Notes from a weekend in Mid-Ohio:
-Firstly, what a great weekend put on by the track!
You can truly appreciate just how much you get to see in a place like Mid-Ohio (6 different series/races: IndyCar, Indy Lights, Atlantics, Speed World GT, SpeedWorld Touring & American LeMans). The many options between camping, sightline areas, places to sit, things to see and do are so many; I would definitely recommend visiting the track for the IRL/ALMS doubleheader weekend for anyone, regardless of your track shape preference; especially if you can get out there with a group of people.
-That said, the talk is that it may have been Mid-Ohio’s largest crowd yet, and I’d believe it.
We had to get in VERY early just to get a spot on the middle of the big hill in The Esses on day 2. Packed would be an understatement, it felt like college football tailgating in more than one respect… as it also took fans, officials, and teams all about 3 hours to leave the track; mainly caused by the fact that there is only one 1-lane road leading in and out of the track.
-There are 2 things you get a better appreciation for in person than on TV.
The first is just how many more passes there can be than what coverage shows. I watched Paul Tracy make at least 2 brilliant passes on EJ Viso & Graham Rahal that didn’t make TV; some great jostling from TK & Bobby D, and much more that I never saw on the TV replay. That’s not to say all races will definitely have more action in person because the Atlantics race was terribly sleep inducing, just too spread out for good action.
-The best action, as has been the case most weekends in 2009, goes to the Indy Lights Series.
No one mails it in for this series, because it’s all young up-and-comers trying to make their presence known. We saw a position get contested in the Esses almost every other lap, and that’s not including what was happening around the track (seen on the video board). Davison may have led every lap but Hinch was giving him good runs the first half of the race until James put the smack down on the field to finish it up. And on top of the great racing, Davison gave fans something no one else did, a celebration, putting a few brilliant donuts on the inclined/turn of the Esses!
-I’ve noticed a lot of people want to blab about how boring they think it was, and its all in the eye of the beholder, but for me, they are simply not paying attention. Scott Dixon put on an f’n clinic this weekend; and on-track dominance is not a boring thing for a short term. If you can’t appreciate exactly what Scott was doing this weekend, let me put it into perspective. It was 115 degrees on the track, upwards of 97 in the air, which means it was likely 215 degrees in the cars. Most drivers were out of breath, drained & exhausted after the race. Still, Dixon wasn’t playing follow the leader with lapped traffic; he was tearing up the field (just like Justin Wilson did in the first half, only lose it on black tires). We really hadn’t seen a truly dominant performance like that in a good while.
-12 of the 13 races have produced a new points championship leader. Don’t tell me this crap is boring when to date 13 of 13 races have had BIG implications on the points championship. Dixon, Briscoe & Franchitti aren’t just coasting to collect points, (though they have been guilty of lining up in the beginning of some races), they certainly bust out the aggression in the 2nd half.
-It is surely looking like this will be the 4th consecutive year (and 7th time in the decade) that the ICS points championship will come down to the final race. Is there any other series that can claim this? That’s not hyperbole; I’m seriously asking if anyone knows any other big league series that consistently has as many tight championships as the ICS.
And my apologies but I’m going to end on 2 rants here:
-The one thing I wasn’t expecting to, but did learn by attending the race at Mid-Ohio, was just how absolutely dangerous it is to have Milka Duno on the track. Normally I’m of the, “its their money, so long as they don’t screw with anyone else” camp; but after seeing her drive this weekend, its pretty clear she is not of the “not screwing with anyone” variety.
Yes Justin Wilson even said he thought Dixon likely would have gotten by him later with a faster car, but the pick Milka set itself is not the issue. Slower traffic sets picks all the time for passing; Milka however set the pick on Justin on the outside line going into the Esses, yet ended up on the inside of the track? Dixon being heads up squeezed his car in front of Justin to cement the position but also to avoid Milka.
If Dixon weren’t as heads up as he is, he’d have plowed right into the back of Milka from her erratic lane switching, and that is where her being on the track is total BS. I watched her with my own eyes cut off other drivers upwards of 20+ times; which you never really get to see on TV. And worse, you listen to her via a scanner and it sounds like the coaching of someone’s first ever race. If she were a rookie, or she were new at the track, or even if she was just slightly off pace, I’d have no issue, but at this point in her ICS career, she has absolutely no excuse for her poor driving.
Truly, I have to give the drivers of the series huge props, because if I were out there, I’d have punted her off the course just to get rid of her, and truly I don’t know how they haven’t yet. Reportedly after practice and qualifying Brian Barnhart sent Al Unser Jr. to talk to her… oooh, big f’n whoop. Likely he said stuff to her, she said “uh-huh” and then proceeded to go right back to what she was doing before; which from watching consists of over-braking and coasting through turns instead of powering through, and constantly choosing different lines, confusing drivers behind her.
Announcers like to say “oh she moved out of the way to let them through” but I’m sorry, if you are out there only to let people pass you, what the heck are you doing out there? Tomas Scheckter would like the car back now.
-The biggest current issue the ICS has that it needs to quell before it turns into something more is the diarrhea of the mouth in the misreporting of the power boost button.
I’m going to say it now, and this goes for Robbie Buhl, Jon Beekius, Bob Jenkins, Lauren Bohlander, Mike King and every other league official & media member covering the IndyCar Series. STOP GIVING THE POWER BOOST CREDIT FOR EVERYTHING!
In the pre-race we heard Bohlander say Briscoe used push-to-pass to beat Ed Carpenter to the line in Kentucky; which he didn’t. We’ve read and heard numerous stories from the media saying the button produced action; one paper in Alabama even claimed the buttn did it all, even though their article contained clear quote from Ryan Briscoe saying he thought the vertical wicker removal gave the better action. After seeing the replay of Mid-Ohio yesterday, it was a push-button festival. At this point I think removing the button (or at least telling everyone you’ve removed the button) would be the solution, cause it seems clear the media and analysts have attached themselves to very incorrect information.
To date Will Power, Ryan Briscoe, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Ed Carpenter, Justin Wilson, and most recently Paul Tracy have ALL said they don’t feel the power boost is significant at all. In fact they have all confirmed that the button is exactly what it was designed to be, a slight bit of power assist when needing a little help. The button essentially has equated to a slight boost, at maximum 1mph. I’m a very non-gimmicky guy, and I have no issues with that; I think that slight bit of help is exactly what the drivers needed to help in make some passes, or catching up from a mistake.
The problem is that the coverage and media have run with “The Button” as if it gives people an additional 40 mph. All the media including Sports Center reported Briscoe used the button to beat Ed to the line in Kentucky (even its been clearly reported Briscoe was out of boosts by the final lap), the VERSUS booth is constantly telling us how many push-to-whatever-they-want-to-call-its guys have left. It’s a good thing to know, but stop pretending it has any big significance, when clearly the drivers have said it doesn’t.
To date only 2 drivers have said it was a big help: Helio Castroneves and Graham Rahal. In both cases, the drivers said they used it to recover from mistakes or to help in aiding a pass; neither gave credit to “the button” for the pass itself; they still had to draft, run a good line, and get started; this isn’t like A1GP or Champ Car where you hit the button and are suddenly significantly faster than the next guy, this is just that extra little bit you might need to help get the job done. Its like using a weight on a baseball bat to warm up, or getting an extra blocker on a play in football.
Why is this an issue? Because the league took the time to implement the boost specifically so it would not be gimmicky, because they didn’t want a gimmick. They seemed to have still wanted the drivers and set-ups to be the deciding factors of a race. Simply put, it seems clearly to have been designed to only be an assist mechanism. You’ve not heard a single driver even talk about the f’n button on their own, which means it’s mostly a non-factor, which is perfect. Why then pretend the boost is a super-powered gimmicky thing?
Every driver I have seen interviewed to this point has clearly stated that they think the removal of the vertical wickers and other downforce options are what gave them the better race at Kentucky, not the button.
I don’t know why people are latching themselves onto this notion that The Button is significant in any way, especially when the league tech people have been clear that it was not designed to be significant. Please stop before it starts convincing lesser-informed fans that the drivers aren’t as much of a factor as button strategy.
-And lastly; head on over here and check out many pictures I took over the weekend, see gallery at bottom.