A Taste of May in April

Overall, the Open Test for the Indianapolis 500 was a success, but eleven minutes in, you had to wonder if the day was going to be a wash…literally. I was able to sneak some fairly significant peeks while I was trying to work this past Wednesday. I’d say that what ended up being an eight and a half hour webcast, I probably caught about half of it, including the last hour that I watched at home. I plugged in my headphones so I could always hear what was being said even if I had to work on day-job reports. Why does any work have to be done in the Month of May? I guess because it’s still April, but it sure felt like May on Wednesday.

One reason it felt like May was the fact that rain was involved. I listened to Trackside on Tuesday night, and I don’t think they mentioned one thing about rain. But eleven minutes after cars rolled off of pit lane, here came the rain. So most of the time when checked in during the late morning or early afternoon hours, this is what I saw on the video.

Test 4

Test 3

But at some point early afternoon, the rain stopped and the cars with active and veteran drivers took to the track.

Test 5

Test 6

Ever since the internet became part of our daily lives, I’ve always found that whenever Indy cars are on track at IMS, those days are my least productive of the year. Most people admit to sneaking around at work and watching March Madness on their computers. That doesn’t appeal to me much. But I can find myself being totally mesmerized just watching one car navigate all four corners at IMS, lap after lap.

I remember the days of dial-up internet back in the nineties and trying to watch Indianapolis 500 practice. It was extremely rare to get one full lap in without a a pause while the computer sat there with the old hour glass going as the picture completely froze up. Sometimes the sound would continue while the picture showed what appeared to be a series of still shots, before the video got going again. Remember those days? But did that deter me from watching? No, because anything was better than what I was used to.

For more than a decade, the video has gotten better and better. There are very few stoppages and the streaming video is now in high-def that is just as good as what you would see on regular cable. Wednesday was different because you had Kevin Lee and Anders Krohn in the booth, along with Robin Miller, who started out in the pits before moving to the booth, and Katie Hargitt who stayed in the pits for the entire extended broadcast.

In the old days, it was just a few cameras following cars around the track with the PA featuring Tom Carnegie, Dave Colabro or Bob Jenkins. It had a quaint old-school feel to it. Speeds were updated on your screen, whenever they posted updates to the track video boards.

Of course, with NBC Sports Gold – we will be able to watch standard NBC-quality broadcasts all day every day for practice with some or all of the on-air talent we see at races. That should really improve our productivity at work.

On Wednesday, we saw a few new liveries on track. For the first time since Ed Carpenter Racing came into being, Ed Carpenter will not be driving a car sponsored by Fuzzy’s. Instead, he will be piloting the Preferred Freezer car. I grabbed this screen shot yesterday of Carpenter in his new livery.

Test 9

Another new look for the “500” is Will Power’s car, touting Verizon’s new 5G service. I know I said his car needed a makeover last week, but a black matte finish is not what I had in mind. From what I’ve seen though, I’d actually call this more of a satin finish. It has a little bit more gloss than matte. I’m still surprised that Roger Penske would go for that. He likes cars to sparkle.

Test 11

Test 8

I’m also not too fond of Takuma Sato’s new yellow and white livery. It closely resembles to Jim Crawford Mac Tools livery from a quarter of a century ago. Many were praising that resemblance, but since I never cared for the Crawford livery, I’m not too fond of this one either.

Test 7

Late in the afternoon after I got home, the rookies and those needing a refresher ran until about 7:45 EDT. That was when Fernando Alonso took the track in earnest for the first time. Apparently, he was having issues earlier in the day and I missed that, but I was able to see him turning laps at speed.

Test 10

I saw the Marco Andretti tribute car, but did not get a screenshot of it. I love that day-glo orange, but it does not translate well in video or photos. You have to experience it in person to grasp just how bright it is. It feels like it may burn your retina when you are seeing it in person.

The JR Hildebrand car looks exactly the same as last year’s. When they came out earlier in the week and called it a Dan Gurney tribute car, I was hoping to see something similar to the solid navy blue cars that Gurney drove. The only similarity to the Gurney cars is that Hildbebrand’s car is also carrying the No.48, just like Gurney. That’s about it, The only other similarity is that the Gurney cars and Hildebrand’s car both have four wheels and an engine in the back. Other than that, there are no similarities between Gurney’s Eagles and the tribute car. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a real good looking car. But to pass it off as a Gurney tribute is a bit of a stretch.

For the record, Takuma Sato led all cars on Wednesday with a speed of 226.993 mph. Ed Carpenter was second quick with a speed of 226.414 mph. Spebcer Pigot, Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay rounded out the Top-Five for the veterans. For those keeping score, Hunter-Reay was the fastest Honda among the veteran drivers at 225.982 mph. I say among the veterans because rookie Colton Herta turned a lap of 226.108 in the rookie portion of the day. He was actually the fastest Honda of the day.

It was good to see and hear cars on track at the historic oval, despite the interruptions for rain. Unfortunately, rain usually plays a significant role at IMS in May, so it was fitting that an Open Test in April would also be affected by rain.

I’m sure I’m not the only one that got their blood pumping a little bit more on Wednesday, as the Month of May creeps closer and closer. It’s the most magical time of year for IndyCar fans and fans of the Indianapolis 500. It’ll be here officially next week.

George Phillips

5 Responses to “A Taste of May in April”

  1. Paul Fitzgerald Says:

    George…actually Sato was the quickest Honda. He was overall the days fastest and he drives a Honda, making him the fastest Honda not Hunter-Reay.

  2. billytheskink Says:

    I thought Sato’s paint scheme was supposed to recall the yellow and red that was Mi-Jack’s trademark with Conquest Racing.

    Hildebrand’s paint scheme may well change by the time practice officially opens next month, but as it stands now it is not much of a Gurney tribute. Oriol Servia’s 2009 entry is exhibit A in how to do that right, Alex Gurney’s 2000 Atlantic series car is exhibit B.

  3. I’d be willing to bet Will Power’s livery is just for practice. The car will shine once May arrives….even though technology is nice, I miss Lou Palmer’s track reports on 1070 WIBC. Excitement in his voice as he read out updated speeds and reports as the Cosworth and offys sped by in the background….

  4. I still cannot believe I watched the whole thing; well, accept for the first couple of minutes while my PC buffered. Once the rain started I tried to access the Internet from the Fire Stick and it worked!!! So, we enjoyed the remaining hours sitting comfortably and watching on the bigger screen. This is so much better than before with only a couple of cameras. And the addition of Hi Def is greatly appreciated. Now, if we could start the official 500 practice next week i’d be even happier.

  5. I’m with you on the old days of watching online . I went up to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway then came back home and watched online . It was a cold soaking rain but it was the largest crowd I have ever seen in the museum parking lot for a test day .

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