Monday, May 26, 2008

Dixon Dominates Indy 500

Scott Dixon's Target Chip Ganassi Racing team maintained their month-long stranglehold on Indianapolis by holding off my darkhorse candidate Vitor Meira to take the win at the wild & woolly 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500. Chip said afterwards his team is in this business to win races and championships, and certainly winning Indy from pole position looks like an excellent springboard for the Indycar series season title.

With Indy's 500 miles the longest race of the season, for me it was more like the 24 hours of Indianapolis, beginning with the 500 drivers' meeting and the Indy Lights race at IMS Saturday, then driving to Kentucky Speedway to shoot the Frank Kimmel Street Stock Enduro race that evening, returning home at 1:30 Sunday morning to catch two hours of sleep before heading back to get parked inside IMS at 5:30 in the morning. Then the wait for the 500 began and was it ever worth it.

I decided to stay put inside Turn 1 to shoot the 500 this year rather than wander as I had done for most of practice and qualifying. A mammoth race day crowd was greeted with a gorgeous spring day and one of the hairier races in recent memory. From my vantage point, there was not much racing in the corner as the relatively equal equipment among the leaders meant Indy was a one groove track to navigate safely except on the long straightaways. Many drivers found out why. The youngest driver, Graham Rahal, and the oldest driver, Marty Roth, both found the marbles and the SAFER barrier in Turn 4 early in the race. Debris from Roth's wreck rearranged the nose wing on Helio's car which put him in traffic the rest of the day. AJ Foyt's horrible month continued with a pit fire. Jaime Camara bounced of the fence in 1 and then slid helplessly into the Turn 2 wall with a bang. Shortly after taking the lead, Tony Kanaan was left with nowhere to go by teammate Marco Andretti in Turn 3, slid wide and then was collected by Sarah Fisher, putting an end to a very eventful (and forgettable) month for her and stealing TK's chance for victory. Alex Lloyd bounced off the Turn 4 wall and spun into pit lane, narrowly avoid a "Cogan moment" with the pit lane attenuator. Justin Wilson spun off in the south short chute and hit the inside wall. Danica and Briscoe tangled leaving pit lane knocking them both out on the final pit stop of the race. Danica was spitting nails mad and went looking for Ryan after the incident while the crowd roared its approval of her competitive spirit. In the end, whoever was in clean air had the advantage all day, and with a near record number of cautions, the race never settled into any kind of rhythm. Dixon made the most of it and led 115 laps to taste the best winner's trophy in racing: a cold bottle of milk.

All in all, I had my best month of May at Indy in many, many years. The Indy Lights race was very entertaining (for once) and I got to cover more of the month's events at the Speedway than ever before. So the photo galleries I have linked below cover more than just race cars - scenes from race day before dawn to victory lane; Indy Lights racing; and the meat in the weekend's racing sandwich, the street stock race in Kentucky.

It doesn't get much better than this. Next up for me is the Rolex series at Mid Ohio the third weekend in June. Seems like I was just there a couple of weeks ago.

By the way: is it May yet?

Indy 500 Race Day 2008

Indy Lights Indianapolis

Kimmel Street Stock Enduro

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