Fa­mil­iar faces, fond farewells, bump­ing head­line Indy lineup

Payne

The Catoosa County News - - COMMENTARY - By Michael Marot

IN­DI­ANAPO­LIS (AP) — The throw­back month is in full swing at In­di­anapo­lis Mo­tor Speed­way.

Dan­ica Pa­trick started tun­ing up for her fi­nal race on the his­toric 2.5-mile oval more than a week ago. He­lio Cas­tron­eves has been pep­pered with ques­tions about be­com­ing the fourth four-time win­ner of the In­di­anapo­lis 500.

The seem­ingly in­de­struc­tible A.J. Foyt came back less than two months af­ter surviving a sec­ond bout with killer bees. Even real, live bump­ing should be on the qual­i­fy­ing week­end docket.

For race or­ga­niz­ers it’s a dream script: Fa­mil­iar faces, fond farewells and a re­turn to tra­di­tions with a whole new look.

“The story line of Dan­ica, the story line of bump­ing not just for the fast nine but to get into the en­tire field, gives us an op­por­tu­nity to talk about what we love so much, that’s the ac­tiv­ity on the race­track as we lead into the In­di­anapo­lis 500,” track pres­i­dent Doug Boles said.

Even this year’s newlook cars have an old­fash­ioned fla­vor. They’re sleek, speedy and have been all the rage around Gaso­line Al­ley and other tracks around the coun­try where pass­ing has be­come the norm.

When test­ing be­gan at In­di­anapo­lis Mo­tor Speed­way in late April, IndyCar pres­i­dent of com­pe­ti­tion and op­er­a­tions Jay Frye noted the 1,284 to­tal passes through IndyCar’s first four races was nearly double last sea­son’s pace. In Satur­day’s IndyCar Grand Prix, there were 214 more passes — the high­est to­tal since the 225 passes in 2014.

There were also nine lead changes in the race and a record-ty­ing seven driv­ers ac­tu­ally led laps.

If the weather co­op­er­ates, the race will be run May 27.

Long­time fan fa­vorite Tony Kanaan got the new cars top­ping 226 mph on the first day of test­ing.

And it’s not just num­bers that have peo­ple buzzing.

Chip Ganassi Rac­ing man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Mike Hull be­lieves the retro ap­pear­ance has made it eas­ier to ex­plain how these cars work even to ca­sual ob­servers. It’s all part of a plan. “We wanted to get our iden­tity back, what an IndyCar is sup­posed to look like,” Frye said. “A lot of in­put from the fans, a lot of in­put from the pad­dock, all the teams. We came up with what we did. We’re re­ally proud of where we’re at with the car.”

But fans also like talk­ing big names and they’re back, too.

The sec­ond and fi­nal part of Pa­trick’s farewell tour drew dozens of reporters to test­ing. She’s driv­ing for Ed Car­pen­ter Rac­ing in the neon green Go Daddy car that made her an Indy sen­sa­tion as a rookie in 2005.

So, fit­tingly, she in­tends to end her rac­ing ca­reer at the same track.

Dur­ing test­ing, Pa­trick took time to re­flect on her ear­li­est days in the se­ries and started ask­ing pho­tog­ra­phers along pit lane whether they were around for her first race.

She has six ca­reer top-10 fin­ishes in seven Indy starts. Adding an­other might be her tough­est act yet af­ter spend­ing six sea­sons in NASCAR. But if she can turn back the clock and re­cap­ture one last mem­o­rable re­sult, it could be the per­fect fin­ish.

“I re­mem­ber watch­ing the Indy 500 the first year I wasn’t in it and I missed it. I re­mem­ber that feel­ing,” she said.

“As time wore on I missed that rel­e­vancy of be­ing in the game and be­ing some­one like be­fore the race of ‘Who do you think is go­ing to win to­day?’ My name did not pop up in NASCAR. Then that first Day­tona 500 when I was on the pole, and other than that most of the

races weren’t like that. I missed be­ing rel­e­vant, so I’m go­ing to try to be that here this month.”

The only thing big­ger than Pa­trick’s re­turn might be if Cas­tron­eves can reach vic­tory lane in his sec­ond and last sched­uled start on the come back if I need to. It’s just about a day’s drive.”

Earl­ham com­petes in the Heart­land Col­le­giate Ath­letic Con­fer­ence against other schools from In­di­ana, as well as Ohio and Ken­tucky.

se­ries this sea­son.

“I’m back!” the Brazil­ian said af­ter turning his first laps in Team Penske’s No. 3 Chevro­let. “I’m ex­cited to go out there and put on a great show for the fans there.”

Add 35 con­firmed driver-car com­bi­na­tions at­tempt­ing to qual­ify for the tra­di­tional 33-car start­ing grid and it’s no surprise why tick­ets are

“She went for her visit and loved it and I went out and met with the coaches as well and have con­tin­ued cor­re­spon­dence with them,” Watkins con­tin­ued. “They put to­gether a great fi­nan­cial pack­age for her and that was an­other fac­tor as well.

“They play in a re­ally tough con­fer­ence and

sell­ing at a brisker pace than 2017.

It’s a month that has the po­ten­tial to be even bet­ter than the good, old days.

“I think from first to 20th, the 21st car ran 220,” Frye said, re­fer­ring to the early test­ing at Indy. “Again, it’s a real good group. I think this year’s field will be as strong as it’s been in a long time.” it’s go­ing to be ex­cit­ing. They’re bring­ing most ev­ery­body back from this past sea­son. In fact, Maia and one other player are the only two that they have com­ing in, so they’re look­ing to be re­ally com­pet­i­tive. Maia is go­ing to be a piece of the puzzle. They needed some 3-point shoot­ing and they’ll get that with her.”

On hand to watch Look­out Val­ley se­nior Larry McCul­lough sign his let­ter of in­tent to play bas­ket­ball for Ge­or­gia North­west­ern were Terra Bradley, Look­out Val­ley as­sis­tant coach Ezekeil Ru­dolph, Nak­isha Richard­son, Ge­or­gia North­west­ern head coach David...

He­lio Cas­tron­eves, right, of Brazil, talks with Roger Penske be­fore a prac­tice ses­sion for the IndyCar Grand Prix auto race at In­di­anapo­lis Mo­tor Speed­way, in In­di­anapo­lis Fri­day, May 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Dar­ron Cummings)

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