Friday, June 26, 2009

Notes from Richmond Qualifying

-Jacques Lazier and Team 3G have a new sponsor on their sidepod, but it didn’t translate into speed unfortunately. Jacques’ 153.176mph qualifying speed was lower than all 19 other driver’s warm-up laps; and 14mph behind the pole-sitter; not sure how long Barnhart is going to let that last during the race.

-There are 5 cars between the “Big 2” and Andretti Green Racing’s Hideki Mutoh; and then another car between Mutoh and the next AGR, Danica, starting 10th with Marco & Tony Kanaan pulling up the rear in 16th & 17th. Tony had a fuel cell problem that kept him from even practice & having a setup for qualifying, but I really have no idea what snagged Marco into being a full 2mph. slower than his teammate Mutoh...?

-Robert Doornbos is definitely running a McDonalds paint scheme this weekend, for whatever reason it might be. Newman-Haas-Lanigan confirmed he’s running it but didn’t say why. If you think its confusing to tell apart the Penske cars, just wait until you try to tell apart these two, where the only difference is Doornbos running his original red/gray trimmed rear wing.

-Many props to Newman-Haas-Lanigan’s Graham Rahal who busted out as the first non-Penske/Ganassi in the field, even though he didn’t look like he had it in practice. This is certainly more of a driver's track, so here’s hoping he can keep it off the wall for this one. Doornbos also qualified a little better than his past few races with a 12th; though he is immediately followed by the aggressive Dan Wheldon and later Marco Andretti & Tony Kanaan (who had a fuel cell problem that kept him from practice).

-Dreyer & Reinbold on the rise my friends! Tomas Scheckter and Mike Conway will be starting 9th and 11th; not incredible, but certainly spots they can work with considering their aggressive styles. Especially Tomas who will likely go for setting the new all time record for cars passed in a single lap. The important thing for these 2 is that they are getting away from at least 9-11 cars that could have trouble in front of them.

-E.J. Viso was certainly a big surprise of qualifying hitting the Top 10 (7th) which may be a better sign that the #13 isn’t a complete “curse.” Race-time will tell us further about this alleged “curse.”

-Raphael Matos is one I’d look out for starting 6th. Matos may have qualified 6th, but it was largely do to a screwy first lap that was a good 3-4mph off his other 3 laps, so we know his speed is there.

-Dario is our pole winner, and he doesn’t seem at all phased by being away from this track for a year and the new distance it has now. The only concern he seemed to have in post-qualifying conference was the possibility of guys getting into single file too quickly and not rubbering in a 2nd groove, or causing the 2nd groove to become full of marbles.

-If E.J. isn’t your feel-good story, just look to Hideki Mutoh. Talk of him losing the formula Dream sponsorship/backing seem to have put some drive into him as he has now been the #1 at AGR for 2 weeks in a row, and better yet, the driving actually looks aggressive now.

-While practice and qualifying were both in the glaring sun; the teams will get a quick 30-minute session tonight so as to hopefully replicate race conditions for tomorrow night. (Green flag is at 8:45pm tomorrow night, a good 3 hours later than anything done so far yet today). It will be a definite welcome change for fans, cause it was freaking hot today, and much of the same is forecast for tomorrow.

-And in other good news for fans; I've confirmed that photographing the Vision team members in uniform does not cause mass explosion of all electronic devises, look at the car at your own risk.

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