GP of Indy Race Review: Backwards Edition


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Holding a race at Indy before the 500 is as backwards as a horse wearing riding pants. If the Grand Prix of Indy was supposed to build momentum heading into the 100th Indy 500, then it failed. That is, unless you’re Penske, Menard and Pags.


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Simon Pagenaud dominated yet again at the GP, taking his second victory there and third consecutive, to almost nobody’s liking. ABC’s canned intro even rightly called the infield race at IMS “backwards.” In fact, the entire event was ass backwards from start to finish – cars going around the famed track the wrong way, Dale Coyne’s Conor Daly teasing us by taking the lead from out of nowhere, and a Frenchman ultimately winning the damned thing from pole by nearly five seconds.


Pags’ championship points lead is now sizable, with his competitors going backwards. On the flip side, Tony Kanaan‘s not fast over forty farewell tour continued, as predicted. First out of the race, he walled Bourdais just after the green flag flew, before hitting the precarious first turn. The race was halfway entertaining particularly for a road course, at least during the middle portion when young Hoosier Daly led. Of course we weren’t there braving the frigid temps. The yellows and pit stops played out so as to add some drama to the on track passing, of which there actually was a measure.

Allen Bestwick, Eddie Cheever and Scott Goodyear had the call before an almost completely empty house at IMS. Pit reporter Rick DeBruhl questioned Pagenaud about his recent turnaround before the race. In response, the ever disagreeable Frenchman set him straight saying, “No, I don’t think so,” before mentioning “building a team” and the work they did “last year” paying off presently. Boy, is it ever.


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Son of ‘Stache Graham Rahal, sent to the back from third after post qualifying inspection showed his car under weight, also joined in the pre-race opining. “I don’t think our guys did anything wrong . . . Two pounds is certainly not an advantage.” Clearly he needed more steakburgers. Storming twenty positions and turning in the drive of the race yet again to finish fourth, Graham gained the most spots of anyone.

Cheever, losing his voice, at one point correctly croaked that “the most important event is about to happen soon.” That’s the 100th Indy 500 folks, the most important race in history. Bestwick even managed to get one thing right. He called Sebastien Saavedra’s catastrophic “standing start” in 2014’s inaugural GP when he was ass-ended by Mikhail Aleshin “a mess.” Well, yes.


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The crowd was sparse looking on television, with apparently more spotters than fans at one point during the chilly Midwestern afternoon. Off-puttingly there was some loud, weird techno music blaring on the PA system before the command to start engines. Then a brand new driver was invented live on air by Debruhl, the infamous “Graham Newhal.” Awkward!

The bankably predictable first lap pileup happened again, with Tony Kanaan smashing Sebastien Bourdais into the wall while attempting an ill advised pass. They were four wide heading into turn one, and really the ancient Brazilian should know better. Frenchman Bourdais curtly said of his encounter with Kanaan, “I didn’t move. All of a sudden TK came across the track, and that was it.”


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In an actual early race highlight, f-ing F1 invader Alexander Rossi schooled veteran wanker Will Power, passing him cleanly as Power spun round ass backwards and went off course. The devilish Cheever called Rossi’s pass and Power’s spin “perfectly executed.” It was the best move of the race, as certainly the result was the most enjoyable. Rossi finished tenth, nine spots ahead of the horribly slumping and quite mad Power.

Jack Hawksworth got major mentions while being pressured by Dixie, but ended up back in twentieth after utterly wasting a fourth place start. His A.J. Foyt Racing teammate Takuma Sato blended wrongly at pit exit and was penalized under the “Pags Rule” from Long Beach. Inexplicably, Kanaan wasn’t penalized for causing the opening wreck, though his day was done early. Torrid Takuma wasn’t alone in facing race control’s wrath, as Montoya, Newgarden, and Power were all similarly victimized by a suddenly rejuvenated race control for blend line violations. A total of six infractions were called by the non re-jiggered stewards.


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At one low point in the ABC coverage, Bestwicke forgot about Pags leading, citing Montoya as top Penske and then topping it all off saying the 100th Indy 500 is “next week.” As if this silly race doesn’t cause enough confusion among low information fans and viewers already, now ABC’s sabotaging the big show.

The dreaded – and also predictable – signage trouble reared its ugly head on lap thirty seven, as an Angie’s List sign on the wall came down and was impeding cars. Happily it was addressed during the second caution period, which served to bunch up the field as Bourdais suffered additional trouble, went off course and stalled it on lap thirty nine. Pags had been checking out before this, despite the signage crisis. With a lightning fast stop Hinchcliffe beat Pags out of the pits under yellow, but he wasn’t able to hold on to the lead. The comedic Canuck nobly donated his third place proceeds to Canadian wildfire victims.


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It was of course another maddeningly long yellow as the marbles were meticulously addressed, with Bestwicke stating the obvious “as the sweeping continues” going to break. Even Cavin jumped on the bandwagon, tweeting “it shouldn’t take eight laps for a caution.” It’s nice to finally have you on board, Curt.

The legendary A.J. Foyt got some brief screen time as 100th was discussed, though disappointingly no interview. That went to the Cap’n, who capriciously bragged about getting “Helio’s fourth and our seventeenth” 500. For competition’s sake, we fervently hope not. Soon thereafter and right on cue, Power got a wave around instead of losing a lap for pitting just before the yellow. Despite the help getting his lap back, he still ended up in nineteenth not having won a race in over a year.


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In easily the most surprising and exciting moments of the race, Conor Daly passed Helio for the lead on lap forty six. He then impressively ran away rabbit like to a three second lead. Remaining out front for fourteen glorious laps, “Under Daly” gave some fleeting hope to fans of underdogs everywhere.


After the final pit stops, a star struck Dale Coyne Racing became so discombobulated they completely lost track of the young Hoosier. DCR’s Twitter feed got it wrong, hilariously demoting Daly to fourth place when in fact he was in third. On Twitter, IRR swiftly corrected them. In a replay of the race’s first segment, Pags then pulled away from the field. He wound up leading over half the race.

There was a lengthy discussion about Pags’ prowess, with Cheever stating “he has not put a foot wrong.” Bestwick, whether consciously or not, actually went there comically uttering “Simon says . . .” After the backwards affair, Pags admitted Rahal had been his biggest concern of the race and his relief at the steakburger seller’s post qualifications penalty. Seems like race control was looking out for the Cap’n’s outfit once again.

Hinch, Rahal and Charlie Kimball all passed Daly who was going backwards fast in the closing stages. The race leader for those fourteen intoxicating laps held on to sixth, managing to keep a hard charging Dixie at bay and gaining the second most positions, a whopping sixteen. Andretti Autosport’s Carlos “OK” Munoz spiced things up further when he spun ’round backwards, but the cagey Colombian saved it while smoking his tires in a bit of late race intrigue. He wound up in twelfth.


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Hinch in his top Honda kept charging hard from third, but with wider than wide Helio acting as buffer for his teammate it was the Frenchman’s race to lose. Unfortunately, he didn’t. We’re starting to understand the infamous Menard decision now. It was all about the bloody Grand Prix, not the 500. We still say he should have saved big money, as Penske’s got plenty already.

For those who hadn’t either nodded off or froze, there was some hard racing right to the end, as Montoya bashed past Ryan Hunter-Reay to salvage a disappointing eighth after his penalty. But the GP was all about Pags. After the race, Bestwick bizarrely described the winner as “pleasant, smiling, friendly.” Yeah, right. Only when the frosty frog’s standing in victory lane.


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ABC’s broadcast as well as the talk from the drivers was geared heavily toward the 100th Indy 500, as it should have been. Our thoughts on the most important race in history are forthcoming, so stay tuned. The croaking, cranky commentators tried to play up Honda’s near parity with the Chevys, but that’s highly dubious on the two and half mile oval. Expect complaints from Michael Andretti and other Honda teams to start immediately. The whole race – including the broadcast and their bogus interest building prediction – was simply ass backwards.

5 thoughts on “GP of Indy Race Review: Backwards Edition

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