The series’ return to the famed Milwaukee Mile was an almost resounding success. After a one year hiatus, the Mile returned to the schedule with stellar results. The box scores do not do the race justice as the final standings do not show the full picture of the competitiveness of the event. Initially, after qualifying it looked like the race was going to play out like everyone expected/dreaded with more, red car domination. TK ran down and passed Dario Franchitti multiple times for the lead. TK ran at the front, and was able to effortlessly slice through traffic, proving he had the car to beat. The venerable Mile denied him of a third win as he crashed out on lap 194 as he was pushing to catch Dario in the closing stage of the race. I believe Kanaan would have parked in victory lane had he not stuck it into the wall.
My now-zero-for-three-race dark horse Oriol Servia did not pull off a win. He was able to claw three much needed points back from Will Power with his third place finish, but falling even farther out of touch with the front of the championship race. As we near the halfway point of the season, without a major melt down from both Dario Franchitti and Power, we could be, and most likely are, looking at a two horse race to the glory in Vegas. Graham Rahal had a quiet but highly productive day, finishing in second and raising more questions about the lack of performance showed by teammate Charlie Kimball. JR Hildebrand walled it in turn four, again, letting his points lead in the rookie of the year standings slip a bit to James Hinchcliffe as he wrapped up a very strong day for Newman/Haas Racing placing p6 at the checkers. Alex Tagliani continued his fade from the front starting p19 and finishing p18.
ABC’s broadcast was… actually fantastic. The camera work was very well done, there was not that much that was missed by TV. I enjoyed getting nice shots of both Simona’s scarred hands, and Helio’s deflating tire. The booth crew seemed unusually energetic, especially when Scott Goodyear said JR is going to get the boot from Panther if he can’t keep it out of the wall. For some reason everyone seemed a bit more real and not made for TV. Maybe Franchitti and Ganassi’s outbursts at Texas have stirred the pot in the indycar community, loosening some collars and breathing some life into the stale broadcast that usually comprises ABC coverage. Jamie Little seemed to track down the wrecked drivers fairly quickly and gave nice concise interviews. The only utterly disappointing moment was when ABC flashed the past winners graphic. The IRL winners had a nice picture, and bold text giving the years of their win. Ryan Hunter-Reay was given an also-won-might-as-well-have-been-asterisk-marked level of recognition. Not cool, ABC, in this time of peace and love, where everyone’s accomplishments are treated equal, not cool at all.
The big stink from the race came from the no call when Franchitti hit Will Power’s front tire laid out on his way in to his box. Takuma Sato has been penalized for a much more glaring example of hit pit equipment/ crew members on the previous pit stop rotation. The only sense I can make of this is INDYCAR was giving him a makeup call for the poor starting position from Texas 2. I do not agree with the “makeup” call and it has no place in professional sports, especially in one where lives are at risk and any deviation from the rulebook could spell disaster for competitors and spectators alike. It is this kind of selective enforcement that really marginalizes indycar and auto racing, as a whole, in the eyes of mainstream media. Imagine what could have been… Dario take a major hit in the standings, Oriol continues his run to the top, and TK makes it a four way battle at the top of the leader boards… oh well.
I am sure this has been covered elsewhere but this is my take. Mike Conway and Ryan Hunter-Reay switched seats this week with Conway running the DHL/Sundrop car. I think we were all under the impression that RHR was the man the sponsors centered their marketing campaign around, thus attempting to explain why RHR was gifted into the 500 instead of his race winning, and higher in the standings teammate Mike Conway. That explanation made sense enough to make me not immediately write Andretti Autosport off as a loser organization. But, why the switch this week? AA has stated that the terms of the contract state DHL and RHR have to be in the race together, thus explaining why Bruno Junqueria was pulled in favor of RHR. True, RHR still had his sponsor logos on the engine cover, but why the switch this week? It seems a disservice to the sponsors to always have the driver/car combination changing. There is more than meets the eye here at Andretti, it almost feels like the team is already panicking about Danica’s cash not being there next year.
The weekend showed that, although much of the field lacks the outright pace in qualifying that Penske and Ganassi have, the races are much more wide open this year. We have seen a very competitive season from p3 on down the grid. Even with the runaway leaders of the championship, the race was immensely entertaining. Passing for the lead, drama, anger, excitement this race had them all, just unfortunate it ended all to similar as too many races past. There are two more short ovals coming this season, with Iowa being next. This small 7/8 mile track is another bull ring, but with the physical exertion similar to Texas. We then move to a more roadcentric lineup in the second half of the season. With the points tied, Dario needs to soundly outperform Power in the final four ovals of the season to give himself any chance in the championship.