I could not in my wildest dreams imagine a race at Barber half as action filled as this weekends race. No more will the track be only known for its visual grandeur that has tainted opinions for three years. Entering the weekend I knew there was a chance we could see a bit more action than St. Pete, but I was preparing myself for shaving the interval, fast in and out laps, and a possible turn one, lap one winner. Sometimes it is oh-so sweet to be so wrong. We saw Will Power come from ninth place with a bit of help from his pit crew to take the checkers and Helio Castroneves was able to hold on to the points lead for one more week. It truly seems that it isn’t spring in indycar unless Scott Dixon is finishing second at Barber.
Beautiful Facility – Year in and out we always seem to call attention to the golf course-esqe, absolutely pristine groundkeeping as a way to make up for the poorish action on track. It was a joke that I am guilty of, but will
probably definitely keep using this moniker when describing BMP. After Sundays race the description has become deliciously ironic considering the action we were witness to. I don’t study lap charts post race, so I am not 100 percent sure, but I think after the continual action we were subjected to; all others can now, unanimously be considered snoozers. Even if you take away all of the in-race contact; the chassis and this beautiful facility seem to be made for each other.
Door Bangin’ – We all witnessed that the DW12 is dramatically stronger than the IR07, and given the amount of contact we saw during said knife fight; Dallara can put an A in one more grading box on its list of unknowns. The Italian composite fabrication company has dealt with more than its fair share blame concerning the chassis teething issues. When taking a tour of the facility during the Winter Indy Tweetup; some one asked the Dallara chassis dude about the weight imbalance problem. In response; Dallara guy emphatically pushed blame onto the engine and gearbox manufacturers for coming in over weight.They have done their job, and have actually gone above and beyond what was asked to help rectify the situation. And our reward was broken wings, cracked nose cones and side swiping… And no one retired due to damages; in fact the drivers just leaned harder and harder on each other the entire race. Kudos and thank you Dallara.
Magic Rings – Firestone cannot be left out when gushing about the event. I have always maintained that the tires are far too durable. A tire, under no circumstance, should be able to last an entire fuel run. Many years ago during at Indy you couldn’t sprint race for 500 miles like you can now. Equipment conservation was an integral part in winning; if you ran all-out all afternoon long you wouldn’t have any car left at the end to contest for the win. In this day and age of space age materials and computer designed engines; tire wear may be the only vestige left from this aspect of historical racing. In the past, Firestone tires have been all but bullet proof, however the new compounds seen on Sunday were a refreshing view into what the future may hold. Tires were falling off six to ten laps before it was time for stops and it was amazing. I hope Firestone keeps bringing these new style of tires to all of the road and street events.
It’s Sharp up Front – Two weeks now we have seen moderate to incredible action from about fifth back while the action at the front is a bit… weak. When comparing the final standings with St. Pete we see that it wasn’t nearly the same story at Barber. The positions mixed well and there were more than a few unexpected finishes, but for some reason we haven’t seen the same level of action up front as we have farther back. In motor racing, if you are consistently running at nine tenths, your pretty dang close to the top. Its that extra tenth of performance; the elusive ten tenths. Dixon and Castroneves have seemed to be able to find it with Power right on their heels. Is it any surprise Penske and Ganassi have found that last bit of performance? What we should have been hoping for all along is; will other teams, given time, be able to figure out the chassis, find the final tenth and truly mix it up with the big dogs?
Sebastien Bourdais and his DW12 – Although I don’t think anyone can say that they are surprised with Seabasses incredible performances; it was in no way expected. Having his engine installed mere hours before FP1 kicked off in St. Pete was a telling start to what everyone was fearing with Dragon Racing. Unpaid bills, poor social media activation and a website that puts even IndyCar.com to shame has punctuated the teams struggle to reach 50,000,000 impressions. But Bourdais overcomes. With two weeks of watching the speedy Frenchman under my belt I posit this: He is driving the car the way it is naturally meant to be setup. There were reports that the DW12 is inherently Pushy; it just wont turn to the apex of the corner. Yet when we got to St. Pete we saw happy tails and opposite lock everywhere. Are these teams jiggering with the chassis to give it an unnatural-yet-comfortable-for-the-driver-overstear feeling? Bourdais strives to set his car up to induce push. I have no idea why or how he drives such a wonky setup so fast, but he has four championships to prove it. I can only deduce that he is finding the speed because he can handle the natural settings for the chassis, and not have to deal with the more extreme setups other drivers are using and possibly losing time because of it. If Lotus can get their act together Sebastien Bourdais will be a force to be reckoned with.
So we saw how a race was supposed to be directed. No action up front? Why watch the lead pack click off laps when there are constant battles throughout the field we could be showing? No 2012 Barber race review could be complete without mentioning how good of a job NBCSN did with this very concept. I would have enjoyed a bit more focus on the leaders during pit stop cycles because their battle was somewhat lost in the mix of it all. A minor complaint about a phenomenal broadcast and possibly the best open wheel twistie race I have ever seen in my life in terms of absolute action all day long throughout the pack. A week off and we head to Long Beach; another concrete canyon that will test every thread of the new engine and chassis. It’s another historically light on action race with few places to pass, and I’m sure drivers can’t wait to change the face of yet another race with their new toys.