Into the Crystal Ball… Edmonton, New and Improved Edition

November of last year we received the crushing news that the Edmonton round of the 2011 season, scheduled to take place at the airport, would be cancelled. The track had to be revised to keep the main runway open for the weekend and a disagreement over who was going to pay for a repave of the eastern runway led to its cancelation. Many tears were shed and we all moved on. Come early January, Octane Motorsports Events announced they had not only revived the race by finding cash for the upgrades, but had extended the contract through 2013. The new layout is fast and should prove to be exciting if everyone can keep brains attached to bodies. So here we are two weeks after the insanity of Toronto. Can Will Power make ground up? Even more important, how many cars will actually finish the race?

 Five Things to Watch

New Layout As a result of logistical obstacles, the revived event features a brand new layout. Running counter clockwise, even the reused portions of the track will have a completely different look. Graham Rahal tweeted that he thought the pavement looked soft, so we will see how well the track holds up to a weekend of racing. Very long straights punctuate the new look followed by tight turns. Tags said he could see three passes a lap. Added to the wide airport layout, drivers will have more choices of racing lines entering and exiting the corners, hopefully leading to a pass filled but light on carbon fiber shards event.

Will Power After two straight tough races and a wheelbarrow of lost points, look for Power to be in kill mode all weekend. His strength has proven to be the twisties, so he should have a bit of confidence entering the weekend. With only two ovals left, Power needs to capitalize on these races starting with Edmonton…if he can stay out of trouble.

Officiating After the amazing or embarrassing Toronto race, depending on who you talk to, the officials need to pick a direction for how they are going to call the rest of the season and stick with it. They boys have at it attitude brought the TV viewers in during Toronto, but this type of racing has alienated longtime fans of the sport. I know it is unfathomable that the boys upstairs will stick to anything, but a median tone has to be set. We have seen both sides of the spectrum this year. Please, just find something and stick with it.

Sebastien BourdaisAfter a good run in Toronto, coming home P6, Seabass can continue his re-enlightenment at round two of the Canadian swing. The circuit will be low grip, and he can wheel these cars around. His nemesis, Paul Tracy, is also running this weekend. It was slightly upsetting that these two did not find each other last weekend, hopefully they can mix it up for old time sake. Bourdais has been able to do very well with the Coyne equipment and could crack the top 5 if the KO rate is similar to Toronto.

Double File Restarts – The obligatory bullet. With the massive amount of room the drivers will have coming out of the last turn, everyone should easily be able to alight for beautiful starts. The kicker, again, comes at the braking zone for turn one. With the extra room available this weekend, Drivers will probably try to nudge into space that just is not there. As the old adage goes yellows bread yellows and turn one could be quite the scrap yard before the day is over.

Predictions

Pole – Will Power – Proven in the road courses, He will start his weekend strong by grabbing the pole and rebuilding much needed confidence heading into the end of the season.

Winner – Tony Kanaan – The perennial dark horse will make his presence know. KV has proven they have the speed in quals and the race. TK will be the man to bring home the hardware first though. The, sure to be, crazy Edmonton Indy should play right into the bulldogs hands.

Biggest Loser – Dario Franchitti – I really like the guy, a bit vocal at the wrong moments, but a good driver with the results to back it up. Plainly… it’s his turn.

Epic  Performer – Paul Tracy – He doesn’t seem to qualify well in recent history, but he can come from the back of the pack. PT will be on a tear this weekend and I could see a +10 position move by the end. With the shoddy Dragon equipment, a top ten would be remarkable and we all know he’s got the chops to do it.

I am holding my breath with bated hope that Race control can pull some magic out and the drivers will play mostly nice with each other. Championship wise, we are in a kind of limbo. Franchitti has a comfortable lead, but there is just enough season left so he cannot let his guard down. Power will be pushing hard for redemption as most of the field will do anything for a win at this stage of the game. The race should be action filled, let’s hope it is a bit cleaner. One thing we do know is the restarts will be epic!

Eric Hall

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