CARS WITH INVISIBILITY CLOAKS – There always seem to be a couple cars each year at Indianapolis that end up finishing in the top 10 and when you look at it, you incredulously ask, “Where did they come from?”
The prime recipient of that year's honor this year is Oriol Servia. After starting 27th in the first go of the Panther/DRR combo, Servia ran only in the low 20s to high teens most of the day, and with just 40 laps to go, he restarted 18th. At lap 200, he was fourth.
“We got a flat spot on our first stint and I was like, ‘Wow, a lap down already,'” Servia said. “Usually, you get a chance to get your lap back and it didn't happen until the last pit stop. We were last, but on the lead lap. I knew it was our chance. Every restart, we moved forward. It was like non-stop. If there was one more restart, I think we would have had something for the win.
“But, I'm not complaining. Basically last to fourth. I'm super happy. We never gave up. We had a couple of issues. We knew we could do it together. We finished second in the pit stop competition and showed that we have nothing to fear from the big teams. We showed that again on the restarts. I'm extremely proud of all of us.”
Justin Wilson also ran very well throughout the race. He felt very confident in his Dale Coyne Racing setup in race trim, and lived up to it – often running in the top five and ending seventh. Ed Carpenter was owed a better finish, as well, for his own ECR Indy team after charging from 28th to as high as fourth – before spinning out late in the going.
Townsend Bell sneaked up to another Indy 500 top-10 finish, this time P9 in the Schmidt/Pelfrey Motorsports entry. Those who not only were invisible from a results standpoint but also from a coverage one were Bell's SSM teammate Simon Pagenaud and Dragon Racing's two cars of Sebastien Bourdais and Katherine Legge. None of those three ran in the top 10 at any point, and while they all finished, it was still in 16th, 20th and 22nd.
SOME STATS TO CHEW ON – After his frightening accident with Mike Conway, Will Power lost 34 points to Franchitti and 24 to Scott Dixon this race. One or two more of those bad days in the stretch of three straight ovals after next week's run on the streets of Detroit could once again shift the championship momentum – Power's had his mulligan and just needs to weather the storm from here.
Rubens Barrichello has completed five races, with five finishes, four of them between eighth and 11th, and has finished all but three laps. Now, he can add the words, “Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year” to his already stacked resumé.
Ryan Briscoe finished fifth, which was best of the three Team Penske cars, and equaled his best finish of the year so far – this was despite having apparent gearing issues. The fact he was frustrated rather than satisfied given those aforementioned elements is a very positive sign as he looks to continue to improve his performance the rest of the year.
Charlie Kimball has now exceeded his entire 2011 top-10 total in five races (three to two). Like Sato, he's another one who probably would have had another top 10 or two on his scorecard without something happening in the final five laps of a race. While Kimball is by no means a world-beater, he's certainly developing in his sophomore season, enough to give “Ganassi 2” teammate Graham Rahal more headaches and possibly run with the Target duo.
Credit to E.J. Viso who finished his first 500 in five starts, but unfortunately for him, his contact with Franchitti at pit road marked the first, “Oh, no, it's the old Viso” reappearance of 2012.
The Lotus cars were ruled as retired due to “handling” on the official box score after initially being listed as “105 percent rule.” Simona de Silvestro has now only completed 54 laps combined in the last two Indianapolis 500s.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS – Personally, I didn't have an issue with the extended yellow flag period when Josef Newgarden's car was stopped on track with less than 40 laps remaining. For those who suggested a green/white/checkered finish would have aided the situation when Sato crashed and the race ended under yellow, of course, that wouldn't have even triggered a GWC as the leaders had already taken the white flag.
The race featured more passing than I expected and registered a higher TV rating in the first post-Danica Patrick Indianapolis 500. Based on fast national numbers provided by Nielsen Media Research and ESPN, the 2012 race delivered a 4.34 household rating and 6,857,100 viewers – the race's best number since 2008, and an 8 percent increase among households (4.34 vs. 4.03) from last year's race. Both are important qualities to note, and the key is whether IndyCar can maintain the momentum from its banner race. IndyCar heads to Detroit's Belle Isle this weekend for the second of five consecutive race weekends, and another ABC broadcast will permit direct ratings comparisons with the "500" broadcast.
Walking through Gasoline Alley on Monday, there was a surreal feeling of emptiness as teams took down the signs from above their garages, released tires back to Firestone, and packed up. It's the racing equivalent of closing up summer camp and going back on road trips for three-day shows for the rest of the year.