
Though as mentioned, this race was squarely Will Power’s. He took over the lead on Lap 21 and except for pit stop cycles, never gave it up. It wasn’t easy though. Around Lap 49 his gap to Colton Herta (in second) was approximately 9.5 seconds. Then James Hinchcliffe entered the fray. Hinchcliffe was fighting to stay on the lead lap and was not going to do any favors for Will Power. The line between a competitive gentlemen driver and an asshole is: staying on the lead lap. Hinchcliffe has the right to fight and stay on the lead lap, and from what I saw he was a no point blue flagged to get out of Power’s way. Throughout this period, Power’s lead shrunk to 3.2 seconds, and then of course we had a few restarts. What really got me was that Power went to pit to get in front of Hinchcliffe, only to have Hinchcliffe pit and get out of the pits directly in front of Power. It’s fine, he won.
If you recall from my preview of the race, my sister joined me for her first in-person INDYCAR race. Ya’ll she’s hooked! Naturally I knew she would be, but she sent me a text later after the race expressing how much fun she had and how much she had to learn. So a personal shout-out from me to all the drivers for a good race. It wasn’t crazy and full of dumbass mistakes, but the energy of the race varied enough that it allowed moments to answer questions or point things out to her. She picked Christian Lundgaard to cheer for (a rookie for a rookie) and he did just fine this weekend.
Finally – of course the biggest shout-out to IMS President Doug Boles. I wasn’t there for the NASCAR Cup Race on Sunday, but apparently some kerfuffle happened and at one point Doug was down there with a push broom in a full suit working on the cleanup. We don’t deserve him as track present!