I just spent about a half hour walking the grounds here at Belle Isle. The crowd already looks much bigger than yesterday. And while there was some disappointment yesterday regarding the attendance, the locals working the ground I spoke with didn't see it feel that way. One lady said something to the effect of she believed a lot of people didn't grasp the Saturday race concept, but believed they would in future years. Another gentleman simply noted that anything Roger Penske touches turns to gold.
Overall, the local sentiment seems pretty upbeat.
I've also been by the KV Racing Technology tent a few times this weekend. Suffice to say, the weekend has not been kind to the Indy 500 champions. Tony Kanaan finished yesterday's race 13th, Simona de Silvestro 16th. This morning neither Kanaan nor de Silvestro cracked the top-20 in the warm-up with Kanaan losing a front wing after hitting the tire barriers.
Still, none of that has dampened the spirits in the KV tent, which has been festive and crowded all weekend long. When we spoke with Jimmy Vasser yesterday the only thing he seemed down about was the fact co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven didn't make the trip to Detroit this weekend, as he is home with a bad back. We wish Mr. Kalkhoven a speedy recovery.
Weather wise, it's been overcast and in the high 60s much of the day. However, a look at the indicates this should be a dry race.
Expect a strong race from Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing's James Jakes. The young English driver starts second, and has been fast all weekend. Further, Jakes more than any driver has consistently stated that he believes the Belle Isle layout suits him. Also, unlike yesterday, Jakes will start today's race on the primary tires. Yesterday, the reds went off quickly in the opening stint, and Jakes never really recovered. Jakes should be stronger today.
Speaking of tires, eleven drivers (Will Power, Simon Pagenaud, Ryan Briscoe, Marco Andretti, Graham Rahal, Dario Franchitti, Simona de Silvestro, Tony Kanaan, Takuma Sato, Sebastien Bourdais, Josef Newgarden, and Alex Tagliani) will start today's race on the alternate red Firestone tires.
Of particular note, is only two of those 11 are starting the race in the top-10. I presume many of those starting on the red will be opting for a three-stop strategy, with a short opening stint, hoping to gain track position if the yellows fall right.
And if you're starting at the back, such strategy makes sense. After all, judging from yesterday's race, I don't think anyone is beating Mike Conway on pure speed.
Brian C. reporting from Belle Isle