Was that a good cure for the post Indy high that we were all still experiencing up to the green flag? It was for me and at least a handful of other people. No matter how awesome the series is doing; whether it is themselves, the owners or a track issue that is solely the promoters issue, it seems like we are thrust back into reality with a speed equal to the level of joy we were previously experiencing. Belle Isle just wasn’t what it was cracked up to be and quickly knocked me back to indycar reality. That is: we still have a long way to go. Nevertheless, the race was run; alebit to 60 laps instead of the planned 90 because of a two hour red flag at lap 45 to repair massive potholes that were forming… seriously. The checkers saw Scott Dixon layeth the smack on the rest of the field; the entirety of which never had a chance to even get close to Dixon.
The Flipside – Yes, the fact that the track broke up was inexcusable no matter how you attempt to spin it, but I want to take a different point of view on the whole shemozzle. The sealant, or filler or whatever it was called was reported to be ripping up by lap five or so. For whatever reason, nothing was done about it until the issue started to claim drivers in the form of wrecked racecars. But, the track nearly lasted all weekend long. That would be practice, qualifying and the DP and GT Grand-Am race. It also survived a full weekend of Indy Lights practice, qualifying and their race, and even survived through practice and qualifying for the big boys. Those massive DP cars couldn’t put a dent in the surface. It wasn’t until we got 25 indycars on track with their 700 horsepower and 2000+ pounds of downforce before the track finally succumbed to the physical strain of having indycars run in anger. I kind of see this as a badge of honor. It was our cars that destroyed the track; this is no small feat. It made for an awful event from a TV standpoint, but at least we know our equipment isn’t for any ol’ weekend warrior.
It’s Still Detroit – This was supposed to be a diamond studded event to show the rest of the United States that Detroit is a destination city. An attempted demonstration showing how much progress the beleaguered city has attained since the fall of the American auto industry. Well played Detroit, you almost had me believing in you until your streets started tearing themselves apart. The track workers handled the setback with grace, and everyone interviewed on television had nothing but empathy for Roger Penske and the promoters. But in Detroit, anything less than the track falling apart would have surprised me. Maybe I’m still holding a grudge with the city from the Malice in the Palace, but my view of Motown hasn’t been helped with what I saw this weekend. Unfortunately, it sounds like all of us need to adjust our attitudes about Detroit because it is contracted as the race following the Indy 500 for at least the next two years; hopefully the whispers that we will revert to the old CART layout in 2013 turn out to be true.
Was There Passing? – In a word… No. After watching EJ Viso hold up literally half of the field for the better part of 30 laps with nary a pass and only a few looks, I don’t see how anyone could say this was a fun race. But there was passing. It was not the overtaking clinic that we had seen in the previous four twisty events, However there was a teaspoon-full of passing. Not that ABC would have picked up on it, but during the Viso train I was really focused on Simon Pagenaud. At one point, he was pulling off a pass every few laps and steadily working his way towards the front. I’m not so sure he would have been able to do the same thing without the train, but in the tight street canyon confines of Belle Isle he did a fantastic job when all factors are considered. Not quite the definition of a high-speed parade, but it was very close.
“Step-Two” Engines – Apparently, Honda has moved into its second iteration of their 2.2 liter single turbo charged engine. These sealed and INDYCAR homologated engines actually have a few areas that can be developed between rebuild cycles. When the Chevy teams swapped their engines in Long Beach, the new ones were of the same spec as the old ones. However, when some full season Honda teams ran through their first mileage allotment after practice in Indianapolis, the Japanese manufacturer was ready with an updated engine to install in chassis needing a new power plant due to mileage. HPD specifically points to the piston stack as a legal area of development and alluded that there are a few other areas open for tinkering. Increased reliability, enhanced fuel economy and power gains are expected throughout the 2012 development cycle and Honda looks to be the new engine to have for now. The continued development of the engines could play a huge role in the outcome of the championship. I’m sure there will be more to come on this front.
The Championship – Dixon pulled to 26 points of championship leader Will Power who says Dixon is his biggest fear in this year’s battle. I think I would be a bit more concerned with Dario Franchitti, who has been quietly clawing back points and is now sitting only 56 back and is tied for fourth with James Hinchcliffe. Honestly, I do not want to see another Target champion but with I am not happy with Roger Penske this year and if it’s Franchitti who blocks the Captain from another championship; so be it. Will Power should be very worried considering we are about to spend the next three weeks straight on oval tracks. With his dwindling points lead, any comfort he had in his cushion is now gone. I would imagine if there are any other contenders we should be able to pinpoint them pretty soon. Hunter-Reay, Hinch and Pagenaud are all hopefuls, the question is if they can go the distance and start beating Power at his own game.
Everyone say it with me… We want to revert to the CART layout when we go back to Detroit next year! I am glad that Detroit is out of the way. There was no realistic way that we were really going to have an exciting weekend. But we made it through in more or less one piece with a championship hunt that is tightening up every time we see the checkered flag. Everything may go out the window over the next three weeks as the series returns to the ovals where we aren’t really sure who is strong and who is weak. The DW12 has a single oval under its belt but that information is not readily transferable to the others on the schedule. We could very well see a different championship when it’s all said and done. Texas, here we come!!