After an astonishingly absurd month long layoff – talk about a buzz kill – IndyCar finally stirs back to life at the world’s most awe inspiring racetrack. Too bad it’s not on the actual racing surface, or at least not much of it, but instead on the flat, pusillanimously pedestrian infield access roads. With each passing year, our contempt for this supposed “race” – exactly like our feelings for Mark Miles – continues to sink to new depths.
In the wake of such an interminable hiatus, it seems almost like a new season – and in some respects it is. For oval track racing enthusiasts such as ourselves – who’ve only waited nine months since the last oval race – the promise of a fresh oval season, however abbreviated, isn’t far off now with the glorious 500 up next. Still, when only a third of the series’ races – in a sport built on and by oval track racing, mind you – are on ovals, it’s cold comfort. This Tony George spawn of a slot filler typifies what an unprecedentedly lousy schedule the egg heads at 16th and Georgetown have been providing the last several years – and, in a relatively new twist, how they’re all about the money, not the racing.
Image from indycar.com
The “advanced frontal protection” pieces debuting on the cars are also something new starting with the race ’round IMS’ infield. That’s a fancy, techo-babble term for a little four inch titanium shark fin located on the center line of the nose, directly in front of the cockpits. They’re simply a stop-gap safety measure – think legal liability in this, the most litigious of all countries – until the dreaded windshields make their debut in the not too distant future. After that, closed cockpits can’t be far off; then say hello to NA$CAR II – only on indubitubly inferior tracks.
While designed to prevent head injuries such as James Hinchcliffe suffered on this very “course” in 2014, in actuality a tiny shark fin winglet wouldn’t have saved Hinch from the scary concussion he suffered after being hit by a piece of flying debris, causing him to lose consciousness behind the wheel of a running IndyCar during a race. Fortunately, he was otherwise all right . . . we think. As all the drivers well know, open wheel, open cockpit racing’s a dangerous sport folks, and nothing short of banning our beloved form of racing – and actually enforcing said ban – woud make it completely safe. Then again, nothing in this life’s safe, no matter the bureaucrats’ and politicians’ worst efforts.
Colton “Joaquin” Herta’s another new factor for this year’s GP, and the only mildly exciting one of the bunch. The 19 year old legacy phenom became the youngest winner in IndyCar history at COTA a couple months ago and will be a pilot to pinpoint in the merry merry month of May. The kid’s quick, fearless and not overwhelmed by success – a lethal combination when it comes to this year’s lackluster field of lilliputians. Plus, ya gotta root for any driver who so closely resembles a living, breathing Phoenix.
On the reverse side of things, there’s still no new race sponsor since Angie’s List bolted a few years back, hence the riotously redundant race title. The polar opposite of new, Helio “remember me?” Castro-Neves makes his return for a couple races and a shot at his fourth 500 win. Finally, a pair of symbiotic Swedes will be among the many, many back markers for the rest of the month. This last one’s sort of new-ish, but like the Grand Prix itself, it doesn’t amount to one of IMS’ few remaining infield viewing mounds.