Very rarely, in indycar, does the prerace the hype did not live up to the actual event. (Ed: Is that because there is never any hype before a race??) The newly configured track looked to be home run on paper, but the action did not live up to what we were wanting. Thinking back, the last time I was this dejected after a trip to a new facility was the first visit to Iowa in 2007.Yes, indycar racing has visited other new tracks since 2007, Edmonton (!!), Surfers Paradise, Long Beach, Brazil and Toronto. We are visiting two new facilities this year; Baltimore and Las Vegas. We are, also, visiting two reconfigured tracks; Motegi, and last weekend in Edmonton. High hype, usually, is followed by at least a good race. The poor race at Iowa in 2007 was due to the brand new concrete, the racing is currently incredible on the aged surface, but for the most part, the ChampCar tracks carried over have produced the level of racing everyone expected.
Updated Layout – The new layout looked like a winner, long straights and hairpins. The only problem was the turns were too tight, all of them. Tony Cotman was forced to redesign the track on the cheap and as a result, parts of the old layout were reused. Particularity, the tight infield section created from taxi ways, the byproduct of this decision? The long straightway effect was negated due to the aero load needed to get through this infield section. The cars effectively stalled out at about 165 mile per hour. These are cars that should be doing 180 on a course like this. Not only does this stalling make the cars unable to pass, even in the draft, the added down force also decreases braking distances. This, again, makes a pass that much harder to pull off. These things, plus the reintroduction of the black flag into indycar racing, gave us a parade that was only broken up by a yellow caused by the same dive-bomb-and-hope move that accented the Toronto Indy.
Race – What started out as an anything but ordinary race, ended with much of the same we have seen all season. Takuma Sato started his second race from pole; there was conveyed parity at the front of the field. Two Penske, two Ganassi, two KV and the two NHR boys not far behind with even Andretti Autosports breaking into the top ten with RHR. A parade quickly followed every green flag and we were treated to a day of follow the leader. Overtakes were attempted, usually ending with carbon fiber shards littering the track and a black flag being thrown at the aggressor. After the dust settled, we had the three Penske drivers, led by Will Power, finish a very close but ultimately uneventful 1-2-3. Power gained some ground on points leader Franchitti and Dixon drew ever closer to second place.
Booth – We were graced with Graham Rahal’s presence after an early race incident with EJ Viso and Paul Tracy. Graham was not bad by any means, but his lack of rapport with the booth guys was immediately evident and he graciously excused himself from the booth before the checkers. Wally Dallenbach was back in the house and Dan Wheldon was gone, reuniting the Verse INDYCAR announcing dream team. Although this group is not the absolute best we could have, these guys really work well with each other. Wheldon, who did a fantastic job, was often too long winded and took a large amount of aural space from the day job guys.
Restarts – There seemed to be little trouble in getting arranged in the two by two restart pattern. The drivers actually aligned before the T13 hairpin. This was surprising, given the length of the front straight. I was sure the drivers would single file through the turn to avoid the marbles but I noticed there was not nearly as much clag offline as there has been in weeks past. After green, T1 was clean. It was am amazing, beautiful sight to see 26 professionals all take care of each other and have picture perfect starts and restarts.
Penalties – There were a few oddities in the new penalty calling. After being given a black flag Tagliani was able to lead the field to green because he was instructed to take the drive through penalty during the green flag, after the restart. In a perfect world, the black flagged driver would restart behind whoever he punted. What victim is out of the race or many laps down? Race control should have the punter serve the penalty the lap before the green, holding them until after the field has passed pit out, putting the penalized driver one lap down. This idea was floated on twitter after the race. Questions of holding the car for a lap and the longevity of the engine while idling were posed. Simple. Set up a penalty box with fans of some sort to cool the car, add dry ice or something similar. A driver given a black flag has no business leading the field to green on a restart.
Phew, a little long winded this week. There were many things to talk about after the finale of the Canadian swing. It seems that no one is worse for the wear and the equipment made it home on the haulers and not in trash trucks. In two weeks, the series visits the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. After these last two races, I am totally unsure what may transpire next time. The action will surely be hot and the racing even closer as the final pages of history are written for the IRL Dallara chassis.