Archive for May 31, 2012

Hollywood’s Minute

My Indy 500 

I arrived at the track just after 8am on Sunday morning to watch my 17th consecutive Indianapolis 500.  As per usual I opened my first beer on the walk to the track just before 8:10 am, and it tasted delicious.  My seats are in the Southwest Vista, in between turns one and two. The people I was meeting to tailgate were in the snake pit, which is located in turn 3. Needless to say that with the 90+ degree heat, by the time I got to turn 3 I had drank three 16 oz beers, and was completely exhausted. I walked from the Junior high school on 14th street, all the way to turn 3. This took over half an hour for me to get over to the snake pit.  I took several breakes on the way, because my cooler easily weighed 70 lbs with all the ice and beer in it. I have been to 17 Indy 500s, but this was my first real adventure into the snake pit, and what an atmosphere!!  I can’t mention all the sights and sounds, since this is a family site, but the crowd over there was young, enthusiastic, and honestly most seemed they could have cared less about the actual race. Many in the snake pit were more focused on playing bags and shot-gunning beers, but as long as they keep coming each year I’m fine with it. I stayed over there until about 11am hanging out and tailgating. We went to our seats before the race began at 12.  All the prerace festivities were spectacular as expected. Though my favorite Jim Neighbors was unable to attend, thank God they had a video recording of him singing, “Back Home Again in Indiana.” Another bright spot before the race was the prerace prayer; it was one of the best I have heard in the 17 years at the track, due to the crowd participation required during the prayer. After every few sentences the father would say, “Can I get an amen.”  Hearing hundreds of thousands of people saying “Amen” simultaneously gave me goose bumps, and is something that will stay with me from this race forever.

Soon after the race began, and with a torrid pace Briscoe and Hinch made several early passes for the lead. With each early pass, no matter which driver it was, the crowd went crazy for each lead change. As hot as it was, it looked like today was going to be a great day, with lots of passing… turns out I was right with the racing having a record number 34 lead changes!! Throughout the day I noticed whoever was leading the race off of turn 4, was passed just before the start finish line and turn one. Seeing several of these passes before the finish line had me primed for an exciting photo finish.

As to my surprise, there weren’t as many cautions as I thought with the high track temperatures.  With the lack of cautions I commented fairly early that this would turn into a fuel mileage race.  Though Chevy has had better gas mileage during other races this season (Esp w/ Will Power), it was fairly obvious that the Ganassi cars were getting better mileage all day, as they were staying out 4-5 laps longer than most of the other cars. Before the race my family and I always make three driver picks that they want to win, think will win, and a dark horse.  I picked Marco to win, Rahal was who I wanted to see win, and Justin Wilson was my dark horse.  At one point during the race I looked up and noticed all of my drivers were in the top six spots. At that point I was feeling pretty confident in my drivers, and reminded my family of the picks I made before the race. Shortly after my braggadocio statements and a green flag pit stops, aside from Wilson my picks would struggle. With about 40 laps left, after the Josef Newgarden caution, this race was no longer a 500 mile endurance race, it was going to be a 40 lap, sprint car type shootout. On the restart from Newgargens caution cars were going everywhere jockeying for position, and the big question was, who has enough fuel to make it to the end?

Then with about 20 laps to go Ed Carpenter spun out just in front of our seats and threw the fuel strategy out the window.  The crowd was cheering the safety crew on to get Ed going, so he wouldn’t lose a lap, but they were unable to get the car restarted in time. Carpenter was running in the top 6 at the time and finished 21st.  I thought the last two restarts were exciting; the next one was jaw dropping.  I have watched the replay several times, and I still don’t know how he did it, but Kanaan stormed into the lead from about P6 or 7 and the crowd around me went absolutely nuts both times he took the lead. After TK took the lead again Marco, his former teammate and probably the strongest car in the race, spun out in turn one. Marco went into turn one a bit too low, and it cost him a solid finish in the race. At this point we had 7 total cautions in the race, and the last 4 were in the last 50-60 laps or so.  All I could think of before the race went back to green was how amazing this restart would be if there were double file restarts like last year. Then the green flag waived on lap 6 and Dario took over the lead from TK. TK then fell to fourth place and suddenly with four laps to go Dixon was in the lead with Dario second and they were pulling away from the field. With the tow as strong as it was throughout the day Sato and TK started to close the gap on the two Target cars. With two to go Dario passed Dixon and Sato followed him though the hole to take second place. The crowd was going absolutely insane with all the action in the final laps, and as the white flag was waving, I was yelling at Sato to take him in turn four. I really thought it was his race to lose at that point, even though he was in second place. A majority of the lead changes during the race happened off of turn four, and I was hopping Sato would be able to do the same.  As they headed toward turn one I saw Sato go low and put his nose under Dario. I was cheering for the pass, but at the same time was thinking he made his move too early. Our whole section stood as Sato went to the inside, and as he and Dario’s wheels touched one could hear 500,000 people in chorus give a disappointing moan. In live action I thought Dario came down a little on Sato, and didn’t give him any room to complete the pass. As I exited the track I was pretty disappointed that Dario got away with another incident like this. After watching replays I don’t think Dario came down on Sato at all, but he didn’t give any room either. On the last lap, of the most important race I can’t say I would give any room either. With that said Dario definitely anticipated contact with Sato. If he didn’t anticipate the contact he would have been in the wall with Sato as well.  When the wheels touch in these cars in is nearly impossible not to spin, unless you are initiating the contact or anticipating it. If Takuma had more space into turn one he wouldn’t have had to go so low and touch the white line. Sato went too early, and it cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars. Had he waited to pass until off of turn four, Dario wouldn’t have been able to pinch him low on the straightaway. The crowd around me was very disappointed in the finish and many, including myself, booed Dario in the winner’s circle. Had Sato made the pass, I would have considered this one of the greatest 500s I had seen; instead it goes down as an eventful, but disappointing day for me.  I always DVR the race and watch it again, because you can’t catch everything at the race. Of all the things I missed because I was at the race, the thing that stood out to me the most was Ashley Judd’s interview after Dario had won.  I couldn’t help but be absolutely turned off by what she said. I’m not sure if it was her tone of voice, her brash statements, or that she didn’t mention Dan Wheldon, but to call your husband a legend just really hit me the wrong way.  He maybe a legend one day, but that is solely due to him winning at the most legendary race track in the world and nothing else.

The Fast Track

Tons of stuff to get to after a very hectic month of May.  So in hopes of getting things covered and somewhat back in order here is the first Fast Track podcast where I try to put a wrap on a great 96th running of the Indianapolis 500.


The Crimson Corner

Pacers Can’t Cool Down the Heat

That was fun wasn’t it? Well maybe the first 3.5 games of the series. The ride ended on Thursday as Indiana Pacers were overpowered by the Heat on Thursday. Much like previous Heat wins in this series; the Pacers looked great in the first half only to come unraveled during the third quarter. The Pacers held it close in the third but a two minute stretch by the Heat put the game out of reach. The Pacers failed to take advantage of their strengths over the Heat and LeBron James and Dwayne Wade were simply just too good in all the Heat wins. The Pacers came into this series as a team no one cared or knew about and at the very least they have established themselves as a formidable foe.

It was questionable to see if two players could carry a team through a playoff series but they were enough against the Indiana Pacers. The shots Dwayne Wade were putting in were simply shots that you can’t defend any better. When Wade wasn’t making circus shots LeBron would get great shots in the lane and Mike Miller was knocking down threes. The Pacers won the rebounding battle by 11 and in this series that should mean that you win the game. When everything the Heat shoots goes in however, there are not that many opportunities for rebounds.

What the Pacers could help was the amount of turnovers. 20 turnovers for an NBA basketball team are inexcusable. Half of the turnovers weren’t difficult plays. Passes to the stands and silly dribbling errors cost the Pacers valuable possessions. Many of these ball control issues point to the fact that the Pacers are still lacking a point guard that can properly run an offense. George Hill was too sporadic with his passes and shot selection. Darren Collison dribbled too much and also took too many poor shots. Too many times Roy Hibbert had great post position on a weaker defender and too many times he never got the ball. Clearly the biggest advantage the Pacers had in the series, Hibbert only took 8 shots in Game Six.

David West and Danny Granger did their best to help in Game Six but it wasn’t enough. Granger showed heart and the All IMPORTANT TOUGHNESS in playing through his injury but this series showed Pacer fans what some already knew. Granger is a rhythm guitarist and the Pacers need a lead. They need someone that can take control of a game and get this team a basket when they need it most. Once the Pacers got out of an offensive rhythm they had no clue where to go to get points. Many will questions Frank Vogel’s coaching when the Pacers needed points but it’s hard to control execution and player’s limitations.

The second unit was just not very good Thursday and wasn’t very good the entire series. Barbosa was supposed to increase scoring but had 3 turnovers in 8 minutes. Tyler Hansbrough looks like he’s still in college and gone it seems the player who posted 30 and 15 last year. The Pacers certainly have needs to address this offseason and besides finding a scorer, they need some real depth in the front court and a point guard that can consistently run the offense.

Even without Chris Bosh, the Miami Heat were just too good and the Pacers just weren’t ready to contend with the two superstars. Much like last year’s series against the Bulls, this year’s series was another great step. Three years ago the Pacers were the laughing stock of the NBA and this year they were the 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. They had the Miami Heat in a state of emergency. Most importantly, the Pacers made people believe in them again. Next year the fans will need to put in the same effort the Pacers are going to make in the offseason. Bottom three in the league in attendance just isn’t going to cut it anymore. There is a great, young core established and Larry Bird will continue to improve this team for next year. So while the Pacers missed their chance to shock the NBA/E!SPN machine, they have the momentum to become a contender for years to come.

Cheers to the Pacers on a great season.

Follow me @Kipicher and @IndySportsCrew

The Crimson Corner

Pacers Fight for Redemption in Game 6

On Tuesday night the Indiana Pacers were simply punked in every way possible. The Miami Heat ran them off of the floor. They ran off the Pacers two best players with injuries. They laid down fouls that would make Bill Laimbeer blush. The foul Pittman laid down would be considered a crime anywhere but the NBA. What did the Pacers do to stop any of this you ask? Nothing. For the last six quarters the Pacers have simply done nothing. The Miami Heat have looked like the superior team and all the credit the Pacers have fought for will simply go for nothing if they give the effort given in game 5.

The first 3 games were about establishing this team’s toughness and showing the Heat that they deserve to be taken seriously. After going up 2-1 in the series, were the Pacers happy to get that far? Larry Bird believes so as he let the entire nation know that his team is S-O-F-T. Granted Miami has 2 of the best 3 players in the league but the Pacers had advantages against this team. Gone is the advantage the Pacers had in rebounding. Gone is the use of the Pacers All-Star Center who is matched up against opposing centers that would be on everyone else’s D-League team. Gone is the vaunted depth and 2nd unit that would wear down the extended first unit of the Miami Heat.

I would like to thank the Miami Heat for their bush league, classless acts on Tuesday night. You left in LeBron and Wade till the end of the game, fine. You ran up the score, fine. You went for the head and the throat of another person on a basketball court, well that goes beyond toughness. That makes you and your whole organization cowards. You want to know why I say the whole organization? Dexter Pittman gave you the wink to let you know. How long was this planned and how many rewards did Pittman claim from his teammates? Haslem and Pittman were rightfully suspended but the message was clear from the Heat. They were tired of being called soft and sent the strongest message of the series to the Pacers. For all the faces Granger and West have been in this series, how do the Pacers respond now? How can you not find motivation in not only being spanked on national television but also watching two of your own almost get knocked out? Myself and Larry aren’t asking you to go out in Game 6 and drop gloves after the opening tip but to work your ass off. If LeBron James or Wade come in to the lane give them a legitimate hard foul. No more lay-ups and no more alley-oops.

The national media has given up on the Pacers. Some of the fan base the Pacers have won back have given up on the Pacers. Game 6 is the true “prove it” game. They want to prove they belong then it’s time to respond. The Pacers have the formula for beating this team and it all starts on defense and on the glass. Cut out the stupid turnovers and run some half-court offense instead of jacking up 35 foot threes. If the Pacers want it more than it is time to show it. Your legendary GM knows you’ve been outworked and he knows you’ve been punked. It’s up to the Pacers now to bring the fight back to Miami and get their respect back. Time to put up or shut up.

The Crimson Corner

 Two is Enough

When LeBron James chooses to be, he is the best player in basketball. While no one can deny he is the most talented, there are times where he refuses to assert himself. Sunday night was not the case. 40-18-9 are numbers that I can barely get in NBA 2K12 yet he was almost to those stats after three quarters. The Pacers were helpless to stop him and as LeBron goes so does Dwayne Wade. His stat line 30-9-6 would be incredible except he was outdone by his own teammate. The Pacers had flashbacks to Game 1 as the Heat turned the series back to a best of 3.

While this game seemed to be similar to Game 1, the biggest problem was that this was a game the Pacers dropped on their own court. The crowd was in a frenzy as the Pacers jumped out to a quick 9-0 lead. Everything they did well in games 2 & 3 was on display early. Roy Hibbert was dominating on offense and defense, the Pacers were getting good shots in transition and they were keeping the Heat off of the free throw line. While Miami scraped back to get it close at halftime, they opened up a 25-5 run in the 3rd. The 3rd quarter seems to be the turning point for every game in this series so far and the 3rd favored Miami on Sunday. When the 4th quarter came the Pacers did their best to shut down the Big Two however they left Udonis Halsem open too many times as the Heat found a third scorer to close the game out.

The playoffs are about adjustments and the Heat made their adjustments; now its Frank Vogel’s turn to respond in Game 5. It’s hard to criticize anything Vogel has done this season but David West and Roy Hibbert needed to be on the court in the 4th quarter and not Lou Amundson and Tyler Hansbrough. When they were brought in with 4 minutes to go the Pacers had no margin for error and the Heat had already figured out they could use Haslem as their safety scoring valve. Additionally, the Pacers lost the most important battles under the rim and on sheer hustle plays. The Pacers have the advantage on the glass and if they can win the rebounding battles they can win the series. LeBron outrebounded West, Hibbert and Hansbrough by himself.

The Pacers have made it a priority to show they are a tougher team but Danny Granger seems to be taking his toughness a little too far. At times, his emotions seem to be getting the best of him and getting ejected from the game isn’t going to help anyone. This team needs him to play better if they are going to win. He is due for a big game and Tuesday night just might be it. David West can handle leading the toughness but Granger needs to focus on his scoring and helping keep Wade and James off of the glass.

Now that it’s a best of three the Pacers have to win the battles they better equipped to win. The Pacers are a deeper team but the second unit needs to step up and play better defense. There is no second squad for the Heat as LeBron and Wade wil,l no doubt, be on the floor for nearly the entirety of the game. The Pacers need to continue to use David West to physically punish James down low. Most importantly for this team is the play of Roy Hibbert. He needs touches down low to stay in the flow of the game and the Pacers need him to be the best big man in the series because that’s what he is.

Let the best of 3 begin.

Follow me @Kipicher and @IndySportsCrew

The Flying V

Show this man the Money and the Colts could be quite fun to WATCH!!!

I know we are all excited that Andrew Luck is going to be under center for the new look Colts. I know we’re all pretty excited about him being teamed up with long time friend and teammate from Stanford Coby Fleener. I also know there is buzz about Rookie WR’s T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazill. Both of these youngsters figure to get significant playing time this year as will 3rd round pick TE Dwayne Allen. That being said I will give you the guy that Indy needs to sign to an incentive laden deal for 1 year and let him go to work and line up opposite Reggie Wayne.

The guy of whom I speak  has 15,934 receiving yards, 153 touchdown catches, placing this man 2nd in both receiving categories ALL TIME. He is a sure fire Hall of Famer and if the Colts want to give Andrew Luck the best chance at early success they will sign this man.

Figured it out yet? Do you know of whom I speak? Here’s a hint……He’s a bit of a pain in the butt, he does sit ups on his front lawn, he celebrates TD’s on the Dallas star while a member of the 49ers.

Ok, he is Terrell Owens and he will instantly transform the Colts WR core into a formidable unit instead of a wait and hope kind of group. I know he is a high risk/high reward type of player and that is why I say you bring him in with a lot of incentives in his contract and with every catch he gets over say 60 he gets more cash, more cash for games played, TD catches, if he goes over 1,000 receiving yards etc. etc. I believe he will sell more jerseys then Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Austin Collie and the list again goes on and on. I’m not saying give him a 3 year 80 million dollar deal but I am saying give him a one year contract and let him earn his money! Rod Tidwell style from the movie “Jerry Maguire”

Look at the Colts schedule with me a second and lets figure that without T.O the Colts will probably win 5-6 games and set up for a top 10 pick again next year. The defense wasn’t addressed in the off season and you’re going to ask Freeney and Mathis to move from DE’s to OLB’s and nobody who can play dead in a Steven Segal movie in the Defensive backfield. So if Irsay and Co. are cool with finishing poorly and with little flash then stand pat and leave T.O. on the open market. But if you want a chance to compete week in and week out go get him and let young Andrew throw him the rock time and time again and watch as Luck and his fellow rookies get better week in and week out. Now watch as the offense is once again formidable with Reggie on the left side and T.O. on the right, Austin Collie in one slot and Coby Fleener in the other. Dwayne Allen lined up on the line as a bigger TE then Fleener and releasing him into pass catching situations, all of a sudden the offense is clicking and with just a little pass and run blocking and all of a sudden Mr. Luck is looking at an offensive Rookie of the Year Award. I’d say Irsay, myself, and Colts fans everywhere would consider that a successful year one in the rebuilding process.

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Now check out a couple of my fav videos right now!

Inside the Man Room

Tony Donohue takes the reins this week in the Man Room.  May in Indianapolis is always a busy month with action at IMS, but even more so this year with Pacers playing deep into the playoffs.  Tony breaks down what is going on at the track and what to look for on Pole Day as well as what to expect from the Pacers-Heat series.  Follow Tony @TonyD1070 and Indy Sports Crew @IndySportsCrew.

The Crimson Corner

Gold Swagger Fans the Heat’s Flames

Bankers Life Fieldhouse was a madhouse last night. Indiana now has the team they have been craving since Reggie Miller. If you are looking to hear this team talked about nationally it’s still probably not going to happen. E!SPN and other national sporting markets are more concerned with what the Heat are doing wrong and not what the Pacers are doing right. A 19 point victory served as a message to the nation that the Indiana Pacers are poised to have everyone recognize what’s happening in our “Wannabe Big City.”

You wouldn’t know it E!SPN or Steve Kerr, but the Pacers are the 3 seed in the East. They were one of, if not the hottest, teams in the league going into the playoffs. The injury to Chris Bosh has forced the Heat to match-up in a way that they aren’t comfortable doing. Playing Lebron James at the Power Forward is forcing him to contend with the likes of David West and Tyler Hansbrough, two players that relish contact and have to bring the slightest smirk to Larry Bird’s face. In the first three games the Pacers are mentally and physically beating up the Heat. The toughness of this team is a perfect complement to their fearlessness. They aren’t scared of Miami and have no plans to back down. What do they have to lose? Last year was their first time in the playoffs in over 5 years.

The defense of the Pacers has stifled the Heat. In the last 8 quarters the Heat have scored more than 20 points only once. The Pacers have the big bodies to clog the lane and the depth to wear Miami out. Miami can barely get three players in to double figures while the Pacers starting five almost always are on the fringe of breaking double figures. The ball movement has been Spurs-like and anyone on the court can score (besides Lou). When the game breaks down in to half-court offense in the final quarter only Wade or James is going to take that shot. The Pacers are going to find the guy that is open. Additionally, David West has provided an incredible amount of leadership and Roy Hibbert is playing like the All-Star he is.

The Heat are not 100% right now. They have guys injured. The main injury is obviously Chris Bosh and exposed that the problem for the Heat is that their roster doesn’t have enough talent or chemistry beyond the “Big Three.” They were a group of three All-Stars and whoever else they could afford. They truly were the “Big Three” and now they are the “Big Two.” Granted the “Big Two” are two of the top three players in the league but can 2 take down 10? Thursday was so bad that Chalmers had to pretend to be Wade. Lebron went to the Heat to defer, to not have to singly carry the burden of being the guy in the playoffs. He has Wade to be that killer at the end of games. He has Wade to be the vocal leader because the Heat are his team. After last night, it appears that no one is sure whose team it is. Erik Spoelstra certainly isn’t in control and got put in the corner by Wade last night. Wade came off last night as a selfish child who looked sloppy and had no desire to hustle or compete in the 2nd half of the game. He snapped on his teammates and is showing a side that truly puts his ability to lead, and even be admired, in question. James can try and smile and shake hands in the last minute but behind that smile hides doubt. A doubt that the Heat never imagined they would face 3 games into an Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.

Sunday is going to bring back a desperate team in the Miami Heat. They were thoroughly embarrassed in almost every way possible on National Television and will be more focused than ever. They still have the best player in the game in James but his Batman is quickly turning into Blankman. Their depth is killing them and the rest of their roster is full of players that would probably qualify as “Players to be Named Later” in a trade. The Pacers defense can’t give an inch however as James and Wade have shown they can outscore the entire Pacers team in a half. This will probably be a seven game series but Friday serves a day for the Pacers to continue the Gold Swagger.

Rise and Fire

In this video blog, I run through the three points the Pacers need to do to win game two down in Miami.  Indiana has a shot in this series and those chances were helped out when Chris Bosh went down with an injury.  Check out my points and let me know what you think @IndySportsCrew, @thadvandeventer, or on Facebook.


Inside the Man Room

This week Tony Donohue joins me in the Man Room as we break down the Pacers first round series win over Orlando and look ahead to the big showdown with Miami.  Then we start to break down the upcoming Indianapolis 500 and what to look for this month of May.  Follow us on Twitter @thadvandeventer, @TonyD1070, and @IndySportsCrew.