Even hampered by a lunchtime shower, the crowd at the famed Milwaukee Mile was strong. Estimates range from 23,000 to nearly 30,000; no matter the actual number, it was enough for Michael Andretti to have enough confidence to bring the event back for 2013. The Mile gave us the race we were all expecting and teams had to stay on top of ever changing track conditions right up to the very end. This is exactly what we have been asking for and we have received it week in and out all year long. I have been amazed by the skill and professionalism of the driver thus far and expect more of the same in the future. We thought our guys could drive, know we know they can. Ryan Hunter-Reay gave the best job well done reward that could have been given: a win for event promoter and team owner Michael Andretti. What a way to say thank you!
Where’s The Speed? – The racing was good by Milwaukee standards, but the speeds were a bit slow for my liking. This was my brother’s only gripe as well, and this comes from a guy who loves Indianapolis and indycars, but doesn’t really catch them much throughout the rest of the year… i.e., a key demographic. The pole speed this year was 168.737 turned by Dario Franchitti. The track record is a 185.500; a qualifying lap turned by Patrick Carpentier in 1998 under CART sanction. I know we are working with some 200 less horsepower now days, but there has got to be some more speed in these things on the short ovals. The entire race I was reminded that I was not watching open wheeled, fire breathing monsters. The cars were a handful in the corners, which was awesome, but they didn’t have the corner exit acceleration that indycars should possess no matter what the track. For comparison, the stock car record is 122.595 set by Johnny Sauter in a Nationwide car in 2005, so we are still far faster than the tin-tops. All year I have been repeating to myself that this is a development year and power is down, but we should be running the full 700 horsepower on these short ovals. Maybe next year…
Just One Race? – I am a certifiable motorsports junkie, and was in attendance at the Mile this weekend to see some racing. Taking nothing away from Andretti Sports Marketing and what they did to revive this particular weekend, but when I pay 50 bucks for a ticket I would like to see more than one race during the course of the day. Before you ask: no, I never ventured into the infield, but that was not why I was there. The extra stuff going on was clearly an amazing draw for the casual fans and longtime absentees from the event and I wish I could have had more time on the grounds to take it all in, but it just didn’t work that way. The promoters need to know there are still hardcore race fans that come to these things; maybe it was only a handful of us, but we were still there nonetheless. My ticket for the Kentucky race last year was less than my Milwaukee ticket, yet I was entertained by IndyLights as well as the big cars that day. Would it have been that hard to run the lights race at 10:00 Saturday morning? I guarantee I would have made it in to see that, plus I could have visited the infield during the down time; win win for everyone.
Broadcast Confusion – Admittedly, due to a DVR issue I have not seen the ABC broadcast, but from what I have gathered throughout the day there was some confusion regarding the Scott Dixon drive-through penalty served on the lap 122 restart. Apparently, the broadcast was confused about when the infraction happened. Ultimately, the restart in question was the lap 102 attempt which was waved off because Dixon was out of line and this was where the penalty came from, not the clean lap 103 restart. Beaux Barfield made a mistake and the booth was uber-confused about what the heck was going on. When a yellow falls, I immediately switch my scanner to the officials channel to hear all the yellow flag shenanigans that are sure to follow. During the lap 122 restart, Beaux came over that channel and called Dixon in for a jumped restart on lap 103. I heard it with my own ears. The call was incorrect, but I knew exactly where the issue was. All of the “we need to be in driver meetings so we can better serve our viewers” seems a bit silly when it sounds like they don’t even have ears on the officials channel throughout the race. If they had this information, the broadcast team could have dug into the issue instead of sounding like a bunch of doofuses.
Layeth The Smack Down – Honda had a bad day, to say the least. When the checkers fell, there were exactly two Honda powered drivers in the top ten: Alex Tagliani and Graham Rahal. This was the first week where one of the big two engine manufacturers got skunked. The losing engine has finished no worse than fourth this year and that was only once in Detroit. Chevy truly dominated the race on Saturday and Honda was left with the charred remains of Justin Wilson’s engine bay as a consolation prize. I am not sure whether this was Chevy just doing a better job on their next engine iteration or if Honda just had a rough weekend; whatever the case may be, the Japanese manufacturer surely has the competition they have been pining over for so many years. Knowing that Honda doesn’t quite have the team depth that Chevy has, we could be seeing the start of a: we-have-the-best-rounds-in-the-chamber-second-half-of-the-season-championship-run from Chevy. The Honda side just doesn’t have the championship acumen that Team Chevy does.
Four Wide! – From the stands, the restarts looked absolutely beautiful. A slow and clean two by two pack that exploded into a hornet’s nest of insanity once the green flag was waved. The drivers were four wide by the time they hit turn one and no one crashed on a restart. Our seats were high in the main grandstand as far down the front straight as you could get. Watching those open wheel cars funnel four wide through the tight Milwaukee corners was akin to watching a flock of birds. Respect was given, brains stayed attached and nary a carbon fiber shard was seen. Indycar works under different restart rules than most series; the entire track goes green once the flag is waved for a restart. No follow the leader to the line monkey business here, racing starts the moment the drivers see green. Not only do I prefer this type of restart, but it gives us the amazing wad of cars into turn one every time. If the drivers can keep this type of sportsmanship up, I see no need to chance the restart procedures.
At the end of the day, my brother quipped “This was the best race experience I have ever had” and the dude didn’t even step foot into the infield. That has got to mean something! They say the devil is in the details and Andretti got it right; something as small as customized IndyFest re-entry hand stamps sporting the event logo are the things that let you know they put an immense amount of time and effort into planning this event. I was blown away by the night and day differences between my “fan” experience here verse Kentucky last year. But the party must move on, and to Iowa we go. Hinchcliffe sits P2 in points and the top of the chart is getting closer and closer every week. We may yet have a patented super close indycar points championship by the time we get to wherever the season finally ends. 2012 IndyCar season part two, here we come.