On The Grounds: Grand Prix of Indianapolis Edition

Saturday was the day that changed it all for one mid-twenties place fan. I had convinced my younger brother to attend the inaugural GP of Indianapolis with me and I was determined to show him the intricate nuances of road racing and hopefully making a more well-rounded racing fan out of him.

We arrived around 2pm, (yea yea yea, I don’t want to hear anything about missing the development series races. I had already seen them run and I didn’t want to push my brothers patience with a long, possibly boring for him, day at the track) and made our way into a pretty close spot in Lot 7. This would be our biggest rookie mistake of the afternoon, but more on that later.

We purchased walk-up GA tickets, because why would we buy GA tickets early? The ticket ladies had no idea where any GA seating was aside from the viewing mounds, and they got very snippy when asked if there were any grandstands open to GA ticket holders. Luckily I had seen on twitter a few minutes later that the Tower Terrace stands were open to view the standing start in.

The Indy Lights race was a handful of laps in so we dutifully made our way to the chicane fence and walked the entire length of Hulman Boulevard and  well into the 7/8/9 complex.

Tire smoke, wiggling cars, lost traction, exhaust pipes belching fire… he was immediately hooked on the sights and sounds of road racing. He is a diehard Indy 500 fan of about the last 6 years, but had never been much of an IndyCar fan or really a racing fan. 15 minutes was all it took to open his eyes, but I digress.

After taking in the last half of the race, we made our way into the Pagoda Plaza. My brother wanted a koozie, some type of Verizon gear (he was hoping for a 2014 TK jersey as he felt a little dated rocking his TK Sunoco jersey) and a bite to eat. We parted ways and I headed for the pre-race grid walk open to all bronze badge holders.

I got in line about 50 yards from the victory circle gate and the line finally started moving about 5 minutes after the posted start of the walk. I made it into pit lane and made a b-line for the trench walk over. I was quickly stopped by three yellow shirts and two state troopers and told “you need more than just a bronze badge, the rules changed in the last hour”.

Hmm… I was not a happy camper to say the least. Sure, I blog… Sure, I run an indycar twitter account… But I am just a lowly regular ‘ol fan that likes to write about indycar. No press credentials, no special treatment, no free perks; I pay my way for every indycar event I wish to experience. That grid walk was very important to me.

The calm on the grid is magical. I have stood on the Indy 500 grid twice, as well as the Mid-Ohio grid. It’s an experience that I cannot miss if I have the chance to participate. Dejected and deflated I polled a few other whipped fans I saw. I met a group of four out of town Indy 500 fans. They’ve been going for 15 years, but had never had the chance to stand on the grid. They purchased bronze badges specifically for this grid walk. “It may not be The 500, but it’s still indycars on the yard of bricks” they quipped before agreeing that they would “never spend 125 bucks to be taken by IMS again”.

Pointed words for sure, I wonder if they renew their 500 tickets?

The bronze badge has increased in price this year by 25 bucks from 2013, and they have also taken away preferred parking for holders. Not having close infield parking when no one is in attendance at a practice day will really decrease the chances of me heading out for an hour after work when I’d spend the hour just getting to the garages. I know this isn’t connected to the GPofI specifically, but this fits in well with the ‘overpriced and underserved’ feeling I’m getting from my 2014 bronze badge.

Anyway, I met my brother in said Tower Terrace seats, but he didn’t have a koozie or a new shirt! He said the merchandise shops sucked and he didn’t want to throw his money away on something he wasn’t sold on. Fair enough. He did get some chicken fingers from the new café thing and likened them to restaurant style chicken. High praise indeed from this kid; IMS gets a huge atta boy from him on the new grub.

We all know what happened once the green fell, and of course my brother was worried about the bystanders, but he described what he saw as “spectacular”. That’s a word that goes exceedingly well with indycar. I asked “what if the crash didn’t happen?” he responded: “still spectacular, we saw the MotoGP standing start and that was awesome, but these are indycar at Indy”. I don’t know If I could have said it any better myself.

Once the race got underway, we circulated the inside of the track, first stopping at the T1 mound and took in the view. “spectacular” he muttered again; I simply could not disagree. The speed, the sounds… it was almost overwhelming.

The Chicane mound was next and this is where he really liked the view. He could see the cars squirming under the downforce while still being caught by the sticky tires. Honestly, he was more than content here, but we moved down into the 7/8/9 mounds and met the real race fans in attendance. Laughs, high fives, hell yesses and oh no’s were shared among good friends, and the real aura of road racing appeared to him. He understood the difference of sitting in the grandstands for The 500 and hanging out in the grass for road racing.

“Are you in for Mid-Ohio?” I asked. “Hell Yes!” he responded. This oval fan even went as far as saying he think he likes road racing more than oval racing and told me to keep him abreast of the broadcast schedule so he could catch a few more races. Well my goodness, Grand Prix of Indianapolis, it looks like you did your job for one ‘place’ fan. And that was really the whole point, to expose oval fans to the awesomeness of road racing. I know his fandom isn’t as important to the arm chair reporters because he lives in Indianapolis, but indycar still made a new fan. I call that a huge win.

We made our way back to our car in the North 40 and proceeded to watch yellow shirts physically block the exit so infield parking could clear out. We sat for nearly 90 minutes, about half an hour more than I have ever waited to exit the Coke Lot after The 500. There were angry drivers, drunken fights and a real volatile feeling in the lot without a cop or yellow shirt to be seen… except to block the exit gates remember.

It was my fault for parking in the North 40 and a total rookie move. I should have parked in Lot 1B, where I have never had an issue leaving after a race whether it is NASCAR, Sports Cars, F1 or MotoGP. But waiting 90 minutes to exit a race that had at most 30k people? Totally unacceptable. Mid-Ohio and Milwaukee welcome more people each year, and I have never waited more than 30 minutes to leave either facility.

The GPoI was definitely a tale of two experiences. The casual fan had a blast, and the diehard was frustrated. The actual race experience was amazing, but the IMS experience was infuriating.

I did run into the always awesome Mr. Douglas J. Boles on Sunday and had an excellent chat with him. He commiserated with the bronze badge holder complaints. He said “You are our core fans at this facility and we do not want to underserve you guys. We know we had a bad day and we will try to make it up to you guys.” He also said the State Police called and apologized for the traffic snafu. Nice, but I’ll believe it when we go again next year.

My brother had a rockin’ day, and I had a frustrating day. It happens to everyone, but it wont keep me away from indycar or IMS.

Eric Hall

Posted in Airing of Grievances, On The Ground | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Into The Crystal Ball… Turning Right at IMS edition

crystal ballWelcome to Indianapolis, where we seem to be headed down the front straight the entirely wrong direction! The “greatest race course in the world” (read oval… you haven’t earned any claim to fame with the road course yet Mr. IMS…) awoke a few days early this month and welcomed The machines that made this track famous for a weekend of road racing on the newly configured infield road course. Obviously, being the inaugural race, any kind of true preview is tough other than “watch out for the big guys” so I’ll share a few things I have learned while walking the track for two days.

Five Things to Watch

Oval Transition – While exiting turn 11, the drivers will have a slight transition onto the banking for the quick blast down the south short-chute. During testing, it was quite clear how soft or hard sprung the cars were. All three Penske machines had nearly no give and were almost skipping back onto the banking as opposed to the softer sprung cars that made the transition much smoother. In the heat of battle, this transition could cause the stiffer sprung cars to become slightly unsettled if they are forced away from the normal driving line.

Downforce – The largest unknown of the weekend will be how much wing is the right amount to produce both speed, and grip in the corner. With 750 horses on tap, the balance between grip and speed will be key. How easy will it be to pass an out of shape car in the twisty bits, because you know they will pull away as soon as both cars hit the straights. The reports out of the garages seem to point to… nothing. No one has the right answer yet. However, remember back to testing. The cars had much more downforce cranked into them that the first practice day and guys were breaking into the 1:09’s and breaking 190 miles per hour on the straights. Maybe high downforce is the correct answer.

Mechanical Grip – One of the plusses of racing on a repurposed F1 track is the quality of the racing surface. The roadbed is expertly prepared and the entire infield received a fresh coating of high-end racing asphalt. The track is also wide, and flat; perfect for carving quick racing lines around the facility. With so much grip, one would think peeling off as much downforce as possible would make for a great idea, but on such a grippy surface without the wings to help the tires will slide. This undoubtedly shortens the tire stint and could possibly force another pitstop. The balance of aero and tire grip will be more important here than at just about any other road course the series visits.

The Chicane – Already this morning, Ryan Briscoe had an off track excursion. This was probably cause from bounding over the wet curbing and landing just a little wonky, but into the tires he went. A fast lap and possibly the race will be determined through this chicane and the speed the drivers can carry through the straight and into turn 7. Get it right, and you wont have to crack the throttle even a hair to make it through. Get it wrong, and you lose time hand over fist down the same straight as drivers watch their competitors easily pull away from them. And any kind of side by side shenanigans through there will almost guarantee some kind of contract.

Top Speed – With so many downforce option available, and teams working through an insane amount of permutations, we should see some variable top speeds. Drivers have crested 195 already, and for an indycar on a road course, that a pretty big deal. The cars are just not as slippery or aerodynamically efficient as their european counterparts, so catching this type of top speed is impressive. My main complaint about indycar road racing is that most cars aero-stall at about the same speed. And that speed can be low, anywhere from 165-175 at most facilities. I love speed, so seeing the drivers bomb into turn one that fast is very exciting. And it could present some separation as drivers reach different speeds at different places. This could cause more than some action and confusion into the braking zones.

Predictions

Pole – Simon Pagenaud – AKA, the giant killer. He’s close to the top of the time sheets in the wet and the dry. Seems like him and Schmidt have it figured out.

Winner – Juan Pablo Montoya – He’s been quiet this weekend, but this is exactly the type of track he could claim is first victory on… and start his steamroll over the competition.

Epic Performance – Martin Plowman – The guy finally gets a shake at an IndyCar, and with Mr. Foyt no less. Simply surviving the Foyt garage should be an accomplishment in of itself.

Biggest Loser – Anyone not watching – Of course someone has to finish last, or crash, or start the downward slide away from a championship hopeful, but by all accounts this event is going to be a hit in every possible way.

So thats it, Make sure you check out my youtube videos from the first few days of practice. The 98th running of the Indy 500 is up next, but first drivers will have to tackle IMS headed down the front straight the wrong way. i think the word of the weekend will be “unknown” and nothing will start to make sense until after the final fuel and tire stop of the race. Of course the fast guys will be fast, but this is exactly the kind of event that could throw a totally random finishing order into the mix. Please, enjoy the Grand Prix of Indianapolis for what it is: another event on an ever growing schedule. Sure, we’re at The Speedway, but just live every other race, this one will still have to prove itself to the fans, teams and management.

Eric Hall

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The Weekend Rewind – Rain Rain Go Away Edition

The lush green hillsides of Alabama were made even greener as torrential rains fell on the facility for most of the weekend. We had a time shortened race, some pretty sweet driving and a few guys who just couldn’t keep it between the white lines. The race was very unpredictable into the final pit stops, and we also got to witness Will Power overcook a corner and hand  a P1 finish to Ryan Hunter-Reay; aka, the IndyCar unicorn. It does exist! This weekend was an excellent example of how different the races in IndyCar can be. From the ham fisted slop show in Long Beach to the clinic in wet weather racing in Barber, what a difference two weeks made.

Qualifying Broadcast – In a word, I was salty on Saturday night/ Sunday morning. The tape delayed qualifying broadcast was scheduled to go down at 12:30 AM Sunday morning. From what I can gather, that time was already pushed back from midnight a few days earlier, but thanks to the modern glories of DVR’s, I was not worried. However, late Saturday night, word came that the broadcast would be further delayed until 1 AM Sunday morning.

It’s already unacceptable that qualifying was tape-delayed by nearly eight hours, but I can understand the intricacies of playoff futball… is it the play offs? I have no idea how that sport works, but I digress. No harm no foul for right now. It is nice to remember though, that airing qualies after midnight forces most people to consume that programming via time shifted viewing, and not giving fans time to react to the change is unforgivable.

I was lucky, and preempted the preempt by adding an extra hour to my scheduled recording, because I have missed the end of enough races to know better. More than a few people weren’t as lucky.  They awoke on Sunday morning totally excited to watch qualifying, and upon firing up the recording they were welcomed with 30 minutes of overtime futball and the first 30 minutes of qualifying. The last half of qualies lost to the pushed-back ether.

What if a new fan was actually interested in qualifying and recorded the show on a whim, what are the odds that they won’t care enough to record again. Tough to make new fans, and keep old fans happy when half of your weekend programing is not broadcast or recorded correctly after you force most of your audience to DVR.

Rain Delay – I completely understand why the series delayed the green flag. There were literal ponds and rivers all over the track. And at best, IndyCar has drizzle tires available to them… still waiting on those promised updated wets Firestone, still waiting. The race was green flagged maybe 15 minutes after the track was actually ready for racing. Not and awful delay, and understandable considering this would be the first time the DW12 would see rain in race conditions.

Due to the delay and the hard window because of upcoming hockey on NBCSN, the race was changed into a timed event of one hour and 40 minutes. As the race played out, the broadcast ran well over time; nearly five minutes into the hard window. NBCSN did an excellent job looking out for their properties, and thank you for getting this one right.

It’s not all rainbows and kittens on the race directing side though. We sat through a 30 minute post race, why in the world did we not run to the historic two hour time window? If it’s still too treacherous for racing, start the clock and send the field behind the pace car. The track would have been more dry well before the delayed start time had we circulated for those 15 questionable minutes spent waiting for the green.

To add insult to injury, this timed race which was already shortened, but had more than enough time to run for two hours, finished under yellow due to a big impact by Mikhail Aleshin into the Armco barriers. Teams planned for a 100 minute race when doing fuel strategy so extending the race a la NASCAR green-white-checkers is not an option. However, the league has already proved it isn’t scared to throw the red in the waning moments of a race; stop the clock, fix the track and let us see the guys at least attempt a run to the checkers. We obviously had the TV time, so the only limiting factor was the race clock ticking precious seconds away. Plus, had we run to the traditional two hour timed window, this wouldn’t even be a discussion point.

The Actual Race – Wet racing is always a blast, and Sunday was no exception. The time spent on wets, and the first stint with reds strapped on was electric. Cars were sliding, drivers were fighting the elements and each other and the wet line was obviously faster. It has been a few years since we have seen IndyCars race in the rain, and it is often easy to forget how skilled these drivers are. We have noticeably less downforce than Formula 1 and a super torque-y engine capable of producing nearly 750 horses. These machines are no treat in the rain.

After the final round of stops, most of the field had settled in and were making the final sprint to the finish. Admittedly, the drivers were pretty lock-step for the rest of the afternoon, but the drying track was still testing the drivers. Fast lap after fast lap was being set as drivers searched for grip and found enhanced speed corner after corner. It was in this phase of the race that drivers earned their money. Go off line by an inch and all your adhesion is gone; welcome to the guard rail. The last third of the race was definitely a clinic in shaving the gap and managing wing angles. It may not be your cup of tea, but it’s refreshing to know these guys can really attack violently shifting conditions successfully.

Three races in and Will Power looks like he could run away with the championship, but at least we were reminded that he is human and can make mistakes just like anyone else. We know Power will lose some consistency as the season wears on; while other drivers  not catching fire until the second half of the season. This is always an interesting time in the championship as the contenders really start to present themselves. With the inaugural GP of Indianapolis on the horizon, there is only one more chance to bag precious championship points before the summer grind starts in full strength. And yes, it’s almost May.

Eric Hall

PS. Did you know I had a YouTube channel as well? I was out for the very last few minutes of Rookie Orientation Practice and captured some short clips of Jacques Villeneuve and Kurt Busch turning laps. Video is here. More on the ground clips will be added as the season pushes on.

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Unfiltered Race Notes – Barber 2014

Welcome to the rain delayed unfiltered race notes. Remember, these are scratch notes and not the definitive view of the race; just a fun way to end a long race weekend. These ideas and reactions are the backbone of the weekend rewind and most of my work on Pit Lane Reporter. Thanks for reading, sit back, and enjoy the silliness.

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Qualifying bumped back 30 minutes by futball. lame… i bet the grid is bumped back as well. I wonder what specutainment thinks about that.

Tough to make new fans when you force a DVR of your program by airing it so late and then bumping it back.

30 minutes of futball and 1st half of qualies.

–Pre race–

rain.
rain.
rain.

It sounds like the booth is in a tent. Reminds me of camping in the rain.

Drivers say events of LB behind them… Liars.

Mikhail Aleshin bar-b-que eating clip. I’m down with Russian gangsters if they race in indycar and eat bar-b-que.

More lying re: LB from drivers.

Conway roll. Honest, insightful and noticeably different then the drivers trying to save face. Says he was uncomfortable and scared. Honesty. nice.

I need more Miller in my life.

Pace car ride always looks fun.

Spins and hits clip. Kimball had contrails off the rear wing; always cool to see. Big hit in morning warm-up. As the old adage goes: nothing good can come of morning warmup, you’re better to say parked. car fixed, CK ok.

There is literally a lake in the apex of T13. No complaints about not racing in this from me.

TK roll… And the lake is getting bigger. Having issues connecting his setup data with his teammates. Clearly struggling with the go-to Ganassi setups. Makes you wonder if TK has even driven a “properly” setup DW12 before getting to Ganassi.

You can hear the thunder in the Bourdais interview.

Lights race.

The lake is gone.

Sato notes how sensitive indycars are to ambient and track temp.

I also need more Servia in my life. karaoke addiction.
45 minutes to go says DW. I’m losing the will to live. Walkers says “oh come on Robin, that’s way too good of an idea for indycar” well played.

CK incident is eerily similar to Mid-O 2013.

Munoz seems like a nice kid.

Justin Wilson is confused as well about the rules, but he has a much cooler head in terms of waiting for the rules changes to stabilize.

Cars rolling to the grid.

Carlos Huertas seems like an odd fellow. First time I’ve actually seen him, he’s a lot older than I was imagining.

second time seeing the pace car lap. really? Have we seen any video of the space camp visit on the broadcast yet?

pauses DVR, waits for race, fast forwards to start.

—Race—

Track looks pretty good. Standing water all over the course but it looks incidental. No rivers or lakes; probably could have only started 10-15 minutes sooner.

Onboard with Hinch on the phone today. Looks wet as all get out behind the pace car.

Great start. Still raining. You can see the rain flowing off of the camera roofs.

Handful of oppo for RHR. Sato stalls it. Does anti-stall work? I thought we were supposed to have it available this year.

Great move by JPM to avoid a spinning Munoz

Race control looks hugely upgraded compared to last year. at least twice the feeds available. I count at least six people.

RHR outside like a boss

JPM is on it. Can we be onboard with him next week?

Lots of talk about the rain line from the booth. good info. teaching without yelling.

Power and RHR stretch it out.

Spray off of Dixons onboard doesn’t look too bad. Still very wet; no hint of a dry line.

Montoya has made the same over under move 3 laps in a row on the last corner. on it.

Looks pretty clear onboard with Hinch.

1:25

Power is a second quicker. wow.

Aleshin and Bourdais. Multi lap knife fight. Alehsin notes the racing is more aggressive here than in Europe

Power off. smh. RHR to the point. No one to blame there…

A bit strung out up front, but the action is non-stop farther back.

DW12 looks good in the moist.

No radio for JPM. Now we get to see how well Penske prepped with him.

Oriol first on reds.

Aleshin facing the wrong way, turned by Bourdais. SB did not look pleased. FCY

1:10

Everyone has reds waiting in the pits. This could be awesome or awful we will see.

Servia doing well. Why did I not pick him in fantasy. stupid.

Munoz plugs it into the armco with slicks. excellent rookie mistake to make. brush it off, move on.

Heads up driving from Helio after pulling into the wrong pit. could have been plowed into by JW. The right front guy almost changed the tire. good catch form the TV crew.

JPM beaches it. sigh. Looks treacherous out there.

FCY for Huertas. no rhythm

Onboard with JN is very impressive.

45

Rooted wets can almost serve as super soft slicks once the tread disappears. Saavedera could be playing this very smart. He’s easily gapping Power.

Good movement. small insight into AA at the track changes. less setup options, fewer distractions. smart.

35

Pretty lock-lock steppy, but the track is drying and speed is picking up.

Every lap it looks like most drivers are turning fast lap after fast lap. track is gaining speed by the moment.

Watching Dixon onboard. he looks very hooked up. Guys with dry setups should bubble to the top.

Second comment about fuel probes from Bell, are the pit reporters unable to speak with fuel guys? Making some bold statements when the reasoning could be easily found.

22

Saavedera running well given the off strategy. could pull a top 15 out.

What was going on in Andretti’s final stop?

Can Dixon finish P2?

13

Through the field. Not bad, we’ve gone pretty deep into the race. The rain really helped the emotions today. Retaliation or unplugging a brain could have been awful today. Long season ahead.

Hawksworth P12. Not bad.

All the cars look hooked up.

8

RHR has not used a p2p yet.

Big hit for Aleshin… not enough bar-b-que.

Thats actually a slightly questionable area. not much runoff after a blind crest before the wall.

4

Andretti’s radio was unhooked. Jan makes note that you must be in radio contact with pits at all time. I wonder what JPM’s story was earlier in the race.

Checkers.

Great day for AA. Even Munoz learned a good lesson today, glad that not Michael’s money, he’s got a great core of 3 guys right now.

UFD girls in victory lane. After watching MotoGP earlier today, this is downright PG.

RHR notes the race was dragging at the end. No surprise given the track gaining so much speed every laps.

So much snapple.

Andretti sounds like is head is in the game. best I have ever heard him. Remarks Power is human.

RHR’s kid on the podium. Cute.

Dixon is the man. Laughing about his career worst finish of P3. Burned the fronts off chasing down Marco. Testament to the drive Marco put in.

Pags, the consummate professional.

How long was that post race? could have had more actual race.

Good race. The weather was the real story and caused the large gaps by the end. Was awesome watching them turn fast lap after fast lap. Final stint was truly a sprint racing clinic, nothing was left on the table.

—–

Hope you enjoyed the race notes, and please don’t forget to visit on Tuesday for the more complete Weekend Rewind. Two week until the GP of Indy!

Eric Hall

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Into The Crystal Ball – The Beautiful Facility Edition

crystal ballSunday will mark the fifth time the Verizon IndyCar Series descends upon the quiet, green hills of central Alabama and the beautifully manicured grounds of Barber Motorsports Park. The purpose built motorcycle track has found an unlikely partner with indycar as their connections continue to grow year on year. Spring training, record crowds and fast paced, close quarters action have solidified Barber into a fan favorite and a treasured early spring pilgrimage for local residents. Barber catches too much flak for being processional, but we have a partner in Barber and title sponsor Honda uses the weekend to entertain local Honda plant employees. Plus, the action is actually quite good with the DW12.

Five Things to Watch

Race Control – Boys have at it?! I’m not sure I think this is the best route of action for an open-wheeled series, bumpers or not. Since Long Beach, many drivers have been on record stating that they are not sure what they can and cannot do in the eyes of race control. It’s odd, after a year of relative silence in the media and an entire season of mostly good and sane decision from race control, we find ourselves back in the bad old days. I understand the want of race control to stay hands off, but why now? Drivers don’t have the same respect for each other as they did decades ago, they need a birdie on their shoulder to remind them what is ok and not. The quick and violent shift in race control ideology will be very interesting to watch through finger covered eyes.

Hot Heads – Post race interviews after the green fell in Long Beach were… passionate. Drivers were angry, respect was lost and gauntlets were thrown. By all reports, the drivers have made amends and are ready to play nice this weekend at Barber. I’m not so convinced; these are race drivers we are talking about. As soon as the visor is closed and they catch up to a guy who did them wrong in Long Beach, I imagine those hand holding campfire sing-alongs will be quickly thrown aside. Race drivers don’t forget, and I really don’t think they forgive; there are more ways to ruin a driver’s day than simply showing the chrome horn.

Turn Five – And all of that leads us to one of the only and really the best passing opportunity on the twistie circuit: turn five. Barber is punctuated by medium to high speed corners connected by relatively short straights. Even the 8/9 chicane is extremely high speed considering the configuration of the turn. There is no doubt that drivers will attempt passes in literally every other corner on the track, but turn five will give drivers the best chance to cleanly and successfully complete an overtake. The action will be non-stop all day long. When I finally get out to Barber, I know where I will be spending the majority of my time.

Will Power – Given the absence of Power’s mortal on-track enemy, the year could not have gone better for the Aussie. My biggest fear for Will Power’s 2014 strength was the addition of Juan Pablo; a driver with speed in hand hanging out in Power’s own backyard. That speed has not materialized for JPM as of yet, so Power needs to take this gift and pack on the points before JPM gets up to speed. Considering the Colombians increase in pace between St. Pete and Long Beach, Power is going to have to rack up as many points on Sunday as possible. It could be one of the last weekends where he is untroubled by Montoya.

Scott Dixon – In the four times indycar has visited the rolling hill of Barber Motorsports Park, Scott Dixon has never finished better than P2, he has also never finished worse. If there is a better four race streak at a given facility in any of indycar history, I am unaware of it. Scott Dixon… Mr. Consistency. I’m not saying that he needs a P2 or better finish to be in for a chance at the championship, but slow starts have always been Dixon’s Achilles heel. Although he has finished both races this year in a respectable position, a nice change for sure, with Power’s momentum a P2 or better finish will be nearly a must.

Predictions

Pole – Helio Castroneves – HC does very well at Barber, never starting or finishing outside the top ten, and has the ability to beat Power over the course of a single lap here.

Winner – Scott Dixon – 50/50 chance of finishing either first, or last. That sounds about right after four years of being first loser. I’ll take the win this week.

Epic Performance – Juan Pablo Montoya – Two top fives in a row would be an amazing feat, but not unexpected on his journey back to the front.

Biggest Loser – Graham Rahal – Beat by his part-time teammate? Check. Squandering one of the most coveted sponsorships in the league? Check. Languishing out of the top 15 most of the day? Check. Dismal future based on past performances? Check. Come on Graham, get it together.

The season is still early and everyone is trying to settle in for the fierce championship battle. This will be the last relaxed race weekend before the summer grind starts early with the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Late season championship success is very dependent on putting in three or four good races before The 500. Indycar is at such a competitive level that it is nearly impossible to fight from the back of the pack for the final run of the season. Barber only lets the strongest competitors into victory lane and Sunday will be no different.

Eric Hall

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Thanks for 3 Years, Now Win My Stuff

Three years and four days ago I posted my first article on this hole-in-the-wall-sorry-excuse-for-a-fake-indycar-blog blog with bewilderment about what could eventually happen once I pressed “upload” that faithful day.

My original mission objectives were simple: start a new hobby, become a better writer, put more indycar stuff out there and simply share my fanatical addiction with the world. I have had varying degrees of success in all of those endeavors, but I really just found surprise enjoyment out of writing.

Writing was never my strong suit, and still is not, but some of you guys seem to enjoy the odd commentary and content I have somehow continued to write. Being nearly 200,000 words in and with over 185 posts under my belt, I felt it was as good a time as ever to say thanks to everyone who has read, commented and supported this tiny little alcove of craziness.

Thank you.

Now, onto the good stuff. 99 percent of my long term readers are also twitter users, so I have decided to harness the awesome power that is twitter to give back to the indycar crowd.

Living in Indianapolis, there is a lot of indycar merchandise floating around and I have managed to over-acquire a huge amount of swag at no cost. All of this stuff is new and unused and has been stored well enough to not even know some of the items are nearly ten years old!

Sometime tomorrow afternoon (4/23/14) I’ll do an initial “retweet to enter” with a link to this article so you can browse the wonderful prizes available. I will pick a random retweeter that will get mailed one of the stupendous prizes OF YOUR CHOICE listed below.

After the initial giveaway the rules change slightly. Starting with follower 700 (currently at 673), I will send a new tweet and give away another prize and will continue to do so with every 50 new followers; same retweet to enter rules apply.

There are 15+ prizes currently available with more surely to be added in the future. I realize this giveaway could literally continue for years, BUT WHY NOT?? Shipping a hat is cheap and you guys rock my face off.

If you are a long time reader not on twitter, you’ll just have to keep an eye on the feed to the right and shoot me an email when it is time to enter.

Prizes:

11 black IndyCar mesh hats

4 DirectTV unbranded hats

1 Belle Isle Grand Prix hat

1 Road to Indy Oval Champions hat

1 Verizon Team Penske #12 hat

1 2008 Texas Motor Speedway Champions hat

1 womens medium IRL shirt (the silver is glittery and it looks smaller than a medium)

1 prize pack with 5 2009 fridge magnet schedules, an IndyPro series button, a 2006 TMS koozie and an Indycar pencil.

Good luck, and thank you for reading, commenting and sharing.

Eric Hall

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The Weekend Rewind – How Safe Is Safe Edition

Was it a normal weekend at the Grand Prix of Long Beach, or a dry run for Toronto and Houston? Yes. For a while it seemed like the drivers would be able to control themselves. Sure, we saw Rahal, Power, Dixon and Aleshin all unceremoniously dump their competitors, but the damage was minimal and could be attributed to simple street track racing. The utter mess and destruction that Mike Conway had to drive through on lap 56 en route to his third career win was something totally different.

There aren’t five reactions this week, but I think was follows needs to be said and made first priority for the series. I don’t make that statement very often because I don’t have any idea how to run a professional open-wheel series, but I do know when I feel like things are starting to get just too sketchy.

So we know Ryan Hunter-Reay has taken mostly full responsibility for driving without a brain. Not that it makes his ridiculous action OK; even to the point where the other drivers involved wanted to hear no such excuse. Plain and simple, that was old school IRL IR07 driving. I’ve stated before that I don’t think RHR lives up to the hype, and his championship was more of a fluke than an implication of skill, but my real worry lies with the secondary contact from drivers screaming into an accident site.

Before we move into the real discussion, I have to ask: why did Ryan Hunter-Reay roll so far after his impact? I would like to assume that the braking system was ripped open and a massive loss of brake fluid ensued. Unfortunately, I don’t think that is the case as his car did not look like it rolled to a stop once Helio Castroneves hit him.

I feel like he was hoping to grab a gear and limp back to the pits before Helio Castroneves smashed into him. I’m torn on whether to string up RHR for not standing on the brakes after initial contact, but I don’t like the idea of adding extra chassis to the junk pile because someone hoped they could get back home for repairs.

That’s all fine and dandy, but there could be bigger issues at hand with the marshalling of the incident. Where were the flags before the corner, and how quickly did the corner workers react? I sensed that maybe the Turn 4 marshal station may not have been able to see the incident because it was so far into the exit of Turn 4. I also wonder what kind of training do the corner marshals receive before the action kicks off on Friday morning. Are the tracks and promoters doing enough to make sure the corner workers are qualified and properly trained for the high speed machines seen during an IndyCar weekend?

After the first impact, cars continued to pile into the three disabled drivers for 12 seconds. A single car adding to an accident that was following the drivers in question is not ideal, but understandable. 12 full seconds of additional impacts is totally unacceptable. In that 12 seconds, the waving yellow flag should have been passed through the various marshalling station all the way back into Turn 1, but on Sunday that was clearly not the case.

One final concern was the length of time it took the safety truck, which was stationed at Turn 4, to address the accident. It was almost exactly one minute from initial contact before the truck was on-site. Granted, given the fact that there were secondary and tertiary impacts from inattentive drivers, a slight delay was expected. However, it was still 40 seconds from when the field was under control through the corner in question and the safety truck arrived. In the high stakes game of IndyCar racing, 40 seconds is just not good enough. The delay was especially disappointing given the fact that the safety truck was stationed so close and in line-of-site with the incident.

The Holmatro Safety Team is undoubtedly the best in the business, but I wonder if the delay, something that has not been too uncommon in recent years, is because the safety truck drivers are worried about the race being neutralized in a timely manner. After all, it’s far worse for a driver to careen into a safety truck attending to an accident than for them to hit another disable racecar.

Jack Hawksworth, a late comer to the accident, rear-ended the disabled car of Josef Newgarden and submarined under the gearbox. Thankfully, Hawksworth didn’t disappear too far under Newgarden’s car and climbed out unscathed. But the results could have been much worse, and that 40 extra seconds of response time could be the difference between life and death.

The decline of every day safety in IndyCar has been on a slow but steady decline for years. From slower and slower response times, to jewelry being worn under fire suits, to crew members not wearing helmets during testing while on a hot pit lane, the slippage has been noticeable.

In an era where the chassis, fire suits and helmets are safer than they have ever been, it has been scary and disappointing to watch every day safety slowly slip off of the radar. The series may not be able to force promoters and facilities to upgrade their safety hardware, but they surely have a mountain of small nagging issues that if left unchecked, could really add up one day.

With all of that said, it was still an exciting race. There was passing up and down the field all day long. Every camera shot at every corner had at least one guy taking an inside look and there was more two by two passing than I can remember at any similar super confined street circuit. And honestly, the guys did a great job considering the type of facility they were asked to compete at. However, the drivers were still hot after the checkers fell, and for good reason. Racing in those confines is extremely stressful; luckily for them, but unlucky for us, they have two weeks to figure it out and reset for Barber.

Eric Hall

P.S. I’ve been busy for Pit Lane Reporter again. Want a straight-up newsy view of Long Beach? Head here. How about getting your hands on Issue 2 of Pit Lane Reporter Magazine? Here’s the goods. The IndyCar business starts on page 9 and continues on page 33.

Posted in The Weekend Rewind | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment