Memorial Day Weekend -- to some it means the beginning of summer, kids out of school, families planning vacations; but for us race fans, it means it's time for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing -- The Indianapolis 500. The Indianapolis 500 is not just a race; it is a national pastime that has a unique culture that not even the Daytona 500 can match. But in recent years, the Indy 500 has lost a lot of its juice and good nature as a result of the split between CART and the IRL, but this year, its old charm seems to be coming back. I'm not saying it's perfect, but the sport is worlds away from where it was a few years ago. The new Dallara DW12 chassis helps to insure a safer future of Indycar racing, and the introduction of aero kits that will allow manufacturers to build aero kits next year which will bring back the days when the cars looked different and return of the turbocharged engine to the Brickyard for the first time in 16 years.
So what are other reasons why the interest in Indycar is back? Well, that is simple: the talent pool is deeper, the teams are deeper, and the series has a much more consistent driver lineup. The deeper talent pool gives fans the opportunity to cheer for more than the same drivers every week and makes the racing better. Sure, Team Penske is the only team that has won this year, but the races have not been boring by any means. They all have had a good amount of passing, it may not have been for the lead, but that does not mean that the racing is bad.
Bryan Clauson, last year's USAC champion, will also run the Indy 500 after several trials and tribulations starting 31st. His qualifying position does not reflect how he ran. He had a good run on pole day until he wrecked and he was fast all week. This marks the first time that a champion out of USAC will run at the Indy since Tony Stewart in 2001. With the consistent driver and the team lineup, it is easier for the fans to follow. There are also enough Americans in the series now, and enough of them are in competitive rides that they are weekly contenders like Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, and Graham Rahal. The new chief steward Beaux Barfield also has delighted the drivers and teams with his new officiating style of letting the drivers race rather than yelling at the drivers, telling them how to race like former chief steward Brian Barnhart was notorious for doing. Barfield has also done several things here and there to further better the series, among those are the return of a flying start at Indy.
The only hiccup that I have seen so far this season is how the series has handled the Lotus' horsepower problems. Lotus got behind on their development and as a result, they are down on speed compared to the Hondas and the Chevrolets. Indycar has decided to not give them extra boost for the race. They are not off by a little bit, they are off a ton (about 16 mph off the pole speed). I am a bit two sided on this situation. One side thinks that Lotus should be given a bit more boost so that they can keep up with the other two engines and so that they won't be a rolling roadblock. The other part of me is thinking, Lotus had the same amount of time to develop their engines as Honda and Chevy, and that is not Indycar's problem that they got behind. They didn't show up at any of the tests at Indy, or any of the oval tests for that matter. We will have to wait and see what Lotus will do after the Indy 500, being that a good number of their teams have dumped them to go with Chevy and Honda.
With all this in place, on Indycar's biggest stage, the Indianapolis 500, it has its best opportunity to shine, but will it? Only time will tell. Us race fans will have to sit back, enjoy the race and hope for the best.