Archive for 13 Sports Blog
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
TheSportsGuy13 on Twitter
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.
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
TheSportsGuy13 on Twitter
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.)
I’m sitting here at the Colts complex just in case team president Bill Polian decides to move up in the NFL draft, which he won’t. I think there’s a good chance I’ll go home late tonight without the Colts making any picks. If Polian has his way, he’ll move down from 31 into the second round.
Polian likes to move down in the draft and get more picks. He hates paying first round rookies big money when they haven’t played a down of NFL football. He always stresses the importance of the whole draft and signing rookie free agents. He says the hard work comes in the later rounds.
At his pre-draft news conference, Polian pointed out how many Colts starters on this year’s Super Bowl team were later round picks or undrafted players: Jeff Saturday (undrafted), Gary Brackett (undrafted), Melvin Bullitt (undrafted), Antoine Bethea (6th round), Pierre Garcon (6th round) and Robert Mathis (5th round) among the most notable. Of course, without first rounder Peyton Manning (number one overall in 1998), the Colts would not be the consistent winner they are. But the meat of the team comes from solid scouting and wise picks that come long after even the most rabid NFL fans have turned off the TV.
There’s not much excitement in the draft for a Super Bowl team. Not like when I traveled to New York City in 1998 to see if Polian take Peyton Manning instead of Ryan Leaf, the best decision in franchise history. A year later I was at Madison Square Garden when Polian made another smart choice, Edgerrin James over Ricky Williams with the 4th overall pick. Since then, the Colts have not picked in the top 10.
I picked USC offensive tackle Charles Brown for the Colts at #31 in one of those radio mock drafts today. But I think the Colts greatest need is actually a defensive tackle. The Colts are adequate at best at that position. That first pick will be important. Last year’s first rounder Donald Brown made a nice contribution as a rookie. But just as important was the signing of Jacob Lacey after the draft ended. The free agent cornerback nobody picked through 7 rounds became a solid starter.
-Rich Nye, WTHR Sports Reporter
TheSportsGuy13 at Twitter
I’m safe from the thunderstorms inside Lucas Oil Stadium, killing three hours before tipoff of the national championship game. This is the first time I’ve had a chance to stop and let it sink in: Butler is playing for a national championship. I have been so busy just covering the day-to-day road to the Final Four that I sometimes don’t really fully comprehend the magnitude of what the Bulldogs have accomplished.
Butler is my alma mater. I like to think the Dawg Pound really started when I was a student there in the early 1990’s and Barry Collier became coach. I can’t tell you how proud I am of this team. They have taken the basketball program to a new level most people never thought possible. They have done it with class. The Bulldogs go to class, graduate, speak well, represent the university with dignity and win a lot of basketball games along the way.
But to be playing for the national championship is more than remarkable. Playing here at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis just a little dramatic twist to the storyline. This is a very good basketball team. Cinderella is not an appropriate tag for Butler, not for a team that has won 25 games in a row and started and finished the season ranked 11th in the nation. But the likelihood of a school from the Horizon League with 4,200 students and a basketball budget less than what many head coaches make at other schools actually reaching the title game is about the same as a 16 seed beating a 1 seed in the first round (which has never happened).
It has happened. And now Butler has the chance to do what Indiana State and Larry Bird could not in 1979, win a national championship for a little mid-major from the Hoosier state. They will have to beat one of the giants in college basketball. When Butler was just starting to turn its basketball program around, Duke was starting to build one of the dominant programs in the game.
The Blue Devils won their first national championship in 1991, right here in Indianapolis. Since then, coach Mike Krzyzewski has led Duke to two more titles and the best winning percentage in the NCAA tournament of any school (minimum 50 games). This year’s version may not have the future NBA stars of some of the other Duke squads, but is still one of the best.
The Blue Devils have won more games (64) over the past two seasons than any team in college basketball. The Blue Devils allow just 61 points a game, the best defensive average at Duke since 1950. Duke led the ACC in rebounding. The Blue Devils are an experienced bunch with all senior and junior starters. Butler has knocked off some really good teams on this magical run. But Duke will be the biggest challenge yet. And I mean big. The Blue Devils have size across their starting five and down the bench.
A Butler win would rank as one of the top 10 stories in Indianapolis sports history, maybe top five. It might rank as the biggest story in NCAA tourney history. Whatever happens, the ride has been incredible. The Dogs have been this man’s best friend.
-Rich Nye, WTHR Sports Reporter
TheSportsGuy13 on Twitter
When I came to Butler from Illinois in the fall of 2006,it didn’t take long to realize just how big a deal basketball was around here. That year the Bulldogs made it to the Sweet Sixteen, and the campus was full of excitement.
Fast forward four years and that “excitement” pales in comparison to the atmosphere on campus today. As the clock counted down the final seconds of last Saturday’s regional final against Kansas State, students stormed Hampton Drive in celebration. Even days after this historical moment you can’t walk through campus without hearing talk about the team’s magical journey through March Madness and the possibility of Butler winning a national title right here in our own backyard.
In fact, I’ve given up on trying to pass through the bookstore during the day, as it’s continuously packed with Bulldog fans, young and old, buying t-shirts. But I don’t mind. The team’s advancement to the Final Four is what college basketball fans dream of… and it’s certainly the perfect way to wrap-up my fours years at Butler!
Many are calling this a “Cinderella Story” – something straight out of the movie “Hoosiers”. However, no matter how this story ends, this team has not only captured the heart of the Butler Nation, but of the entire nation.
– Jillian Deam, WTHR intern and Butler senior
Salt Lake City, Utah – I posed this question over dinner last night with some of my Indianapolis media brethren: Who is Butler’s best overall basketball player? I asked because I wasn’t sure how to answer myself.
The first and easiest answer is sophomore forward Gordon Hayward. After all, he is the Horizon League player of the year. Hayward has the most skills and tools. Most experts say he can leave Butler after this season and be a first round NBA draft pick. But Hayward has not been the go-to guy lately. He led the Bulldogs with 17 points against Syracuse in the Sweet 16 victory. But before Thursday, he had not posted a team-high in scoring in well over a month.
So if not Hayward, who. My vote right now would be Shelvin Mack. He is fearless on the offensive end and scores a bucket when the Bulldogs need it the most. His defense has improved and he’s always on the floor. Only Hayward has played more minutes than Mack.
But you could make a pretty good argument for Ronald Nored, too. Nored is the toughest Bulldog, guards like a hound dog and runs the show on offense. Lately, he has made the big plays in crunch time. His free throw shooting can be a real problem if Butler has the lead late. But his leadership is obvious even as a sophomore.
The senior Willie Veasley is not out of the question. He never puts up big numbers. But he makes a steal , a tip-in or a three-pointer that wins games.
And I don’t leave out Matt Howard. He has not had the season he enjoyed a year ago. But he is still the only inside presence for the Bulldogs. When he’s in foul trouble and not on the floor, the Bulldogs can be in real trouble.
I say Mack is the best all-around player right now. But I’m waiting for that breakout game from Hayward. Maybe today against Kansas State.
Rich Nye, WTHR Sports Reporter
TheSportsGuy13 at Twitter