Random Thoughts on Fast Friday

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Fast Friday lived up to its name today as the boost was turned up and the teams started preparing for either a realistic run for the pole or doing their best to land in the Top-Thirty and avoid having to deal with the Last Row Shootout on Sunday. The slowest car of the day (RC Enerson at 226.055 mph) was still quicker than the fastest car on Thursday (Tony Kanaan, 225.341 mph). That’s how much difference the extra boost makes.

Going into Fast Friday, the general consensus was that Honda and Chevy were just about even this year. Qualifying and the race may tell a different story, but Honda owned Fast Friday. When the checkered flag flew on Friday, Honda had ten of the eleven top spots. The only Chevy to crack the Top-Ten was Pato O’Ward, who had the sixth fastest speed at 232.034 mph.

Scott Dixon posted the fastest speed of the day at 233.302 mph. Colton Herta, Tony Kanaan, Marcus Ericsson and Alex Palou rounded out the Top-Five. What’s the common denominator? Colton Herta is the only non-Ganassi driver in the Top-Five. Chip Ganassi Racing really came prepared. You have to think all four of their drivers are a threat to make the Firestone Fast Nine.

Chevy wasn’t mostly absent just in the Top-Ten. Rinus VeeKay was twelfth, while Ed Carpenter was fifteenth and my pick for the pole, Conor Daly, was nineteenth quick. Where were the Penske cars? The fastest Team Penske car was Josef Newgarden, who was twenty-second on the day at 230.479 mph. The other Penske cars were behind Max Chilton on the speed charts. Who was the slowest Honda? Marco Andretti at twenty-sixth quick on the day. That means the bottom-nine were all powered by Chevy. We’ll learn tomorrow how much all of this means.

Those below thirtieth place on the day were Sage Karam, Simona De Silvestro, Sébastien Bourdais, Charlie Kimball and Enerson. To me, one of the surprises is that Dalton Kellett was the fastest of the four Foyt cars, at twenty-seventh on the day.

Best of all today – no one made contact with the wall.

Tenderloin Watch: I was able to get around and explore the grounds some today. It appears that many of the IMS concession stands under the main stands along the straightaway and into Turn One (as opposed to other vendor stands) are offering Pork Tenderloins at $10 each. This concession stand was directly under the Paddock Stands. It was not open Friday, but most likely will be open this weekend and Race Day.

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I tried one of the tenderloins at an IMS stand under Stand E in Turn One. I was very impressed. The seasoning was very flavorful with black pepper in the batter. It was an actual pounded tenderloin and not a fritter. Best of all, mine came fresh, straight out of the fryer. They also offer an array of toppings and condiments. I got mine with just a tomato slice, some pickles and mayonnaise.

A Day at the Museum: Quite honestly, this was a mixed bag. First the negative…

It wasn’t that many years ago that it cost only $3.00 to visit the museum. It was the best deal in town. Then it crept up to $5.00. Then the last time I was there in 2019, it had doubled to $10. Now they are charging $15 to walk through the doors. To top that off, the woman that took our money proceeded to gripe to us about her terrible day and how she couldn’t wait for her shift to end. Some might defend her by saying that we don’t know what is going on in her life. If things are that bad, she needs to go home. That’s not the way to welcome your guests when you have more than tripled the price in the past decade, when they come to visit your facility.

Another negative is that they had probably fewer cars on display than I have ever seen. There were the staples; the Marmon Wasp, Joe Dawson’s National, the Pink Zink, the Fuel Injection Special, the Belond Special, three of Foyt’s winners and the two Johnny Lightning Specials. But many others were missing.

On the positive side, the IMS Museum had not one, but two special exhibits. In the front hall was the Rocket Rick Mears exhibit. All four of the winning cars of Rick Mears were featured, along with some of his off-road vehicles. I’ve always considered the 1991 winner to be the almost-perfect race car.

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In the rear of the museum is the Andy Granatelli exhibit. The 1969 winning car of Mario Andretti is featured prominently, along with the Novi of Jim Hurtubise. The Lotus Turbine of Art Pollard from 1968 was there, along with Mario Andretti’s dirt car. One car I had never seen displayed was Arie Luyendyk’s 1991 RCA Lola/Chevy. I am really a fan of day-glo cars and this exhibit is full of them.

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I’ll go back to the museum next week with my brother, but they need to step up their game with more cars on display and a friendlier staff if they are going to justify $15 a visit.

Gift Shops: Since Susan is not here to write about the offerings of the gift shops, I figured I would take a stab at it. We were impressed with the full supply of merchandise last week at the gift shops. They seemed to have more today. Unlike my wife, I only took a couple of photos – one of something I liked, and one of something ridiculous.

I really like this T-shirt featuring the logo from the programs from the 1950s through the mid-70s. Unfortunately, it’s not 100% cotton. It is some disgusting dri-fit material that is very clingy. Men my age don’t need clingy. We need loose fitting to hide our comical shapes. Still, it looked good on the hanger.

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In the ridiculous category, these men’s shorts caught my eye. Yes, they are garish – but I thought they may be a fun novelty item to buy and wear to the track or out and about at home. That was until I saw the price – $100.

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The surprising thing was I saw a lot of people walking around in them today. Either I’m cheap or some people have more money than sense.

The Crowd: I was pleased with the size of the crowd today. They were well-behaved and seemed more intent on watching race cars than just partying. But they were not subdued. Everyone seemed happy to be out enjoying the sun, the heat and the fast cars in front of them.

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One change from last week was that it seemed mask restrictions were not near as strictly enforced as they were during the Grand Prix weekend. Personally, I consider that a good thing; although I realize that not everyone agrees with me. I come from the south where we eased restrictions in April and have had no ill effects from it. Very few attendees today were wearing masks. If I’m being perfectly honest, that didn’t bother me a bit.

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All in all: Is there any better was to spend a Friday afternoon on a warm and sunny day in May? My friend, Paul Dalbey of Fieldof33.com and I both arrived here at about the same time this morning – around 11:15 local time. We started the day sitting in the Paddock Penthouse stands just across from the Pagoda, watching the cars in the early part of the session. Then we went through the garage area on our way to the museum. After the museum, we went to Stand B in Turn One and ate our delicious tenderloins, and stayed there until the day was done.

Tomorrow will start early, but it won’t be as leisurely – especially once qualifying starts. Paul and I do plan to start the day at Charlie Brown’s and end the day at Dawson’s. Paul is a good friend, and we have not seen each other since Pocono in 2019. But he is a poor substitute for Susan. She had to stay behind this weekend for a radiation treatment on Sunday. It doesn’t seem the same here without her and I have missed her terribly today. But I’m happy she will be back up here with me next weekend for the race.

That will do it for me today. I’ll put up a post here tomorrow morning when we arrive at the track. Then I may or may not post during the day tomorrow, but will have a wrap-up tomorrow evening after Saturday’s qualifying. Thanks for following along today.

George Phillips

5 Responses to “Random Thoughts on Fast Friday”

  1. Bruce Waine Says:

    George – Were or are you able to be credentialed for access to the press area of the Pagoda?

    Any buzz (negative ?) about Danica being selected by Chevrolet to drive the pace car?

    • They cut way back on credentials this year due to the pandemic. I was very fortunate to be one of the few that were credentialed this year. I am very grateful to IMS for that.

  2. Must be my age, but totally in agreement re: cotton shirts. To me Dri-Fit is just a marketing term for recycled plastic. Tenderloin update sounds positive, hope Susan is doing well. I probably missed it but have you ever given a review of the improvements Penske has made recently to IMS or have you noticed any further improvements?

  3. These are great updates. Looking forward to seeing all the improvements next weekend in person, grabbing a tenderloin to enjoy during driver’s introductions with a cold beer, and maybe getting to say thanks to you in person (usually in passing) for all of your insights & fan advocacy here at Oilpressure. Travel safe & our best to you & Susan.

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