So here is part two of my epic Vegas two part pre race. The boys and girls of indycar have already completed the first two practice sessions of the weekend and festivities are in full swing in sin city. There are quite a few fans out there giving us great behind the scenes live tweeting action from the track. The hype machine is running full strenght and the weekend is really looking like it may turn out a winner; which could bode well for next year. We covered the heavy stuff yesterday and now it’s time for me to put my money where my mouth is. Without farther adieu; here we go.
5 Million Dollar Challenge – I got signed up, did you? I am positive that I would have known if I have won or not by now, but still, what a promotion. If you were playing the odds, I really believe this was the best way to make a quick million given the size of the indycar fan base. NASCAR did a million dollar money give away earlier in the year and supercross is currently doing a similar promotion, but it’s no five million dollars. That is a big number, and even though we think the money is from GoDaddy and the chances of Dan Wheldon pulling it off are slim to none, you cannot discount the power of a big number. If the campaign gains even a few fans it was a success. And I know of at least three people I work with that, as a result of the challenge, will be watching on Sunday afternoon; rooting Dan Wheldon on with the rest of us.
Can he do it? That is the real question. I would like to think Wheldon’s odds are very good. The reasons have been expounded on before, but they are very valid. One of the most experienced drivers in this chassis, one of the most experienced and highly successful 1.5 mile kings, and the Englishman has really had a natural knack for wheeling the Dallara around an oval. At Kentucky he was able to work into the top 20 within the first 30 laps; he just lost the car on the extended green flag run. Given the odds of more than a few yellow flag stops, he should have more time to work on his car in race. Remember also, Kentucky is a handling track and a fast car at the start may not be so fast at the end if the team does not adjust accordingly. Vegas is smooth and if Dan is fast in practice, he could stand a remarkable chance at pulling the unthinkable off.
Goodbye Dallara IR03 – I have written many kind hearted words about one of the most despised chassis to have ever graced motor racing, but I stand by them. This chassis was created to be an oval racing animal, and it has more than lived up to that expectation. Although a bit dated, (Ed: not by oval racing standards!!) the chassis has given us some of the most amazing finishes ever on ovals. The chassis and its ancestors of the IRL hold the top 14 closest finishes in the history of American open wheel racing. The machines from USAC, CART and CCWS more than hold their own in the bottom half of the sub one tenth of a second margin of victory list, but the chassis that the IRL was built on, dominates the top. Vegas will be the final swan song for an old friend. Many are more than happy to see every last chassis wrecked into a pile of carbon fiber at the end of the race; I would not.
It isn’t the most beautiful machine to ever grace a racetrack, but it serves its purpose extremely well. A racecar built to zip around ovals with minimal drag. When the series went road racing with the chassis in 2005, it was asked to do things it was never designed to do. Mainly, turn right, and it turned out to be a bit of a dog. The car was never built to create the massive amounts of downforce needed on a road course, so Dallara had to slap enormous wings on the thing just to get it to stick to the road. While doing this allowed the car to turn, it absolutely killed its speed and acceleration. It is a fitting place, the 1.5 mile oval of Las Vegas, to say goodbye to an old friend that has done his job better than anyone could have imagined.
Pole – Ed Carpenter – I gave Ed the epic performer award last week, without thinking he could really pull the big win off. Competition is stiffer this week, but coming off his amazing race win, and having his teams sponsor bail for NASCAR, I will not underscore his or the teams abilities this week.
Winner – Dario Franchitti – He just knows how to get it done and his teammates are running far better than Will Power’s over in the Penske camp. Ganassi has really been on it in terms of on track strength and pit performance and Penske has been struggling to bring the same consistency in the final hours of the season.
Epic performer – Dan Wheldon – Even if he cannot win the five million; Wheldon’s performance will be nothing short of stunning. The man knows how to drive a 1.5 miler and with the almost guaranteed chance of many yellow flag pit stops to adjust and regroup, his odds are not too bad. The restarts will be another help in his quest. No matter what happens, the 98 will be the car to watch on Sunday.
Biggest Loser – Will Power – He will not be successful in his season ending run at the championship. Power need the full 53point take and have some help from his two teammates. The points are easily possible; the rub is counting on his teammates to run strong. You know Dario will be a challenger all day long.
Rookie of the Year – James Hinchcliffe – Hinch has one huge advantage over JR Hildebrant, a highly experience veteran teammate to help with car setup and adjusting during the race. Both rookies looked strong at Kentucky, but Hinchcliffe was there at the end. That same story has seemed to play out consistently in the latter stages of the season. Vegas will be no different and Newman/Haas will give yet another rookie a great first year in the big cars.
Series Champion – Dario Franchitti – Power will have to beat all four Ganassi drivers and hope for some bad luck to come Franchitti’s way to even have a shot at the championship. I just don’t see it happening. I don’t even see Power winning the race. Unfortunately indycars newest most popular driver will have to wait another year.
Dan Wheldon’s finish position – 4.5 – Under
number of positions gained by Wheldon at first pit stop – 9.5 – Over
final points spread – 4.5 – Under
length of race – 1:51:23 – Over
Total number of positions TK, PT and TScheck gain on first lap – 19.5 – Over
Lap of first yellow – 23.5 – Under
Number of cars running at end – 25.5 – Under
Margin of victory – 1 second – Under
Lap number of last flagged car – 188.5 – Over
Danica’s finishing spot - 7.5 – Over
Winner – Dario Franchitti
First car out – James Jakes
Highest finishing Andretti car – Marco Andretti
Highest finishing rookie – James Hinchcliffe
Rookie of the Year – James Hinchcliffe
23rd place in TEAM standings – Ana Beatriz
First car on pit road – EJ Viso
So there you have it. The conclusion of the super deluxe Las Vegas Championship weekend preview. Its going to be a very long off season as usual but I will still be pumping out mindless ramblings to help soothe the pains, so keep checking back during the off season. I know many people would not agree with me but I think this has been more or less a good year and this weekend will be a fitting finale.