As Anne Proffit explains, the term 'Yellow Party' had two meanings after the Indianapolis 500 last weekend.
Anyone that follows the Verizon IndyCar Series knows there’s more to Ryan Hunter-Reay than his activities on-track. He wears the No. 28 to signify the amount of time - 28 seconds - where one person might contract, or die from cancer. RHR backs up his play by promoting Racing for Cancer through his Yellow Party get-togethers at most venues, taking donations through up-close experiences with him and his compatriots that race Indy cars around the country and in Canada.
On Sunday, RHR completed the first Indianapolis 500 to finish under green conditions since 2009; and again, it was a “Yellow Party” for him. He raced his Andretti Autosport DHL yellow Dallara/Honda/Firestone Indy car against thee-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves - in a yellow Team Penske Pennzoil Chevy-powered machine and the yellow and blue car of teammate and 2006 runner-up Marco Andretti.
This yellow party comprised the second-closest Indy 500 finish in history, with RHR beating Helio to the stripe by 0.0600 seconds. Marco was just another tick behind in third place. It’s apt that RHR led the most laps over Castroneves in winning a race he was denied last year - under yellow.
Driving from 19th position to the front of the field took a lot of heads-up piloting and RHR sure did that - as did most of his 32 competitors over the first 150 laps. The fact that this race ran cleanly for the first 3/4 of its duration wasn’t a miracle, as some have suggested; it was a fact that the teams and drivers were working to prepare for the final 50 laps that make and break the Indianapolis 500.
Watching from the turns, the media center and the pits, I was struck by the manner in which everyone performed; working inside, working outside, working together. It was a glorious race - unlike last year’s “you lead, no you lead” exercise where nobody wanted to be at the front. This year was different; this year was a race in which the combatants performed at the highest level - until they didn’t. Yeah, there were incidents - there always are - but they were tame at best (unless you were Ed Carpenter and James Hinchcliffe, that is).
And Beaux Barfield’s Race Control decision to red-flag the festivities when Townsend Bell hit the wall on lap 191 was correct then and remains the right idea. With enough laps left, trying to fix the SAFER barrier under caution would have been an error as the race would have finished while repairs were ongoing; fixing the wall under red and giving the huge, truly enthusiastic crowd a chance to see a green finish - and an exciting one at that - made the experience all that much better. Even those watching at home agreed and stayed glued to their television sets.
So it’s on to Detroit this weekend, after Hunter-Reay’s whirlwind media tour no doubt makes him yearn for that familiar seat in his No. 28 DHL Dallara/Honda/Firestone Indy car. It’s an entirely new set of circumstances for him and the balance of the field to face and the first doubleheader of the year. Even the weather will cooperate this year, or so they say. Will it be another Yellow Party?