Question: When was your first Indy 500 and what is the one thing you remember most vividly?
T.O.: My first 500 was the 97th running in 2013. I actually was fortunate enough to have a seat in the Paddock right across from T.K.'s pit. So when they realized that the race was going to end under caution I got to watch the whole crew celebrate.
M.M.: My first Indy 500 was in May of 1995 when Jacques Villeneuve won the race. I remember my lemon flavored icey more then I remember the race but I haven't missed a 500 since. The 98th running was my 20th 500 race in my 25, going on 26 years of life. The first race I really remember was 1997 when Arie Luyendyk won the race after two days of rain. My family went for the first two days and had to travel back to New York on day 3 when the race was completed. I vividly remember pulling over to the side of the road to finish listening to the race because we were losing radio signal and there were only a few laps to go.
B: My first 500 as a spectator was, I want to say, the 2009 race (the 93rd running). We had great seats in turn 4 and could see the cars come out of turn 3 and all the way down to the entrance of turn 1. My favorite part of the race was watching all 33 cars come through turn 4 three wide in their rows. It was so cool. My most vivid memory thought was how stinking hot and humid it was that day and how jealous I was of the people under the grand stand. Watching Castroneves climb the fence for a third time was pretty cool too.
T.O.: Call me a traditionalist but I have always thought bump day was kind of cool. This was the first year for the new qualification system, so I don't have a full verdict yet, but it seems odd to me that the final qualification time for the 11 driver was faster than the 8 driver.
M.M.: I have to agree with T.O. on this one but only to an extent. Indy Car has been struggling to fill the 33 car field and the change to qualifications gave some excitement for the crowd who other wise would have seen 33 cars qualify and that would have been it. No additional cars to try bumping this year. I do think the addition of the road course was a good idea this year. I didn't attend but I heard the racing was fun and the atmosphere was exciting. I think the addition of the race is helping fill in some down time in May.
B: Not being in Indy kind of threw me out of the loop this year, especially since I've been ridiculously busy juggling five projects, TAing, and a last minute work trip to Los Angeles. I had no idea who was in the race or where they qualified (except for Ed Carpenter) until I printed off the starting grid the day before the race. I did hear that the road course was a fun new feature and I'm glad they did that to fill up the month. I'm also glad they ran the Indy Lights race again because they've had great finishes these last two years (a 4 wide finish last year!!!). After attending the race last year I really think the city needs to go nuts on race weekend and treat it like another super bowl or something. My buddy from Denver, who had always wanted to attend the 500, was disappointed by how dead downtown Indianapolis was the night before the race and game 3 of the 2013 eastern conference finals between the Pacers and the Heat.
T.O.: I hate to say this, but no. Long stretches of straight line racing deter from the race early on. I heard someone say, that the it didn't feel like the race really started until lab 150 because thats when things got really exciting. The problem with all that straightline racing is the top 10 didn't change drastically through those 150 laps, and there was far less strategy in when to pit,etc...
M.M.: It was exciting and boring to see this record set. On one hand I was hoping for green the entire way because that hasn't been seen since the cars were going a LOT slower but on the other hand they started to get the train effect....nothing was happening.
B: I found it kind of exciting. Yes, I agree, it was boring with the straight line racing but I was on the edge of my seat at a mostly empty bar waiting for something to happen. I knew that as soon as that first caution came out, the real strategy of changing the strategy would kick in. I new that after that first yellow people would start getting more aggressive, and sure enough they did. It wasn't long after that that we saw Hinchcliffe try to force three wide into turn 1 and Bell ended up bumping Carpenter into Hinch. Those last 53 laps were spectacular. I will say that these new cars handle really well and so on great days for racing in the future I expect more of the same as from the 98th running.
T.O.: The last 50 laps. The race was very exciting and it was hard to tell who was going to come away on top. Not to mention the big wrecks all involved a guy who was running near the top.
M.M.: I think the best part was when the white flag came out and Hunter-Reay passed Castroneves at the yard of bricks to take the lead. It was nose to nose going into the first turn and Ryan beat out Helio. Outside of the racing I think the fly over needs to be mentioned as well - those planes were pretty awesome!
B: My favorite part was the over-under move Hunter-Reay pulled on Castroneves just before turn 3 near the end of the race. He gambled and had to thread the needle and it paid off. He could have easily ended up in the grass but he pulled it off and it was exciting. I remember a few other people in the bar who were there for other sports saw the move and expressed awe and excitement. I also really like that they stopped the race with 9 laps to go instead of risking another year of finishing under yellow. They said that they thought it would make the finish more exciting and they were right. Lastly, I really enjoyed having the top two drivers on my list in our Denver pool. I get the bragging rights this year!!
T.O.: Watching Scott Dixon and Ed Carpenter knocked out. I got Dixon in the little pool the people around me had going, and I thought he was running a strong, smart race. My gut feeling was that if he wasn't involved in that wreck he had a shot to win the race. Same thing with Ed Carpenter. He was running well, and someone got a little overzelaous and caught him in turn one and ended a pretty strong race from the Hoosier native.
M.M.: Listening to Marco Andretti complain about how everyone was blocking him and how they "could have caused a big wreck if HE wasn't careful". I can never cheer for an Andretti...all they do is whine. The kid has placed second and third at an Indy 500 and every time he does well he complains.
B: I too was disappointed when Carpenter got knocked out (it helped that I picked him in the pool as well). He was running a great race and (like Dixon) seemed to have a great strategy going. I think it would have been awesome to have a home town driver drink the milk. I agree T.O., the three of us watching were all thinking Dixon's strategy was the best and that if he stayed out of trouble he would bring home another 500 win. I was also a little disappointed in Rahal's finish due to car trouble.
T.O.: I think it was a good thing for the race, and always adds a little excitement. Not often to Stockcar racers do well in Indy, and Busch did finish in the top 10, but that may be slighly misleading because he was nowhere near the top 10 for a good chunk of the race.
M.M.: I have mixed feelings. On one hand I think it probably helped T.V. ratings but on the other hand I don't think it had an impact at the actual race. During driver introductions I watched and listened to the crowd. There were loud cheers for Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Ed Carpenter but a very mediocre to almost non-existent welcome for Kurt Busch. I do like the fact the 500 holds such importance that stock car drivers desire to race in it at the expense of the 600 race. Let's be honest, Busch pulled the double but only raced in one race.
B: I thought it was cool especially since he said he was doing it to raise support for the troops (I think?). It's definitely an impressive feat and he didn't do terrible.
T.O.: I will go with Happy, Hunter-Reay is probably the best American Indy Car driver and it was good to see him win after the rough luck of losing to T.K. under caution last year after a very strong race.
M.M.: I am happy with a green flag finish and hearing the excitement of Hunter-Reay was satisfying. I was pulling for Tony and when he dropped out I was hoping Ed Carpenter could win. Considering they both got taken out I was good with Ryan winning!
B: I was excited it finished under green and that an American won. I thought Castroneves might have had enough to catch him in the end but what a last couple of laps!
T.O.: Yes. Stockcar is worse than Indy for straightline racing with no passing so Daytona is out. And I don't know the names over any European races that are bigger.
M.M.: Daytona and Monaco, so a Nascar race and a F1 race, are the only challengers of the 500 and I think they still pale in comparison. The crowd shrunk at the 500 for a few years but looking back that was between 2007 and really 2011 - when the economy was bad. The crowd this year was great...bigger and better then last year. I also see a good amount of friends attending the race, 23 to 30 year olds, which is good for the race and the sport.
B: I think it is. Yes F1 is hugely popular at the international level and Monaco was on the same day as the 500 this year (I think). However, the Monaco Grand Prix is not for your average person; it's for the rich and famous. The 500 on the other hand, can be attended by anyone just about. You get people from all backgrounds from all over. I can't stand Nascar because I think the cars are too big, they go too slow, and the only time anything happens is when some one gets squirrely in the middle of the pack and takes out half the field because they're all bunched up. It's BORING! I also agree that the crowds at IMS have been better these last couple of years. I was amazed at how large of crowd it was this year.
T.O.: The only think I can think of is a little more passing, not to much mind you, but a little more then Sunday might be good.
M.M.: The addition of "Glamping" was great this year. Glamping, or glamour camping, got people out to the track. I don't think the Motor Speedway can do any more to improve the racing but I think they can continue to improve the experience around the track. If there is a way to continue to pull people down earlier (aka continue concerts, other race day events, ect) then they need to do so. I think it would also be good if Speedway could figure out a way to develop "downtown" Speedway. Great additions of businesses like Sarah Fisher racing but the area needs bars and stores that can survive year round so they can be around for post race parties.
B: As I mentioned before, the whole city needs to go nuts. Have stuff going on post race at the track would be great. Or since it's kind of residential in some areas nearby, encourage everyone to head to downtown Indy for post race parties. Close the circle for concerts, have food trucks on every block. Have a watch party for playoff games (if that's happening). Just go crazy and celebrate one of the (if not the) biggest sporting event in the city. And if both Speedway and Indy host events run shuttles back and forth so people can get from place to place. I think it should really be a giant festival. You've already got tons of people coming into the city. Keep them around and spend money. Seems like something that's mentioned in tourism 101. One way or another, the city(ies) should not be dead leading up to, the day of, or the day after the race.