Into the Crystal Ball … Tiny Texas Edition

With the legendary Milwaukee Mile in the rear view mirror, INDYCAR soldiers on to Iowa Speedway for its third oval race in as many weekends. Iowa has produced good racing in the past and with the competitive year we have been having, this edition looks to be no different. A 7/8 mile track designed by Rusty Wallace, located in the middle of cornfields but well attended by the locals, Iowa will surely continue the drama we have seen so far. The track is in its sixth season, and this will be the series’ fifth visit to the facility. In the first few years at the track, the drivers had a hard time passing on the high side, but with the surface weathering nicely we should be in for a treat on Sunday.

(Ed: I think he’s going for a more “interactive” pre race… whatever man)

Dario Franchitti – This man is a whiner. I have always thought, and still do in the back of my head, that Dario was cut from the same cloth as racing greats of the past. He always seemed so professional in the cockpit, almost never putting a wheel wrong, and racing every competitor hard but clean. These past few weeks have changed my mind, and slightly diminished my respect for him. The guy wins races and still complains. Tiregate has been beat into the ground and needless to say… shut up and drive.

Will Power – Tied for first in points entering the hardcore road course portion goes down, Power is in a very good position to make a serious run at the championship. We know Penske has not taken home the season ending hardware in five years, and that he is hungry for it, Will Power is his man. Being the only bullet in the chamber, Power and Penske must capitalize on the road heavy run to the finale. A single wreck or pit miscue at the wrong time could spell disaster for his championship hopes.

EJ Viso – The tiny man that could is actually doing semi not terrible this year. Two consecutive top ten finishes… and then throws it away at Milwaukee. Do I ever want to write something positive about this guy. He has glimmers of brilliance, but at the end of the day if PDVSA is not funding at least two rides over at KV, I can’t see how he continues to stick around. Money talks and he is the new lowest man on the speed and safety totem pole.

Iowa Speedway – Although many tracks get the reputation of flying fighter jets in a gymnasium or fighting in a bull ring, Iowa deserves the descriptions more than another speedway we visit. The short D-shaped oval with variable banking and a nicely aged surface, lends itself to side by side action.  This is a “Rusty Wallace signature track” and is a political outlier in the INDYCAR/ISC/SMI battle that seems to be simmering down significantly. With only 25,000 permanent seats, hopefully there won’t be much exposed aluminum on TV.

Ratings – The size of the television audience is something to worry about. After slight signs of life, Verse has made the ratings public. If they continue to rise I am sure we will continue hearing about them. A quip was made that a 12 percent increase of zero is still zero, but you have to start somewhere. My only fear is there will not be enough time to grow before the money finally runs out.

Winner – TK – He deserves one this week after his heartbreaking wreck from P1 while having the fastest car of the day. He won here last year but has three DNFs the previous three years. TK has that magical touch at the short ovals and can dial a chassis in better than anyone in the field.

Pole – Oriol Servia – I have found a way to talk about him every week, but come on he has been oh so close all year long. Newman/Haas deserves a breakthrough and good starting position at a short track makes it much easier to be successful.

Biggest Loser – It’s a tossup between Will Power and Dario Franchitti. These guys have been flawless on the track all year and have avoided race ending contact. Although the pit crews have let these guys down a few times this year, one of these two driver’s luck will run out with championship ramifications.

Iowa produces good racing and this weekend will hopefully be no exception. As always, I would like to see some shake up at the top of the charts, and at a place like this one mistake could change everyone’s day. As the old saying goes; wish in one hand… At the end of the day I am sure the red cars will bubble to the top. The journey to the checkers will be treacherous and action packed, so whoever wins they will absolutely deserve to stand I victory lane.

Eric Hall

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