Hot Laps Indy Edition
May 25, 2008 | 1:16 P.M. EST
INDIANAPOLIS - They call the Indy 500 "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" and it's really an understatement.
As far as all spectacles go, Indianapolis is pretty much at the top of the list.
No matter how the race ends up every year, and Indy has had its share of stinkers in its 92 years, the spectacle of the day never is off the mark.
When you pull into this cavernous arena, empty in the wee hours of the morning but then watch as it steadily fills with what seems like an endless stream of humanity, you are instantly grabbed by a feeling unrivaled in the sports world.
As cliche as it may sound, Indianapolis just drips with tradition and history so strong you can literally touch, smell, taste and feel it.
The pre-race festivities are about as old-fashioned as they come but never fail to stir the emotions. Whether its the simple high school and college marching bands that begin performing mid-morning, the traditional appearances and singing by local icons Florence Henderson and Jim Nabors or the stirring rendition of the National Anthem - this year delivered perfectly by Helio castroneves' "Dancing with the Stars" partner Juliana Hough - the lead up to the command to start engines always brings chills.
And when that command comes and the 350,000 fans roar their approval, a more magical moment in sports is hard to find.
If you have the opportunity to come to Indianapolis, you need to. As any baseball fan should experience Wrigley Field or Fenway Park or NFL fan take in a game at Lambeau Field, no race fan should go through life without once coming to the world's most famous speedway.
Seeing the spectacle in person is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The curse of Indianapolis continued for the Andretti family Sunday. Team owner Michael Andretti was forced to watch his team fall out of contention one-by-one with first Tony Kanaan crashing trying to avoid teammate Marco Andretti and then Danica Patrick's pit road incident with Ryan Briscoe. Marco looked like he had something for winner Scott Dixon in the end but eventually faded to a solid but yet ultimately disappointing third. After winning last year with Dario Franchitti, Andretti-Green Racing returned to its previous Indy struggles.
Patrick and briscoe's pit road tangle set off the biggest reaction from the fans - and the media center. Briscoe definitely pulled out in front of Patrick and she walked down pit road to have some words with the Team Penske driver, only to be shuffled away. Patrick's streak of top ten finishes at Indy went away but she continues to be the lightning rod for the series.
Unheralded Vitor Meira was a pleasant surprise with his second place finish and actually looked very strong down the stretch. The veteran driver showed he can run with the big guns even with a small budget team.
The incoming Champ Car contingent struggled tremendously Sunday with the biggest disappointment dealt to the Newman-Haas team which first watched Graham Rahal hit the wall early and get knocked out and then teammate Justin Wilson do the same. While it's great to see all the best open wheels teams together in the new unified IRL, it will obviously take a great deal of time for the newcomers to catch up.
Ed Carpenter and Ryan Hunter-Reay notched top finishes for the young American driver brigade with a fifth and sixth. Throw in Andretti's third place finish and it was an impressive day for the home country contingent.