How I Saw It… The Three-Peat Edition

The 1.75 mile bull ring street circuit had it all, and an honest to goodness pass for the lead. The drivers even gave us nearly 82 laps of more or less clean and professional driving. They didn’t even need to resort to their usual tricks of smashing cars all day long in turn three to entertain us. The layout has just enough challenge to allow true drivers to pull away and a few prime passing zones to keep the racing spicy. Toronto should be the gold standard in terms of street track design; they did it right the first time in 1986 and not much has changed. After all of that, we had Ryan Hunter-Reay taking a decisive lead in the championship as well at clinching his third race win in a row. Things are starting to get heated in here.

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Ryan Hunter-Reay – I find it utterly painful to watch Will Power or Dario Franchitti circulate the race track with a fair gap to second en route to an easy win. However, I am not tired of watching Ryan Hunter-Reay doing it quite yet. There’s something about a new contender that gives them a blank check to do just about anything. Instead of secretly hoping for a caution so someone could have a shot at Power or Franchitti, I was biting my nails praying that a blown engine or some sort of turn three wackiness didn’t give someone the same shot at Hunter-Reay. Between Sebastien Bourdais and Dario Franchitti, the recent history of American open wheel racing has been punctuated with domination. There were other contenders during those years; Will Power sits at the top of that list, but to add a strong and truly new title contender to the mix is something very special. RHR has the full support of the indycar community and I hope he can parlay that into a championship and continue to be a contender for years to come.

Tires – At the teams’ request, Firestone has brought identical compounds to all of the street courses this year; in 2011, Firestone would bring different compounds to each event supposedly tailored to each track. This is an exceptional idea while the paddock continues to deal with learning the intricacies of the new chassis and engine package; not to mention it’s probably cheaper for Firestone to produce the single tire instead of man different compounds. Simply put, there is one less variable for teams to deal with on a weekly basis. Instead of blowing the entire first practice session of the weekend trying to learn how the new rubber compound for that week reacts to chassis setup changes, the teams can focus on fine tuning their cars to the needs of the track. Cohesion has been dependable and repeatable all year for the engineers and the racing is finally starting to show it. The setups are finally being tailored to the drivers and track, not just for tire longevity and we are starting to see the guys who we know are drivers start to fight towards the front week in and out.

Will Power – During Will Power’s post crash interview, he said the new front wings were incredibly fragile. I’m not sure how much I believe this, because we have seen the nose used as a weapon this year. In more ways than one, the front of the car has been proven to be much stronger than its previous iteration. It sounds like yet another crutch to blame away yet another poor performance. The wreck may not have been his fault, but he has put himself in peril more than once this year. A third party confirmed the spotters call about Viso’s position at Iowa before Power took both of them out. Last year, Franchitti was in his head and he was hampered by poor pit work and in 2010 there were too many ovals for his first full season foray into indycar racing. What is the excuse this year? The schedule is road heavy, Franchitti is out, he has the experience and he has snagged Tim Cindric for his race engineer. If he doesn’t get it done this year, he may never because the competition is here and they are all hungry.

Double File Restarts – I love them, and I am nearly certain that everyone reading this loves them as well. The final, much adored two wide restart, was pointed to as the cause of the melee that caused the race to end under caution. Apparently when there are three laps to go with a two wide restart and you throw some marbles into the equation, all hell breaks loose. INDYCAR didn’t sweep the turns so the field could have a few laps of green to fight it out. I say this was a fantastic choice. Anytime someone like me attempts to tell drivers how they should feel in the cockpit there is someone quick to retort that I have never sat in said cockpit and cannot judge said drivers feelings. Whatever. These are racing drivers and their restart lane is luck of the draw, just like nearly everything they have experienced in their careers thus far. They have made their livelihoods on making something from nothing. Drivers: deal with the marbles, your fans love the double file restarts.

Officiating – Ten rounds in, and this is the first time I am really breaking down a call? Not bad Mr. Barfield; quite the night to day transition from last year. The decision to close pit lane for the Rahal crash has been particularly polarizing since Sunday. The crash occurred at the exit of turn one, right after pit out. The wreck was just far enough out that drivers exiting pitlane would have tried to make some time up before slowing for the safety crew. Do you have that much trust in out drivers to not race out of pitlane and wait until after the incident to start racing to the tail of the field? I’m not too sure I do yet. Closing the pits was an interesting decision and I’m not saying the decision was right, but I’m not sure it was totally wrong either. Remember, we are just feeling out the rules this year. Finding what needs to be rewritten and filling gaps has been the main aim during this first year of the new officiating squad. We gave Randy a few years before we started lynching him, Beaux deserves the same patience.

At this point, I would totally be OK with a RHR runaway. Penske and Ganassi need someone else to gun for. When you continually fight the same opponents year after year, your kung-fu can become rusty and that’s exactly what we are witnessing right now. Not to mention we are also starting to see KV Racing, Dale Coyne and Ganassi Deux gain good ground on the front of the field. Have we finally stumbled into the long predicted indycar renaissance without even knowing it? Oh, it’s worth mentioning this week marked the return of push to pass at the detriment of base engine power; I didn’t even notice but it still bothers me the car is pushing less power than in Detroit. All in all, a very enjoyable weekend; let’s hope the remainder of the season follows suit. We deserve it knowing we have a three week break coming up.

Eric Hall

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