Early crash causes problems

Debris from the crash may have caused some problems for several drivers after the green flag went up.

Debris from the crash may have caused some problems for several drivers after the green flag went up. Ryan Newman had a tire problem that sent him to pit road twice. Other drivers were running hot.

Robbie Gordon shredded his front right tire, prompting the second caution of the day.

Max Papis, who made his first Brickyard 400 this year, finished his day early with a fire at the back of the car.

It’s always sunny at IMS

The WTHR.com team is back at IMS for coverage of this year’s Brickyard 400!

Despite clouds and even some rain showers for the (EARLY!) morning commute, the sun is shining bright and promising to wreak havoc on IMS today. It’s going to be a(nother) steamy one!

After hanging around last night to make sure a line of storms didn’t do too much damage to central Indiana, the alarm came awfully early for this web guy to get back to the corner of 10th & Meridian for the ride to the Brickyard. It’s a quick turnaround and an early day, but if you’re going to cover a race at IMS, the three hours between caravans from the station can mean a lot of missed opportunities.

So here I am.

I feel a little more out of my element covering the Brickyard 400 than the Indy 500, probably part by being more of an open wheel guy, but also even an abbreviated May schedule gives you a chance to get more familiar with the names and faces in the cars, even at the back of the field.

Speaking of the back of the field, the field for this year’s (This Space For Rent) 400 at the Brickyard is bookended by former Indy 500 winners. Juan Pablo Montoya will start from the pole and, by all signs over the last 52 weeks at this track, have as good a shot as any at winning. In the last spot is 1995 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve, a late entry and an even later qualifier.

You want predictions? No clue. Montoya *should* win, Jimmie Johnson probably *will* win, the hunch says a breakthrough for the old fella Mark Martin (ran very well last year and qualified solidly this year), which means someone else will likely end up with the win.

Stay tuned to this blog throughout the day as I document the day at IMS. And don’t forget the Eyewitness News team on Twitter, as well!

Brickyard morning photos

Four more years! Four more years!

Even at its sort-of-annoying worst, the World Cup can be an incredible experience, provided you have a flight to sleep through, a couple cold beers and a few hundred Japanese friends.

In a flurry of yellow cards and a well-placed 116th minute volley, the World Cup is over. As an at least casual soccer fan, I’m a little saddened, but I think I’ll get by, and by next week, not even realize that soccer is still being played, which seems like a horrible thing, considering the decade and change I spent playing the game spring, summer and fall in my youth.

I enjoy the game, can pick out the parts of an otherwise snooze-fest to make it exciting, but I still just don’t “get” it, at least not in the way soccer fans…ahem…”fútbol fans” want me to. As the tournament neared an end and I paid more attention to each game (really, who needs to watch Paraguay and the Ivory Coast in a round robin game?), the more I got annoyed with the announcers. And not the British gents they had leading the broadcasts. In fact, they can make even the worst pass in the first minute of the game sound sexier than Cindy Crawford in 1986.

It’s those darn Americans.

To hear John Harkes insist on using terms that only die hards would understand at first listen (admittedly, the die hards made up 95% of the viewing audience) just made me cringe. At one point, he called a shot on goal, “the final delivery.” Really? I’ll give you “pitch” (field) and even maybe “booking” (red/yellow card), but “the final delivery”?

C’mon John. Your ancestors (or somebody’s ancestors) fought the British off twice so we wouldn’t have to use those words. In fact, by the time we pulled them through the second World War, we should have insisted that they Americanize their soccer lingo.

“Oh, silly Winston. We don’t need need your money for putting the Germans in their place. But could you PLEASE just call it a ‘field’?”

Not that changing a little vernacular will make more people watch a Columbus-Salt Lake MLS game in mid-April, but it would make one month every four years just that much more enjoyable. In fact, unless the United States wins the World Cup, then holds all its players hostage on MLS teams and decides to use its defending champion powers to hold a World Cup every six months with $1 hot dogs and domestic drafts at every game, I don’t think it will ever get the audience the fans clamor for.

And I’m not holding my breath that a World Cup win is coming anytime soon.

Every year since the U.S. hosted the Cup in 1994, we’ve heard about how “they’re bringing a team that could make noise.” And every year, it’s tails between the legs and back home. Even this year was an exercise in “Whew!” England handed the U.S. a tie…errr…”draw” and, while there was plenty of questionable officiating that kept lesser opponents in the next two games, they were still that – lesser opponents – and one of them had to be beaten by, we’re told, the greatest thing since Mike Eruzione invented sliced bread.

It’s just not flying, America. But keep on reaching for those stars.

Negativity aside, I still enjoy the World Cup and hope America can at least get through to the quarterfinals in 2014.

Also, this year’s World Cup gave me one of the most memorable experiences in my life. A couple weeks ago, I went to Japan for a little more than a week. In that time, the Japanese national team had two games scheduled in the World Cup. I thought that it was a “cool” enough experience to watch their first game with the family we stayed with, I had no idea what the second game would hold.

With a 12-hour flight looming at 3 p.m. on a Friday, my wife surprised me by agreeing that watching Japan play Denmark at 3:30 Friday morning would be something we just couldn’t pass up. The half day on a plane only sealed the decision.

So, after a 7 a.m. to midnight whirlwind around Tokyo, our third day in that magnificent city, we got packed up for the trip home, refreshed and hailed a cab at 2:45 am. While the hotel-recommended bar turned out to be a dud, a man unloading a truck on the street proved to be our savior. (As I’ll probably write in a future blog post, as nice as anyone may tell you the Japanese people are, triple it.) He pointed us to the area of Tokyo called Roppongi, just a bit up the road (though another automatic $7 cab ride) and a place where we had gotten a taste of nightlife our first day in town. We knew we were in the right place when the cabs started backing up behind pedestrians making their way across the street to any number of bars.

We hopped out, figuring the growing crowd at Legends Sports Bar (how’s that for feeling at home?) would complete our experience. We had bought Japanese soccer shirts earlier in the day, so we couldn’t be mistaken for Denmark fans and we were welcomed with open arms into the “family.” (Remember: Triple it.)

The time difference is what did the trick. I don’t know that I could have committed to going to a bar in the States for a U.S. game at 2:30 in the afternoon, but at 3 a.m. in a foreign country, it felt perfect. That is, until my wife turned to me midway through the first half and said “Um, it’s daylight.” Looking back at our pictures from the night, it really is a bit bizarre how much brighter the post game photos are from the start of the…ahem… “match.” (Damn you, Winston Churchill!)

Anyway, Japan won fairly easily, 3-1 and advanced to the Round of 16 for the first time in two World Cups and the second time ever. You’d have thought they won the whole thing. While I have my own videos of the celebration, someone from across the same bar posted video of the final seconds of the win on YouTube.

As if that wasn’t enough, a trip to find breakfast got even wilder. Really, they just won the right to lose the next game (in heartbreaking, penalty kick fashion, mind you) but these fans weren’t going to let the moment get away. The intersection becomes a mosh pit when the crosswalk turns green, then breaks up in a nice, orderly fashion when the “don’t walk” sign pops up. The same person also posted video of that craziness.

Moral of the story? If you’re ever in a foreign country when their team is playing in the World Cup…GO! Do not hesitate. Even if you’re not a soccer fan or even a sports fan, trust me, it’s worth it. Even my wife, who thought it would be cool to go just as an experience, ended up with her face painted and chanting every time Japan touched the ball.

No, really. It was awesome.

And I slept the whole flight home. Mission accomplished.

Milka Moving Chicane

This is Milka’s 4th season in the IndyCar series. But she seems to be getting slower, not faster. Milka did not qualify for the Indianapolis 500 this year. But at every other track, she doesn’t have to make the race. She just shows up and too often gets in the way.

For several years, the IndyCar series has needed every car on the track possible. Car count was critical for a series that struggled to stay on track, period. So if Dr. Jack Miller or Marty Roth or the late stuntman Butch Brickell had enough money to put a car on the track, they were welcome to show up and race (I use that term loosely), sometimes not even needing to post a qualifying speed to make the lineup.

Which brings me to Milka Duno. She brings CITGO sponsorship from Venezuela. Each year she finds a team owner willing to take the money and put her on the track. This year Dale Coyne could not resist. But it’s time to ask if Milka has become a moving chicane that needs to be parked.

This is Milka’s 4th season in the IndyCar series. But she seems to be getting slower, not faster. Milka did not qualify for the Indianapolis 500 this year. But at every other track, she doesn’t have to make the race. She just shows up and too often gets in the way.

Most every other driver in the IndyCar paddock has come up on Milka like a stalled car on the interstate. This past weekend Ryan Hunter-Reay became the new president of the Milka Duno Fan Club when she got in the way of his hot lap in qualifying at Watkins Glen, New York. Milka finished the road course race 23rd, three laps down, last among the cars running. At about the halfway point of the race, she was already out of overtake assistance pushes for her Honda engine, but she did not pass anyone.

Not even with attrition from other crashes has Milka finished in the top 20 of any race this season. When she did not crash out herself, she has been the worst finishing car still running at nearly every race this season. Mike Conway has missed the last 3 races after his Indy 500 crash, and Graham Rahal has missed 4 races searching for a ride. Both drivers still have more points than Milka.

What is Milka accomplishing taking meaningless laps and getting in the way of good competition? Perhaps Milka needs to take the CITGO sponsorship to Indy Lights for awhile. The league did park her at Iowa when she was too slow. She’s a really nice lady. But she doesn’t belong on the track right now.

Rich Nye, WTHR Sports Reporter

rnye@wthr.com

Follow  TheSportsGuy13 on Twitter

Let’s go racing…no, wait

Two drivers were out of the Indianapolis 500 before Jack Nicholson could even get to his seat.

After a fantastic-as-usual opening ceremony (national anthem audio issues notwithstanding), engines roared and the field took off.

Then stopped.

For the second year in a row, we had a crash before the honorary starter could shake hands, put the flag away and find some shade. Davey Hamilton spun and found the wall inside turn 2. So Jack Nicholson dropped the green again and we’re back at it.

It took a moment to get my bearings, as the ABC broadcast appears to be about a half lap behind the race outside my window here in the media center. As cars whizzed down the front stretch, they were approaching turn 3. Explains how I could watch the caution flag come out for the Hamilton crash.

Now, it’s Bruno Junqueira’s turn, also in Turn2. The speed demon of the second day of qualifying (and the sexy darkhorse pick because of that) is also out of the race. What a couple of years it’s been for Bruno at Indy.

So we’re down to 31 cars before my seat gets warm. I really hope this isn’t a trend, for the sake of the race.

—————

We’re through Lap 20 (though the average speed of the race is under 140 MPH, if that tells you about how many of those were actually under green) and lookie here… Tony Kanaan, who qualified with about 45 minutes left in Bump Day, then moved back to 33rd when he switched cars, is up to 16th. Now THAT would be a story.

————-

First pit stops hit around Lap 37. All the leaders, then just about everyone else pitted, then the course went yellow. Scary moment in the pits for Will Power as he took off with the fuel hose still attached.

Dario leads Graham Rahal, Power, Danica Patrick and Alex Lloyd under yellow at Lap 41, though I believe at least Rahal and Patrick still have to pit. (I was right. Danica pits and drops to 20th, Rahal only falls to sixth and Power had to come back into the pits and falls to eighth.)

———

Back to green. Lap 51 now and it’s an interesting mix in the top half of the pylon. Dario and Helio are still 1-2, but Rafa Matos is in third, with solid, no-frills, as expected Ed Carpenter and Townsend Bell are fifth and seventh, respectively.

Go back a bit and Tony Kanaan is still climbing and now has help. He’s 12th, immediately behind teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti, with another teammate John Andretti two spots behind. A good spot to be for Andretti Autosport to make some ground.

Will Power made a third trip through the pits moments ago and has fallen to 25th from his front row starting position and Bertrand Baguette and Hideki Mutoh have also lost several laps with issues.

Jinx! John Andretti is black flagged for a block of Dan Wheldon on the front stretch. He’ll drop to 25th, just ahead of Vitor Meira and Sebastian Saavedra.

———

Lap 69, chaos in the pits! Rafa Matos lost a left rear tire (the only one he has, in fact) and turned it into the pit wall. Everyone appears to be okay and Matos is back out on track. Scott Dixon braked hard to avoid Matos and appeared to kill the engine. He got pushed back to his pit box, re-fired and got back out, but not after a huge drop in position.

More significantly for Tony Kanaan fans, could this incident have shown Lady Luck is getting ready to reward TK for his patience? Matos (and his tire) were headed across pit row toward Kanaan’s car, but made hard left turns and the No. 11 car got through free and easy and into fourth place. Any other time in the last four years, I’m betting that tire gets TK. Is karma being funny for the funny Brazilian?

Back green on Lap 72.

Back to yellow on Lap 73.

Rafael Matos hit Turn 1 hard and backwards. Out of the car and appears to be walking fine.

———–

Vitor Meira became the latest crash victim around Lap 105, getting high in Turn 2 and smacking the wall. A sad end for Vitor, but remarkable that he was back in the field this year. An excellent recovery for Meira after crashing hard in last year’s 500.

Tomas Scheckter took over the lead during the caution, having pitted right before Meira’s crash, but Franchitti took it back on the first lap back green. Tony Kanaan has climbed to second.

———

More pit stops coing. Wilson, Scheckter and Kanaan are among the first in, out with no apparent issues. Marco Andretti takes over second behind Franchitti for the time being.

——

Team Penske had a horrible stretch around the Lap 146 mark. Starting with Helio Castroneves stalling his car in the pits, en route to a 20+ second stop, followed by a 13 or so second stop by Will Power, then topped off by Ryan Briscoe crashing hard and sliding down the front stretch.

Dario Franchitti has resumed the race lead, followed by Andretti Autosport teammates Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan. Tomas Scheckter and Townsend Bell round out the top 5 at Lap 152.

——-

Rookie Sebastian Saavedra crashed on Lap 162. Saavedra, who also ran the Indy Lights Freedom 100 on Friday, made the field while waiting for an MRI at Methodist Hospital last Sunday following a practice crash on Bump Day. He got in when Jay Howard and Paul Tracy discarded their times in an effort to qualify faster, but failed.

Mike Conway, Justin Wilson, Castroneves and Graham Rahal chose not to pit during the caution period and have taken over the top 4 spots.

One by one, those four peeled off for fuel, leaving Franchitti back in the lead, ahead of Kanaan and Wheldon, when Kanaan needed to pit, a spectacular final lap crash by Conway allowed Franchitti to cruise to victory.

Conway touched wheels with Ryan Hunter-Reay coming out of Turn 4, sending his No. 24 car flipping in the air and into the catch fence on the outside of the track. Hunter-Reay also hit the wall in the incident and finished 18th.

Franchitti became the 17th driver in Indy 500 history to win multiple races.

It’s not my fault and other Carb Day thoughts

After an overcast opening week at the Speedway, the weather was good for qualifying and now is downright beautiful for race weekend. The IZOD IndyCar series has a good vibe going, and the drama and excitement of the new qualifying format has given May an energy boost heading into the 94th running of the Indianapolis 500.

After an overcast opening week at the Speedway, the weather was good for qualifying and now is downright beautiful for race weekend. The IZOD IndyCar series has a good vibe going, and the drama and excitement of the new qualifying format has given May an energy boost heading into the 94th running of the Indianapolis 500.

“It’s not my fault,” is the line of the month, uttered by a frustrated, slightly shaken Danica Patrick after the worst qualifying effort of her Indy career. She was right, but totally wrong to say it. When you play for a team, and you’re the quarterback, you simply can’t go public with the pointing finger. It makes you look bad. And Danica looked bad, and got booed. She knows it, and has somewhat apologized.

Anyone besides Helio Castroneves winning the race will be a mild upset. Anyone besides a Penske or Ganassi winning the race will be a major upset. I picked Scott Dixon at the start of the event. I’ll stick with him.

History will be made with 4 women in the race. It could have been 5. But the question of whether Milka Duno belongs on the track answered itself. She was too slow. I’ll take Simona De Silvestro to finish highest among the women and win rookie of the year honors as well.

The new qualifying format is a hit. The only change I would make is at the start of the Fast 9 Shootout, the cars should qualify in inverted order the first time through. Whoever runs the fast time in the first session goes last at 4:30 pm.

As for bump day, I hope teams learned this lesson: never voluntarily take yourself out of the Indy 500. Make someone bump you out. Paul Tracy and Jay Howard will be watching the Indy 500, even though both of their cars qualified quicker than bubble boy Sebastien Saavedra. Mario Romancini also withdrew and wound up requalifying as the fastest rookie. But Romancini could have waited to be bumped and then run a faster speed.

-Rich Nye, sports reporter

rnye@wthr.com

TheSportsGuy13 on Twitter

Two sides, same coin

There’s a lot of chatter going on about whether the new qualifying format is a good thing for the Indy 500 or not. (In fact, I’ll wait to type more until you go cast your vote on the matter on the WTHR homepage. Go ahead, I’ll be here.) The new “Fast 9” format was kind of growing on me until Helio threw up a 227.OMG! on his first run. Game over. That’s like a baseball team scoring 10 in the top half of an extra inning game. Sure, someone *could* knock him off, but as the day’s best kept trying (including an impressive afternoon by Alex Tagliani), it was obvious that #3 was going to be on the pole again.

But aside from that, what about the rest of the day? Admittedly, I only watched the first dozen or so qualifying runs before my wife yanked me off on a quest for hostas and hanging baskets (which was actually not a bad time, but it wasn’t hanging out in the sun at 16th & Georgetown by any stretch of the imagination), but I couldn’t help but reflect on the “what-ifs” of the rest of Saturday.

How different would this year be if it were last year?

Immediately, most will point to Tony Kanaan’s crash as the head of the “cons” list regarding the new qualifying. But as much as I hope beyond hope that TK wins one, if not several, 500s before his time in a car is up, maybe his situation is overshadowed by a couple feel good stories that the new qualifying created.

At the top of that list, I think, is rookie Bertrand Baguette. While he could easily be bumped from his 24th spot in Sunday’s qualifying, what a fantastic situation for a rookie to be in – and one who many thought may be kept outside the bubble by his lack of oval experience, at that – now only having to worry about getting back in the car if nine drivers top his qualifying time. There are some big names left to hit the track and find some speed, sure, but Baguette has to be sleeping a little easier tonight.

Speaking of rookies, who would have thought *both* Ana Beatriz and Simona de Silvestro would qualify in front of Danica Patrick? Even with Danica’s troubles the first week and a half of practice, you had to think she would, along with the rest of Andretti Autosport, get it together enough to put in a solid qualifying spot, if not get into the Fast 9 mix. Instead, Saturday turned into a rocketship of nerves that culminated in a very public, very emotional moment for Patrick.

I don’t think it’s fair to decide on whether or not this year’s schedule tweaks are good or bad, based on one year. In the end, whether they qualified two or 32 cars on Saturday, Sunday is Bump Day at Indy and when the sun starts to sink below Georgetown Road, the fun will begin and we’ll have our 33 drivers ready to go next Sunday.

And I can’t wait.

Indy 500 Pole Day Cliff Notes

I don’t think most fans completely understand the new qualifying format for Indy 500 Pole Day. To be honest, not many teams and drivers totally understand it either. But it should be interesting and hopefully fun on Saturday.

I don’t think most fans completely understand the new qualifying format for Indy 500 Pole Day. To be honest, not many teams and drivers totally understand it either. But it should be interesting and hopefully fun on Saturday.

First of all, qualifying starts at 11:00 am. Each car can make up to 3 qualifying attempts until 4:00 pm. The Fast 9 move on to a pole shootout from 4:30 – 6:00 pm. The speeds are thrown out and each driver must requalify for the pole. Drivers can make two attempts.

But here’s an important subplot to the first qualifying session. The fastest car at 4:00 pm wins a very important first choice: pit selection. Pit selection might be more important to winning the race than starting position. So teams and drivers will be pushing just as hard for the top spot in the first session as the late afternoon shootout.

How many qualifying attempts cars will make is hard to say. There are several prizes to run for Saturday. The provisional pole in session one, plus the fast 9, and the 24 spots available on the first day of qualifying. How important are each of those prizes? And then comes the shootout. The fastest driver going in gets to pick when he wants to run in the shootout. Weather might be a factor on when a driver wants to go.

I’m looking forward to seeing how it all plays out. But no matter what happens, anyone other than Helio Castroneves on the pole will be an upset. 

-Rich Nye, WTHR Sports Reporter

rnye@wthr.com

TheSportsGuy13 on Twitter

Danica give-away on Facebook!

We’re giving away signed Danica Patrick memorabilia all week.

If you haven’t “liked” WTHR on Facebook yet, come on over and show us some love! We’re giving away signed Danica Patrick memorabilia all week.

Here’s how it works: Sports Director Dave Calabro asks a trivia question about Danica at 6:20 pm on Eyewitness News. You can leave your answer in the form of a comment (not a wall post) on the WTHR Facebook page. We pick a random number from the first correct 25 answers.

My humble apologies for some confusion over last night’s question. We asked what Danica’s hometown is…we meant where she grew up, which is Roscoe, Illinois. Some people were confused and thought we meant her place of birth, which is Beloit, Wisconsin.

We’re still pretty new to using Facebook for contests…so bear with us! We are finding it is not an exact science.

Also, whiners will be disqualified! (kidding. really. just kidding.)