Sunday, May 15, 2016

Simply Simon. Or not.

So remember a couple of months ago, when the Blob made its early, early, early prediction for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500?

Well ... it's later now. And I still like Juan Pablo Montoya.

But maybe not to win.

Maybe he's become the counterintuitive pick, now that the obvious pick seems to be his Penske teammate, Simon Pagenaud. If you haven't been paying attention, Pagenaud has gone off like a bomb so far this season. His ridiculously dominant win in the Angie's List Grand Prix of Indianapolis yesterday was his third in a row, and he finished second in the other two races. So he's of course the odds-on favorite to win Indy in a couple of weeks.

I wouldn't dispute that at all, given that he looked to be the winner of the 500 for awhile a year ago. But I also know odds-on and Indy rarely dovetail neatly.

This is because weird stuff tends to happen on Memorial Day weekend in Indianapolis, stuff that doesn't seem to happen anywhere else. It's how a young Marco Andretti winds up leading until the last 150 yards in his rookie year, even though he'd never led until lap 198. It's how J.R. Hildebrand crashed on the 800th and last turn I 2011 to hand the race to a stunned Dan Wheldon. It's how Kenny Brack won in 1999 after Robby Gordon ran out of gas ... and how Johnnie Parsons won with a cracked engine block in 1950 because it rained while he was leading with 62 laps to go ... and how Frank Lockhart and George Souders won back-to-back as rookies in 1926 and '27 despite starting 20th and 21st, respectively.

Stuff happens at Indy. Only three times in the last 11 years, after all, has the 500 winner led the most laps. That includes last year, when three drivers led 149 of the 200 laps, and none of them won.

Scott Dixon (84 laps) finished fourth. Tony Kanaan (30) finished 26th. And, yes, Simon Pagenaud (35) finished 10th.

Food for thought.

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