Column: IMS officials should have organized security better

 

 

 

 

 

Every year, the Indianapolis 500 is almost perfectly run. Speedway and Indiana State Police have traffic routes figured out precisely so that people can get home as fast as possible. Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials have the prerace traditions planned to the second, and whenever there is a crash during the race, the Holmatro Safety Crew is on the scene in seconds tending to the driver and picking up debris.

 

The usual precision and fantastic planning is the reason that yesterday’s SNAFU of security was so mind boggling and frustrating.

 

Hear me out. I understand that IMS wanted to increase their safety after the Boston Marathon bombings and I wholeheartedly understand that increased safety is an integral part of a large event nowadays. However, yesterday’s increased security was poorly planned and led to a lot of angry people. Angry is better than injured or dead due to an attack, but IMS could have made it so that neither happened and not just the latter.

 

A little back-story: My dad and I usually go up to our seats two hours before the green flag around 10 AM. Normally, we wait in line for five minutes as IMS employees, or “yellow shirts”, check bags and rip off ticket stubs. Normally, we’re in our seats by 10:20 once you include the walk to the gate and the walk to the seats once we’re inside.

 

Yesterday, we were greeted with an extremely long line. As soon as we stepped in line and saw how slowly it was moving, I said that we’d be lucky to get in by the green flag. We were lucky to get in right as the Star Spangled Banner was being sung after getting in line at the normal time. We were the lucky ones. Check out these pictures taken after we had gotten in and climbed to the top of the grandstands in turn one:

 

photo-3 photo-2 photo-1

Now, here’s the problem. Yellow shirts were checking every single cooler, a first for the 500. However, with a purchased infield parking pass ($40), you may park your vehicle in the infield at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  An entire car is driven into the infield with NO security check other than maybe a quick glance to see that you’re not running a gun store in the back seat of your vehicle. My point being, if a horrible person wanted to ruin people’s lives and the event, they’re going to find a way to do so, especially considering that entire automobiles can be driven into the track. There were plenty of security precautions at the Boston Marathon, but those terrorist losers still found a way to screw things up.

The second problem is that even though every single cooler was being “checked”, IMS had no extra yellow shirts, or at least it definitely didn’t seem like it compared to past years. Now, as any race goer will tell you, many yellow shirts don’t know what the hell they’re doing to begin with, but when you give them more responsibility, it leads to chaos and likely a lot of loyal fans missing the most important pre-race traditions and possibly even the green flag.

I understand that if something did go horribly wrong, IMS would want to be able to say “we had added safety precautions,” but if you’re going to add a new level of security, DO IT RIGHT. Hire extra employees (I know this costs money, but you’re the World’s Greatest Race Course, you have plenty of it). Close off Georgetown Road earlier than 8 AM and set up barricades that clearly lead to certain gates (many were confused as to what line they were in because no one was doing any directing). This will lead to an orderly line with no cutting (seems juvenile, I know, but some a-holes with no respect and dignity were walking right on up and cutting in, which made the log jam even worse. Plus, police and yellow shirts didn’t do anything about blatant offenders.). Have the security checks farther back in line, a few feet (20-50) away from the ticket takers, that way the two places where people have to stop are farther apart than right next to each other.

Next year, I’m sure that IMS will alleviate some of these issues, but the poor planning this year was pathetic. You can’t just add a whole new level of security without adding more manpower and better organization. The Indy 500 is an event that many have been going to for decades, and this year, some of those people missed important pre-race traditions that make up so much of what the Indianapolis 500 means.

Hell, by the time we finally got to the front, all we did was open the top of our coolers and the workers did a very quick glance before shooing us in so that they could get as many people in before the green flag. Obviously, pushing back the opening ceremonies wasn’t an option because of TV even though thousands still waited at Gate 5 on Georgetown.

Others may argue “you should’ve gone earlier” which is a somewhat good point, but that doesn’t change how poorly organized the security was. Pretty much whatever time you got in line, you were going to have to wait for longer than you should have had to.

The scary reality is that if someone wants to do something bad, they’re going to do something bad. Again, cars are allowed in the track, but everyone’s cooler full of beer and fried chicken was inspected.

If you’re going to try to prevent it, do it efficiently, even if it means paying more one-day workers.

I’m sure IMS knows it by now and that it’ll be better next year, but speedway officials should understand that it takes more work than normal to have more security than normal.

 

Post Indy 500 Podcast

Click the link below to listen to Sam recap and analyze the 2013 Indianapolis 500.

 

Indianapolis 500 Preview

The 2012 Indianapolis 500 featured the most lead changes in the Spectacle’s 101-year history. This year, the competition is arguably even better. While the usual suspects are still in contention, there are multiple teams and drivers who have a legitimate chance to drink the milk in victory lane.

Of course Penske will be strong. All three of Roger Penske’s entries start in the top nine, and no one would be surprised if The Captain gets his 16th Indy win. AJ Allmendinger is an Indy 500 rookie, but he has a wealth of experience in multiple kinds of racing. Will Power (yes, that’s his name) has been bitten by bad luck at Indy (14th and 28th the last two years after top-five starts), but Sunday could be the day he breaks through. Three-time winner Hélio Castroneves is always a threat at the Brickyard. The ’01, ’02, and ’09 winner starts eighth in his bid to become the fourth member of the elite four-time winners club.

Another racer in the field of 33 that can join the four-time club is Target Chip Ganassi’s Dario Franchitti. The defending champion Franchitti won from 16th starting position last year. This year, he once again starts deep in the field, starting in 17th. Franchitti’s Target teammate Scott Dixon (’08 winner) starts 16th and despite not having first row starting speed, the Honda engines are deceptively quick. Add that to the fact that TCG always has some of the best pit crews, and Dixon and Dario are never to be counted out.

Andretti Autosport is a team that has the DW12 chassis figured out. With five entries all starting in the top nine, some have said that they’ll take AAS versus the field. Rookie Carlos Muñoz rolls off second, while Marco Andretti starts to the outside of him in third. EJ Viso is fourth; while defending series champ Ryan Hunter-Reay starts seven. Rounding out the Andretti gang in ninth is James Hinchcliffe, who won in Brazil and also won in St. Petersburg.

While the power teams have many weapons to win, don’t discount some of the smaller teams.

I’ve gone over 350 words and haven’t even talked about pole-sitter Ed Carpenter. The Indy born and Butler grad Carpenter put down a four-lap average of 228.762 to put his Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevy on the pole and is looking to become the first native Hoosier to win in 73 years.

Tony Kanaan is a fan favorite who has been fantastic at Indy, but the Brazilian just hasn’t been able to break through and win. Racing for a non-top tier team  KV, Kanaan has finished fourth and third the last two years, and will look to win from 12th.

2011 runner up JR Hildebrand rolls of 10th and I would love for the 25-year old to be there at the finish. The fastest Honda driver Alex Tagliani starts 11th for the same owner (Bryan Herta) who won with Dan Wheldon two years ago.

Can’t forget about Takuma Sato, who last year took Franchitti into turn one on the final lap before crashing. Sato starts 18th next to Dario and Dixon, and is the current IndyCar Series points leader. This year, Sato races for AJ Foyt, who is looking to go to victory lane for the sixth time, second as an owner.

Others that could make solid runs include: Oriol Servia (starts 13th, 4th last year), Justin Wilson, Sebastien Bourdais, and Townsend Bell. Even Simon Pagenaud (who starts back in 21st) was fastest in final practice.

My pick (don’t take it to the bank) is Marco Andretti. The grandson of ’69 winner Mario and son of Michael has been fast all month and consistent this IndyCar season. Marco has finished seventh or above in all four starts and worked heavily on his consistency this off-season. Marco has also performed well at Indy, bringing home two third-place finishes to go along with his heartbreaking second place finish his rookie year. Marco led the most laps last year before crashing out, but expect him to be more responsible in his eighth Indy start. He wants to lead early, and then drop back to conserve gas. Expect Marco to be right there in the end, and possibly put his face on the Borg Warner trophy.

No matter what driver wins, their world will change forever around 3:15 tomorrow afternoon. No fluke has ever won the Indy 500, but there have been surprises due to fuel mileage, crashes ahead of him, or other circumstances. Personally, I think there are 12 drivers that have legitimate chances and I think only eight or nine have no chance to win. While it’ll be tough to top the last two races, the racing from start to finish should be exhilarating. For whoever wins, they’ll have to have a combination of fantastic driving, solid pit stops and a little bit of luck. As long as the race is rain and injury free, I’ll be a happy camper. Hell, even with rain, I’ll still be ecstatic.

It’s the Indianapolis 500.

Indy 500 Memories: Part II

For years, fans of the Indianapolis 500 talked about the finish of the 1960 Indianapolis 500. It was an incredible battle between Jim Rathmann and Rodger Ward that was back and forth until the final laps. Rathmann ended up taking the victory after going back and forth with Ward for the last 104 laps.

Twenty-two years later, Gordon Johncock and Rick Mears had an exciting finish when the wily veteran Johncock held off the young gun Mears in the closest finish at the time.

Ten years after that, Al Unser Jr. won his first of two Indy 500s by holding off Canadien Scott Goodyear in what is still the closest finish in the history of the great race.

While the ’92 finish may have been the closest, the last two Indianapolis 500 mile races have featured spectacular finishes with unexpected and incredible outcomes, both of which make up my favorite moments and finishes since I have been attending the 500.

Last year, Dario Franchitti and his Target Chip Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon started 15th and 16th. Many believed that TCG was not dangerous due to their lack of qualifying speed in Honda engines. By the end of the race, everyone had forgotten about Honda’s supposed lack of speed. Early in the race, Franchitti even was hit and spun in pit road, dropping him to last on the lead lap. Methodically, he worked his way back to the top and he and Dixon were in a position to win the race.

With the new DW12 chassis, the passing was spectacular and the 2012 running became the race with the most lead changes, surpassing the aforementioned 1960 500. As the video below shows, by the last few laps, the TCG cars along with unheralded Takuma Sato had emerged as a top three. With two laps to go, Sato went with Franchitti to make a daring move under Dixon to go 1-2. One lap later, Sato made his move to take the lead. Franchitti gave him as little room as possible and Sato went under the white line and lost control. Seeing Sato dive below Franchitti, then go side-by-side right in front of us in the B Penthouse, then lose the car and slam into the outside wall a few hundred feet down from us is a sequence of events I’ll never forget. While the day was miserably hot last year, no one seemed to notice with how exciting the action was from the very beginning until Sato crashed in turn one, giving Dario Franchitti his third Indy win.

While 2012 was an exciting race from start until finish, the 2011 Indianapolis 500 will always be the most unbelievable and hold a special place in my heart. For three years in a row, Panther Racing had finished second. Rookie JR Hildebrand played the fuel strategy game and somehow emerged as the leader in the final laps. 2005 winner Dan Wheldon was racing in a one off for owner Bryan Herta. Wheldon had piloted the Panther machine in 2009 and 2010 and seemed destined for another second place finish. Fuel mileage was tight for Hildebrand as he went by turn one for the final time under green to a sea of cheering fans. A rookie was about to win the Indianapolis 500. He would also be the first rookie since 2001 and the first non-Penske, Ganassi, or Andretti driver since 2004. It was a fantastic story as the National Guard car worked its way around the 2.5-mile oval.

Everyone on the front stretched, myself included, craned their necks towards turn four to see the soon-to-be winner emerge from the short chute and make his way onto the front stretch to see the checkered flag. As we looked through the haze along the 5/8th of a mile straightaway, a car became visible and then slammed the wall. As he was making his way around the lap car of Charlie Kimball, Hildebrand made his way into the outer groove and lost traction, slamming into the wall. That moment remains the most unbelievable moment as everyone let out a gasp. The leader of the race hit the wall in the final turn. But who would win?

Hilebrand’s car skidded down the front stretch, and many had no idea if he had still won. After a few seconds, the radio broadcast playing in my ears let me know that Dan Wheldon had indeed made the pass on the front stretch and had become a two-time winner. I’m having a problem properly relaying exactly how this occurred because the finish was so unbelievable and chaotic.

Wheldon’s 2011 win would take on a new meaning after he lost his life in a horrifying crash in Las Vegas just five months later.

Of course every Indy 500 that I have attended holds a special place in my heart and each race has had great moments on track in addition to the usual traditions. While not every race has had a spectacular finish like the three I’ve mentioned in depth, all have had incredible moments that make up the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

Tomorrow, I’ll have a preview of the 97th running of the race. Stay tuned.

Heat-Pacers Game 1 Recap

Fans tuned in last night to catch game one of the Eastern Conference Finals, what they got was an epic of a playoff game that will be remembered for years. Remembered for many things: Paul George assertively introducing himself to the casual basketball fan, Roy Hibbert being on the bench for the last two possessions, but above all it will be remembered for LeBron James game winning layup as time expired.

Amongst many people who closely follow the NBA, Paul George has been considered the most underrated player in the league this season. George, was recognized as a first time all star after posting career highs in points (17.4 ppg), rebounds (7.6 rpg), assists (4.1 apg) and steals (1.81 spg) this season but still remained largely under the radar. The Fresno State graduate’s athleticism at 6”8 make him one of the league’s premier defenders and he sets the tone for the defensive minded Pacers. George played a solid game one, but the moment in which he permanently shed the title “underrated” and took on the “superstar” one that is more fitting was his 29 foot desperation three with .7 seconds to tie the game last night. Not only did he hit that impossible shot, but he hit three ice cold free throws to give the Pacers a one point lead with 2.2 seconds left in overtime after being fouled by Dwayne Wade on a three point shot.

This game, which was George’s first in the Eastern Conference Finals, was ultimately decided when LeBron James got the ball with 2.2 seconds left and blew by George and laid the ball in with his left hand as the time expired. This capped off James’ triple double night of 30-10-10 and was another shot to his dying “coke artist” reputation. The man who was quick to defer in the fourth quarter of the 2011 Finals has since hit this game winner, the go ahead shot of game four in the 2012 Finals and put on one of the most dominating performances in NBA history in game six of the Eastern Conference Finals a year ago in Boston.

So, if this game did anything besides gives basketball fans a near heart attack, it helped to shed labels. It shed Paul George’s label as “overlooked” and it shed LeBron James label as “not clutch”.

Looking forward to the rest of the series here are some things to watch.

 1. The Birdman Cometh.

The journeyman has finally settled into his role in Miami, as they have gone 47-5 since signing “The Birdman”.  It’s really easy to overlook what Chris Andersen is doing in these playoffs because of the mix of goofy and terrifying his tattooed-self is, but he has been great in his role. His made all seven of his shots for 16 points, recorded five rebounds and three blocks in just 18 minutes last night for the Heat. What’s more important however is the attitude and toughness that Andersen brings to the Heat. It proved valuable as he was used as an “enforcer” of sorts in the Chicago series and now he will be used to defend Indiana’s physical interior players such as David West.

2. Placing a footprint on the game.

The Pacers did a fantastic job slowing down the game in the first half as the score was 42-37 in their favor at half. The Pacers will need to keep trying to do this for a full 48 minutes in game two if they are looking to steal one in Miami. Also, they were uncharacteristically outscored in the paint 60-48 in game one. They will need to keep pounding the ball inside and taking advantage of their strength advantage in the front court. David West (26 points) and Roy Hibbert (19 points) will need to replicate their high level of play in game one. Hibbert being able to play 41 minutes, almost 12 minutes more than he averaged in the regular season, will help the Pacers protect the rim from the Heat’s penetrating wings.

 

In game two, the Heat’s three point shooting will likely improve from their uncharacteristic 5-18 performance in game one. Also, the Pacers will get more out of a  starting backcourt that only tallied 12 points. Coach Frank Vogel should consider playing back up point guard D.J. Augustin who outscored starter George Hill (who has not looked the same since suffering a concussion vs. the Knicks last round) in 30 less minutes on the court.

 

I see another hard fought game, but the Heat’s 25-18 bench scoring advantage will only widen in game two and they will do more damage on the fast break as the Heat win 98-91.

 

Pacers-Heat Preview

The buzz around professional basketball in Indiana is certainly back. When the Pacers and Knicks made it past the Hawks and Celtics respectively in the NBA’s First Round, the excitement rose to a fever pitch as the two teams revived a rivalry from the 90s. Now after a six game triumph over New York, the Pacers have a whole new level of challenge.

Indiana, in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2004, embarks on a seemingly impossible task tonight at 8:30 on TNT at AmericanAirlines Arena.

While no one in the national media is giving the Pacers a shot, Hoosier natives and Heat haters are quick to point out this: the Pacers went 2-1 versus Miami this season and dominated inside. Post play will, of course, be the biggest advantage for the Pacers, as in three matchups this season (two at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, one in Miami) Frank Vogel’s squad outrebounded the Heat 122-89.

Likewise, Roy Hibbert was fantastic against Tyson Chandler and the Knicks. The 7’2” center capped off the series with 21 points, 12 rebounds, and five huge blocks. In the wins for the Pacers in the regular season, Chris Bosh had a very pedestrian 13.5 points per game. David West also presents matchup problems for Miami and has been fantastic against the Heat, shooting a combined 25-38 including over 22 points per contest.

Also, Paul George has proven to be a good matchup for LeBron James. The lanky 6’10’’ forward showed no signs of backing down in last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals and this season, the all-star held LeBron to a season low 13 points in the lone Heat win. Lance Stephenson has matured over his career and played one of his best games ever in game six against New York (25 points, 10 rebounds). Stephenson will be given the matchup of an ailing Dwayne Wade and has an opportunity to continue to shine.

The Pacers have also not lost at home in the playoffs and have proven that they can win in tough environments on the road.

All that sounds nice to Pacers fans, right?

Well, think about this for a second. Since losing at Indiana February 1st, Eric Spoelstra’s team has lost three games. February, March, April, and most of May, and the Heat have lost THREE times. While LeBron did have a season low 13 versus Indiana in the March 10th 105-91 Heat win, his teammate Mario Chalmers had 26 points, Chris Bosh had 24 and Wade had 23. In that same game, Paul George went 2-11 and Stephenson made only one of five field goal tries.

Yes, the Pacers have a strong starting five. All five players are solid offensive and defensive weapons, but what does the Pacers bench consist of? Not enough weapons, that’s for sure. Ok, D.J. Augustin has played well (10-19 from three vs. NY). You know who else has played well? Miami’s back up point guard as well. Norris Cole went 9-11 from three against the Bulls and had two 18-point games. Is Sam Young really a guy who is better than Shane Battier? The bench is a glaring advantage for the Heat, which will only exacerbate the Pacers’ lack of superstar talent. Ray Allen, James Jones, Cole, Battier, Mike Miller, and Rashard Lewis all shoot extremely well, and those guys will likely get open looks if James or Wade is on the floor.

As an Indiana guy, I hope the Pacers do well as much as the next guy. I’m not a diehard Pacers fan, but I definitely root for the Blue and Gold, but we have to be realistic here. The Pacers will be able to compete and could definitely steal one in Miami. They have been playing very well at home, and with their physicality; they have proven to be the second best team in the east. George and Stephenson are both comparable in size to LeBron and Wade. West and Hibbert create mismatches for a Miami team that is not as physical in the post. They are just not good enough, though.

In the 90’s Reggie Miller days, it was always the Bulls and if the Bulls weren’t a contender, it was the Knicks (94, 95, 99). When the Pacers finally broke through to the Finals in 2000, the Lakers with Kobe and Shaq awaited and won their first of three in a row. In ’03 and ’04, the Pistons were just too balanced and physical for the dominant regular season team. Now, the Heat become the thorns in the sides of the Pacers. Last year there was a glimmer of hope before LeBron and Wade woke up and dominated.

The national “experts” have been saying Heat in six, and that makes sense, but if the series went five or if it went seven wouldn’t surprise me.

A look at my favorite Indianapolis 500 memories: Part I

Sam Rumpza

I understand that the Indianapolis 500 has lost its luster and that it is not at the same level of its glory days from the 50’s through the early 90’s. However, growing up in the spec-series IRL (now Izod IndyCar Series) days still provided a wealth of fantastic moments at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. No matter how much the CART-IndyCar split adversely affected the Indy 500, the race still holds a special place in the hearts of race fans.

I first attended a practice in 1999 and my first race was 2000, when some of the bigger names were just starting to return from CART. That year, the Target Chip Ganassi team dominated with their Columbian rookie Juan Pablo Montoya leading 167 of 200 laps.

Even though I don’t remember much from that overcast day in 2000 or that hot, sunny day of practice a year before, the Indianapolis 500 was something I immediately connected with and became addicted to. For so many in Indiana, attending the 500 is a rite of passage that turns into a yearly tradition with family and friends. Detractors may point to their personal lack of interest in auto racing, but the 500 is more than an just 800 left turns around the 2.5 mile rectangle. The Greatest Spectacle in Racing is just that: a spectacle that is so much more than just a race. There are countless traditions and the Indianapolis 500 is such an integral part of Indianapolis in May. Despite the entire event not being just about racing, the action on the track has been some of the best ever in the past few years, specifically since I have been attending. Many fans of IndyCar (including myself) have complained about the spec series (meaning all cars and engines are essentially the same). However, because of the similarity in cars, the racing has been at its highest level ever in recent years.

Sports fans have their own favorite time of the year. For many, it’s March Madness and for others it is the start of football season or the weekend of the Masters. For me, it has always been the Sunday before Memorial Day. The traditions induce goosebumps every year and the sights and the sounds leave me wishing for next May as soon as the twin-checkered flags are flown.

In this first of a series of posts, I detail some of my favorite memories of my 13 years attending the 500.

In 2002 and 2003, there were fantastic battles for the win involving Team Penske cars. In ’02, Helio Castroneves won his second consecutive 500 by barely holding off Paul Tracy in a controversial finish.

Tracy passed Helio just as a yellow flag came out and Tracy and Team Green even protested the ruling that Helio was leading when the yellow came out. In ’03, it was Helio’s teammate Gil de Ferran in the 6 car who was able to hold off his teammate along with Tony Kanaan for his only Indy win.

At the time, de Ferran’s victory was the closest 1-2-3 finish in the history of the race. Three years later in 2006, it was the 6 car once again that provided one of the most spectacular finishes ever, this time driven by Sam Hornish Jr.

Coming to the green flag with four to go, Michael Andretti was leading with a chance to win his first 500. Arguably the greatest driver never to win was leading with just 10 miles to go, but his 19-year-old rookie son, Marco, had different plans. The youngest Andretti made a gutsy move going into turn one with just three to go. Then, in turn three of the penultimate lap, Penske driver Sam Hornish Jr. made his move to the inside, but lost momentum when he was not able to make the pass. As you can see in the video, Hornish made a remarkable comeback and was able to make the pass in the final couple hundred yards. Broadcasters and fans alike believed there was no chance that Hornish would be able to catch Marco and that an Andretti would win at Indy for the second time.

The ’06 500 will be remembered for the finish as well as the record breaking temperatures. For the first time, my dad and I pondered leaving because of the blistering heat. As we were driving under the north short chute with about 50 laps to go, we saw open seats in the North Vista and decided to park and watch from there. What a great decision that was. We were able to see Hornish close in on the final lap, but we were not sure of who won for a few seconds after they crossed the line because the view on the video board had gone to Marco’s car and it was impossible to see if Hornish had completed the pass.

Even though we were still sweating bullets, we were pretty glad that we stayed through the last 50 laps. Even thinking about leaving early isn’t a mistake that we make now.

Stay tuned for the next few posts on my favorite moments at the 500. What are yours? Let us know on Twitter @RORSFans. Tomorrow I’ll have a column previewing the Pacers’ first Eastern Conference Finals appearance since 2004, and Kevin should have one as well. In addition to my columns looking back on past 500’s, I’ll preview the 97th Running of The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.