What we learned from Indy 500 qualifying weekend

What we learned from Indy 500 qualifying weekend

Life's experiences only count toward gain if something is learned from them. Here is what we think we learned from the past 48 hours at Indianapolis: Helio Castroneves, Team Penske. Photo by Andy Sallee. If it ain't broke, you can ...

Life's experiences only count toward gain if something is learned from them. Here is what we think we learned from the past 48 hours at Indianapolis:

Helio Castroneves, Team Penske.
Photo by Andy Sallee.

If it ain't broke, you can probably still fix it and get away with it. The new "Pole Shootout" at the Indianapolis 500 was largely a success. Listening to one former winner of the race a day later, one who made the "Fast Nine" on Saturday, the remark of "I'm sure glad I don't have to do that again today" was heard. No doubt that message was heartfelt. Drivers' angst aside, the public seemed to enjoy the added wrinkle to an otherwise familiar process of selecting the entrants to the Memorial Day classic. Bearing witness to this fact: no one got up from their seat at 4:30 to leave.

A poker face is more valuable than gold. Roger Penske has one. How else to explain Helio Castroneves running to the front of the shootout line to rocket around the Speedway with a 228 mph lap in the heat of the day? All conventional wisdom dictates the fastest guy waits until everyone else posts a time, then goes out and just beats the best one. It all suggests that Helio Castroneves and Tim Cindric have even more in their car that remains unseen; so much more than anyone else that they can flaunt the wisdom of the ages and still come up smelling like a rose.

More is not always more. Andretti Autosport put five cars into the race by the skin of its teeth. Tony Kanaan's last minute heroics were unnerving even for the veteran driver and fearless competitor we all know. Meanwhile, teammates Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti publicly fretted over a lack of competitiveness in their own machines. Is it any stretch to say that Michael Andretti tried to spread himself and his team too thin for this month of May?

Blood is not thicker than water. AJ Foyt IV called it a day in his grandfather's garages and walked away from a ride in the biggest race of the year. As it turned out Mario Andretti in his prime probably would have had difficulty making the field in the No. 41 car, as Jacques Lazier found out. No one will ever tell a giant like AJ Foyt it is over at the racetrack, but like General MacArthur famously said, old racers eventually just fade away; especially when even family wants no part of the ride.

Paul Tracy, KV Racing Technology.
Photo by Andy Sallee.

Paul Tracy does have a heart after all. Racing's bad boy was all of that earlier this month when he jocularly dropped F-bombs on a worldwide internet video feed of the after-business press conference from Indianapolis Motor Speedway. A humbled Tracy tearfully choked on his words in the wake of withdrawing a qualifications run on Sunday that would have put him into the 94th Indy 500, quite possibly for the last time in his long and lustrous career.

Good guys finish first; and if not, they at least get into the show. Alex Lloyd was a Boy Scout in the surrounds of Manchester, England when he grew up. No doubt he was a good one. It shows any time you deal with the young man; in his poise, in his polite respect of others and his patience. Good on him for putting the Boy Scouts of America car into the Indy 500 field with room to spare on Sunday.

Nice girls finish with their smile intact. Milka Duno failed to register a qualifying speed despite adequate sponsorship and a good team to support her effort. Regardless of how you feel about Milka's abilities as a racecar driver, there is arguably no one in the Indy Racing League who tries harder to please the fans. She shakes hands, she kisses babies, she poses for photos and does it in amounts of time back in the garages that no other driver matches. If IndyCar had a Miss Congeniality it would be Milka Duno. Despite being down as low as it gets on Sunday, Milka never lost her winning smile.

'Tis better to be lucky than good. Ask Sebastian Saavedra who piled his car into a heap on a practice run late Sunday afternoon after qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, then watched as competitor after competitor beat him out of the field for the race. Or so they thought, until each waived their punched ticket to a spot on the grid at America's biggest auto race in an attempt to gain an advantage over another. In the end the only man to survive was the one who could only watch and wait from the pit wall.

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About this article
Series General , IndyCar
Drivers Milka Duno , Helio Castroneves , Michael Andretti , Paul Tracy , Tony Kanaan , Mario Andretti , Marco Andretti , Alex Lloyd , Roger Penske , Sebastian Saavedra , Danica Patrick
Teams Andretti Autosport , Team Penske , KV Racing Technology