This is normally my big sports viewing day of the year. The Indy 500 is usually the highlight, though there have been a few years that I haven’t been able to watch. Those have been some upsetting Memorial Days. This time there was no problem watching. I did get up late, which messed up my schedule a bit. I was set to watch the race with dad. He seemed completely ambivalent about it. He also said he didn’t want to eat out today. Fine. I brought my own hot dog for lunch. I was planning on eating on eating a hot dog at some point this weekend anyway.
I was making a sacrifice. There were three ball games on at the same time as the race. If I’d stayed at home, I would have listened to the Rangers on the radio, had the Tigers game on the computer, and watched Indy on TV, occasionally flipping over to the Minor League game that was on. I would have also gone out to get something to eat afterward, obviously exhausted from over stimulation.
Just to get it out of the way, the Rangers lost to the Orioles in a tight 3-2 game. I like both teams, so I’m conflicted. The Tigers beat the White Sox, 6-5, with a walk off in the tenth. So, I was missing out. Elsewhere of note, my Aunt Judy texted dad during the race. She was excited about a Cardinal home run, but they lost 4-3 to Cleveland. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to watch the Rays beat the Dodgers, 11-10. That must have been a heck of a game. Likewise, the Rockies beat the Mets by the same score.
I did get to peek in on the Minor League showcase game on Stadium between the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders and the Worcester Red Sox (the Woo Sox). I have to admit I was super impressed with the Railriders’ stadium, PNC Field. It’s set against a forested, rocky Pennsylvania hill in a picturesque fashion. I hate to give more love to a Yankees’ affiliate, but I liked their announcers, too. The guy had a great voice and worked well with the woman he was paired with. He sounded professional, but conversational in tone. The team had Josh Donaldson and Oswald Peraza with them on rehab and won 11-4. The fans there also got to see a nearby air show going on with the Blue Angels.
Was just basically watching the race worth missing the games? Read on.
Like I said, I woke up a bit late. I did turn on the TV and watched some of the prerace before going over to dad’s. I caught an interview with Tony Kanaan. This was going to be his last Indy. About his race strategy, he said, “I’ve got nothing to lose. What are they going to do? Fire me?”
As always, the spectacle of the pageantry and the crowd was awesome. Over 300,000 were present and were especially giddy, as reported by all the drivers and others there. The drivers fed off that and seemed jazzed, too. The flyover for the Anthem and Back Home in Indiana was a New Mexico fighter unit pleasing myself and dad.
Graham Rahal was nearly the race’s first casualty. His car wouldn’t start. Eventually, he made it out on track, but two laps down. Scott Dixon made an early pit with a tire vibration. The in-car camera view was hellish. There were a couple more early pits with the same problem.
NBC was mostly running side-by-side commercials, which I appreciated. The commercials were mostly classy, which I appreciated even more. My favorite was definitely the one for Perdue University featuring the band playing at the race. Kyle Larson was there in the pits. He’s planning on doing the “Double” next year. I doubt he was worried about getting back to Charlotte for his race. (More on that later.)
On-track action for most of the early race was Rinus Veekay and Alex Palou trading the lead to save fuel. Katherine Legge slid leaving her pit stall and nearly had an accident. She had to return to the pits and ended up being the race’s first retirement. After another mechanical retirement, the first on track accident was Sting Ray Robb hitting the wall. (I don’t make up names.) During the mass pit stop afterward, Veekay and Palou hit each other coming out. That pretty much took them out of the running for the victory.
The race restarted on Lap 101. The “gentlemanly” racing from the first half of the race was over, as cars started going three and four-wide jockeying for position. TK got one more career Indy highlight. He made a pass through the grass for position. The race pace slowed by 20mph as the teams tried to save fuel.
Another pit lane incident. Teammates Colton Herta and Romain Grosjean collided. Grosjean and his groomer pride DHL car later crashed out on Lap 151. Lap 160, the iconic-looking Santino Ferrucci took the lead in the Red, White, and Blue AJ Foyt car. The rear of the field was involved in a continuous dogfight. With 31 to go, there was a near disaster for Ferrucci as a tire got loose during a pit stop. He didn’t have to make a penalty drive through, but lost the lead anyway.
What happened next was a phone call that my dad insisted on taking from the state of New Mexico Health department polling him about drug abuse in the Land of Enchantment. They’d called him yesterday and he’d told them to call back the next day. It was a loud call that went on for over 10 minutes. There were no questions about the drugs coming over the open border with illegals or about the numerous legal weed dispensaries in the state. (I think there are six in my reasonably nice neighborhood.)
This of course happened during the most interesting 10 minutes of the race, when I’d turned down the sound. With 18 to go, Pato O’Ward also touched grass on a pass on Felix Rosenqvist. Pato was pretty likeable guy in the prerace. Two laps later was The Big One. Rosenqvist hit the wall a couple of times before spinning in the middle of the track. Kyle Kirkwood’s left rear tire was clipped going by. The tire flew off. The tether must have been cut. It just missed going into the stands and went into the parking lot. Kirkwood went airborne, hit the wall, got flipped over, and skidded down the track in a shower of sparks.
Kirkwood was okay. When he was interviewed coming out of the care center, his hair wasn’t even messed up. There was a car hit in the parking lot by the tire. It belonged to Robin Matthews, pictured here in the center. Her car had to be towed off. IMS officials gave her a ride in the pace car after the race and let her kiss the bricks. They also gave her a ride home.
The race was red flagged. The fans in the massive stands did the Wave. The F1 race replay from Monaco was starting on ABC around this time. Gone are the days when I was going to wake up before the sunrise to watch this race anyway. I missed the start, which is always functionally the entire race. Max Verstappen started on the pole and won. It did rain later in the race. Usually that makes F1 races more interesting, but not here. Even the nominally histrionic Sky News race announcers were obviously bored.
Indy restarted with 8 to go. Pato was leading briefly, but crashed out as Josef Newgarden took the lead. Another damaged car ran into Pato after he’d stopped. Agustin Canapino’s steering was gone and he couldn’t help it. This brought out another red flag.
The restart happened with 4 to go. The resulting wreck happened in the rear of the field before the cars had even crossed the line. Last years’ winner, Marcus Ericsson had taken the lead on the restart. His newlywed wife was crying at the prospect of him winning. At this point, Race Control had about a half lap to decide whether the race would finish under caution.
While the crowd had already gotten a great race, it just didn’t seem right to end it under yellow. The fans there deserved a green flag winner. The race was red flagged for a third time with 2 laps left. This left an unprecedented 1 lap shootout. The cars left pit lane, drove around to the line, and took green and white flags from the stand.
What happened next was what everyone wanted for the end: clean, hard racing. Newgarden made a great pass for the lead and successfully defended it coming to the checkered flag for the win. Josef became an instant hero, as he then got out of his car, went under the fence, and waded into the crowd. In the interview afterward, yes, he’d always meant to do that if he won.
That was worth waiting for. This was also Penske’s first win since buying the track. There he was on the pagoda jumping up and down as his car won. Ericsson was bitter afterward in an interview about the decision to red flag the race. He’s not wrong. Danica Patrick in the closing commentary was also against it. Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he was for it and was glad for the great finish, but felt lucky that nothing bad had happened. I’m sure Race Control felt the same way.
Forget anything topping this race today. I went back home and indifferently watched the rest of the F1 race. The Coca-Cola 600 coverage started with images of rain coming down. So much for that. They’ll try it again tomorrow. I didn’t bother watching the rain delay theater. It was raining bad enough that they didn’t even try to fake the viewers out.
There were two more ball games left for me tonight. The Braves and Phillies started first on ESPN Radio. The Braves scored 5 runs in the first and did not look back. I switched to the Chihuahuas game when it came on. They had a live band there for the Anthem. They didn’t say who they were though. The Reno Aces also scored 5 runs on the pups in the first.
The game had 7 straight half-innings of scoring, but Chihuahuas gave out first. As the Braves won their game, 11-4, the Aces won in El Paso, 15-6. The crowd was still loud and cheering in the bottom of the ninth. They also wanted their postgame fireworks.
Lastly, on TV I was flipping around and ran into a Mexican League soccer championship game. This usually comes up around this date. I decided to watch the Chivas versus the Tigres for all of the enchiladas. About the first 5 minutes in, the Goats had already scored twice. Well, this one is over, I thought and flipped channels. Over two hours later, I was flipping back around and they were still playing! And the Tigers were up 3-2 in extra time! Holy cow! Did I miss one! While the victorious players were humping each other on the ground, their trophy was being engraved on the field. (Certainly, I was getting uncomfortable watching these guys.)
On to ***Monday.**