Thursday, May 10, 2007

Back home in Indiana

Hoorah, it’s the month of May, which means it’s that time again. When the engines roar to life at The Brickyard. As I can almost hear “Gomer Pyle” (Jim Neighbors) singing ‘bout the Sycamore.

And while Indy has definitely lost a lot of its luster, nevertheless the hoopla over the event is most entertaining as the media desires to create a three ring circus over Las tres hembras… (The Three Females) Better known as Danica, Sarah and Milka.

And perhaps it’s just me, but the publicity stunt appears to be working as everybody wants to know what Milka thinks about driving at Indianapolis. (Well almost everybody. Probably not Gene “I AM INDY” Simmons) as the media watch proclaims. Will Milka go faster today?

And Indy traditionally has a “Feel good” story of the month, although some aren’t really that great. But I’m happy to say that this year’s candidate is Davey Hamilton, who’s making his return after six plus years out of the cockpit. Hamilton was forced onto the sidelines after a massive crash in Texas, so it’s really good to see a driver return from devastating injuries, with Hamilton getting up to speed fairly quickly.

The on track action came to earnest when full field practice opened on Tuesday with 25 cars taking to the track. This was a far cry better then the pathetic Opening Day action which featured seven cars and two Rookies.

Speaking of which, this year’s crop of Rookies is the smallest since 1979 with only two contestants. And I’ll let you guess who one of them is. (Hint, She’s from south of the border.) While the overshadowed counterpart is Phil Giebler whom I’m told is from a Sprint Car background. Yet we won’t see anymore of Giebler until week two, as his team has selected the “cheaper” second weekend Honda engine lease program.

Yet the man to beat undoubtedly is Dan Wheldon. Hell Robin Miller even had a “Cheep” Ganassi button (circa 1982) affixed to his lapel while co-hosting Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain. And Despain took the bait, inquiring what’s the deal with the button? Miller replied that it’s when Chip had a skinny face and he’s just “Showing the LUV!” (For the Red Menace.)

And would you be shocked to learn that Wheldon has led the time sheets since practice began? Wheldon has “cruised” around The Brickyard at 225-226+ mph prior to Pole Day. Yet Penske’s Helio Castroneves hasn’t let Wheldon run away, nipping at his heels each session while their teammates are close behind.

Day One saw the top five drivers less than one second apart with Tomas Scheckter pulling off a surprise lap of 223+ mph to grab the third quickest speed on Tuesday. Yet perhaps Scheckter is a “Dark Horse” candidate as he’s remained solidly in the top five during practice.

And Tony Kanaan’s set-up must be pretty good. After shaking down both Danica’s and Marco’s “mounts,” they’ve both posted top ten times. Danica finished seventh (ahead of Sam Hornish Jr.) with Marco finishing fifth fastest on Day Two. Kanaan quietly motored about in sixth, sandwiched by his two younger teammates.

And I know its way too early to get downtrodden on ‘lil Al, who’s had very little seat time, but c’mon “Junior.” Unser Jr. cracked 206mph on his first day, then managed to improve to 215mph on Day Two of practice.

While Milka has improved to 219mph and Hamilton is just one spot ahead of the rookie, “Super Tex’s” entries are languishing at the bottom of the time sheets once again. As foyt’s primary driver Darren Manning is last on the speed charts, I think its time for Foyt to quit limiting mileage on his equipment and turn his drivers loose.

Meanwhile the Ganassi and Penske squads play the never ending game of chess in search of securing their place upon the Borg Warner trophy on Memorial Day weekend. As Pole Position and race victory will most likely be decided between the top three teams: Ganassi, Penske and Andretti Green. Then again will Indy disappoint these prominent outfits with the triumph of an unexpected victor?