Monday, August 3, 2009

Notes on Kentucky, Ed Carpenter Takes On the Evil Empire; and the 2010 Schedule

First, lets talk Kentucky

-We’ve only had one short practice and one race, but it looks like the aerodynamics changes worked. Most people want to talk about the final laps as the point of reference for proof, but that’s not where the proof lies. The proof lay on the ENTIRE race; there were 3 clear phases in the race, the beginning was racy, the middle was everyone calming down, and the end was a mad dash for position. The fact that all 3 phases were not only possible wasn't proof, but that the drivers caused them is our proof. All the oval races thus far had the cars dictating to the driver what they would do. Instead we had guys able to hook up, line up and save fuel, other guys getting racy and passing many cars, and most importantly: good cars could stay together but bad cars fell away.

-This was not artificial wing/wicker restrictor pack racing where no one could pull away, it was the perfect balance. We went half the race green and still had 12 cars on the lead lap, which sounds perfectly appropriate. More importantly cars were passing each other constantly with skill and setup moves. Most of all, one of the most critical driver, Graham Rahal, had a blast.

-The power assist button did its job perfectly as intended. It only assisted. Unlike Champ Car & A1GP where the power boost generally equates to causing the pass or non-pass; the power assist for IndyCar last night was not the ultimate decider, as we saw with Briscoe winning without anymore more boost for the final lap while Carpenter did. We saw many guys using the button to help catch up, but it didn;t always equal a automatic pass, and that's when it stops being a gimmick, and that's why I liked it.

-I’ll also contend that because the power is only a slight boost that keeping it off the screen is the way to handle the coverage. It’s like knowing a pitcher has a curveball, fastball, splitter, changeup; but I don’t need any monitor to know when it’s being used. Not all drivers even thought it was worth much, while others thought it was a big help; that alone tells me its not enough to really need to know; whether its significant or simply placebo for the drivers, it certainly got a few guys to be more racy.

-The VERSUS crew was on fire. I have not a bad thing to say about them, they were informative, funny, critical, interesting and excited in all the right proportions, it was like night and day to Edmonton, when they CLEARLY were not at the track and working with limited info and coverage.

-I’m simply amazed the race got off after all the weeping. What’s most important is Bruton Smith came to this quickly and said in 3 weeks they are spending a quick 3-4 million to fix the problem. That’s the kind of action that makes fans happy. But another interesting note: Did the lack of practice time contribute to the action? The big 2 don’t think so; in fact they thought it would help them cause they had more data for the changes to decide upon. I guess Chicago, Motegi & Homestead will help us know about better.

-Look, I'm generally an impartial guy, but who wasn’t rooting for Ed Carpenter? From casual fans, to people like me who love to be blinded by the sun (Ed's car), to my wife who was literally screaming and cursing Briscoe. In all, poor Ryan Briscoe, the guy is just trying to win a points championship but has to keep doing it at the expense of the little guys. First he took down both Justin Wilson & Ryan Hunter-Reay in St. Petersburg but now Ed Carpenter; you have to imagine next he’ll be beating Sarah in Chicagoland and finsih up in Homestead by taking Vitor to the line in Vitor’s comeback race. It was clear Briscoe had the better car, but Ed had the inside line, and that is the kind of thing racing is about.

Also wanted to throw HUGE props to Ed Carpenter for being a passing machine, he made the front half and back half of the race thrilling. For those who weren’t paying attention at the beginning, he (and Kanaan and Moraes) was passing numerous cars all over the track; in fact I don’t think he picked up a single position because of pitting. And HUGE props to the Vision team for getting Ed out in 6.8 seconds on the final stop, it was actually faster than both Penske cars, Tony Kanaan & both Ganassi cars.

All in all, an amazing race!

Now on to the schedule…

-First the good; (discounting the original schedule having Detroit) 2010 will have the same number of races as 2009. How good we have it now that many fans forget it was 4 short years ago (’05 to ’06) we dropped from a 17-race to 14-race schedule. Remember people, things could be better, sure, but they could be much, much worse; start by being thankful we have a decently large and diverse schedule.

-We finally start in mid/early March! Thank you for adding Brazil; it will be a great influx of cash for the league, but more importantly teams. And the whole thing makes sense, we have many Brazilian drivers & sponsors, and now we (fans/series) can finally give something back to the country of Brazil that has given us so much (all while still collecting a big check from sponsors). A win-win.

-Barber Motorsports Park is a good addition, and unlike many others I’m not going to attack them for not making changes to the track for passing. I know where changes can be made, and so do the drivers, but there is a perfectly fine validity to the track saying, “lets try this once before we spend a crapload of money.” They’ve said they will make changes if needed after the first year, and that makes sense; remember all we had there so far was practice, not yet have drivers tried passing. I’d like changes but I can live with a test run with commitment to making changes if necessary, especially for a track and area that will likely sell out.

-Also good: No Detroit. Many people forget it was still looming out there with its narrowness. I love the state, but that was a crappy race and no one is sad to see it stay off.

-Now the bad: We’ve lost 2 very good ovals and missed 1 potential good oval. Richmond, I understand from a league perspective; that’s ISC’s prerogative to be lazy-asses and not try and replace SunTrust as a sponsor; nothing you can do there and Milwaukee is a mess of a situation trying to figure itself out, but Angstat’s statements were the peculiar part there as the Mile situation seems to be working itself out when Terry said they won’t be added this year.

Its odd because the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting there’s still a chance, so we have no idea if Terry’s talk was a negotiation tactic regarding money they are owed. We all sure hope there is a shot we get Milwaukee back; but to close the door on any and all tracks before the current season is over would be downright stupidity, and I can only hope Terry was exaggerating.

-Now lets talk about the only, yet large, stupid decision in the entire 2010 schedule, the exclusion of New Hampshire Motor Speedway. New Hampshire’s promoter, fans, and drivers have all said they want to have a 2nd shot at making a race at NHMS work. The track had 3 date requests, 2 of which remain open, and were willing to pony up the money for the race. Why in the hell would the IRL say no, and don’t tell me worries of low-ticket sales, or logistics because both of those are BS answers.

This isn’t Las Vegas that doesn’t want in; so let that one be as it is, same as Michigan, Phoenix, Fontana, Road America, Richmond etc. This is different this is a track begging for a date and willing to pay what it takes, check in hand, and you turn it down?

Lets look at the excuses in a more discerning eye: New Hampshire attendance is not IRL’s concern so long as NHMS is paying sanction fee and there is no kind of revenue sharing going on. The IRL didn’t seem to mind racing at a half full Richmond for 9 years, so we know this half-full fear is total BS.

This decision HAS to revolve around the talk with the Gillette people for a race in the stadium parking lot, and that is, in reality, not very smart. Fans have clearly taken issue with Road/Street courses now outnumbering Ovals, but more importantly so have numerous drivers including to date: Sarah Fisher, Ed Carpenter, and MOST importantly, Danica Patrick, who is currently thinking about the possibility of leaving the series. She brings an f’n check like no other to the league, so lets go ahead and do what we can to motivate her to leave…? WTF?

Again this would all be a whole other issue if tracks were looking away, but this is the second year in a row that New Hampshire Motor Speedway has begged, with check in hand, for a date and league turned them away. Its sad, when teams wouldn’t mind more races, fans wouldn’t mind more, the league could use more money, and they turn it down.

In this young of a rebuilding state, the IRL is in no position to turn money, fans and drivers away, based on estimated fears, and the possibility of a street festival 2-3 years down the road. Many people, myself included, are waiting money in hand to buy tickets for that race, buy merchandise and talk greatly about it, and now, again, we can’t, we’re forced to talk about how stupid it was to not add the race.

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