Rain no match for Newgarden 

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I will admit it. Mother Nature had the odds in her favor with a gloomy forecast for the lndianapolis 500.

When l woke up right on schedule Sunday at 3 a.m., the first order of business was to look outside and then check the radar for an updated version of the rain fronts heading our way. While l was hoping for improvement, l gladly accepted the fact that apparently nothing worse was headed our way than what was previously expected, and after a shower and a big bowl of Captain Crunch, l was out the door.

Arriving at the track before sunrise is an art and well worth the effort as parking is more plentiful when you beat the rooster crowing and then settle into their world class Media Center to read the baseball box scores from the previous day. 

Throw in a sausage croissant with a Mountain Dew and one is ready.

However, the weather forecast did indeed hold out and rain drenched the Cathedral of Motorsports just as expected and the lengthy delay began to give me more than enough opportunity to agitate my esteemed colleagues who were quickly doing the math in their collective heads when l reminded them today was my 55th consecutive Indy 500.

A quick visit to the garage area to find the legendary managing director of a premier team, followed by a delightfully catered breakfast at the hospitality tent of an IndyCar Series engine manufacturer and yours truly was ready for a good nap. 

There would be no sleeping with the noise of jet dryers circling the track once the rain had subsided, and some fours later than scheduled, the fans who had filed out of the grandstands due to lightning on the horizon, returned with coolers in hand to give it another go at IMS, with a dry track before them and the traditional pre-race ceremonies unfolding as if no rain had occurred.

Notes: The race went green at approximately 4:45 p.m. with the condition that it would not exceed 8:15 p.m. to ensure daylight for fans to exit the track. The decision was made in conjunction with law enforcement officials and proved to be a wise one that worked well.

Polesitter Scott McLaughlin rocketed into the lead when the green flag waved and led the first 23 laps. While he would lead an additional 43 for a race high of 66, he would go on to finish a disappointing sixth.

Runner up Pato O’Ward was both emotionally distraught and physically exhausted after his stupendous last lap duel with winner Josef Newgarden. 

O’Ward who has come close to winning the race previously will definitely be an Indianapolis 500 champion someday soon.

2008 Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon looked poised to be there at the end as he compiled great fuel mileage.

He was the highest finishing Honda on the day, placing third.

O’Ward’s McLaren teammate Alexander Rossi, who won the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie, was strong all day but came up short on fuel mileage and had to settle for a fourth-place finish.

Defending IndyCar Series Champion Alex Palou brought his DHL Honda home in fifth position and considered his month to be a great one after winning the Grand Prix event earlier in the month at IMS. 

Newgarden’s back-to-back win of the Indianapolis 500 puts him on a very short list of drivers. His pass of O’Ward on the final lap to win the 108th running of the race was both brilliant and bold and netted him a winner’s share of just over 4.2 million dollars. The total purse for the Indy 500 was more than a record 18.5 million dollars.

IMS President Doug Boles deserves a ton of credit for the diligence and strategy that went into the overall execution of a plan designed to combat a lengthy rain delay.

His vision to rent the Titan 2.0 drying system from Nascar to augment the jet dryers owned by IMS was nothing short of brilliant and certainly saved the day as well.

Just over 5.2 million people viewed the race on television including those who normally are in the black out area in Central Indiana, who benefited from the aforementioned being lifted due to the rain delay. 

Danny Bridges, who thinks the battle to the end between two handsome, articulate, young drivers such as Newgarden and O’Ward is just what the IndyCar Series needs, can be reached at 317-370-8447 or at bridgeshd@aol.com.