Luck at Pocono
Luck, as we all know, is “success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.” Or some such. There are corollaries, of course: Ben Franklin said, “Diligence is the mother of luck,” and Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” Deep thinkers, those guys. I wonder what they would say about the recent IndyCar race at Pocono?
At the Pocono IndyCar 400 Fueled by Sunoco, luck certainly seemed to have favorites. By whatever voodoo they performed, Andretti Autosport drivers Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and James Hinchcliffe had the other teams covered in qualifications. The recent run of good luck by the perennial number three of the Big Three in IndyCar had me believing that Andretti Autosport might be on the cusp of dominating the rest of the IndyCar season. After 5 wins in 11 races, fortune seemed to be on their side.
Speaking of bad luck (remember: a coin has two sides), it didn’t seem that luck could be any worse for Ganassi Racing this year. Until Pocono, the Honda flagship team was down on power and wins. Chip Ganassi’s comments about the motors had to sting Honda just a little bit. Karma has a way of getting back at the smug and sanctimonious, and many people even enjoyed a moment or two of schadenfreude over Ganassi’s woes. I’m not saying that I did, of course. *coughs and looks the other way*
Andretti Autosport has been doing all the right things in all the right ways this year and reaping the benefits. But when Dame Fortune turns angry, watch out. After the great qualification runs, James Hinchcliffe is rewarded with an unassisted walling of his green Go Daddy car on the first lap. Didn’t people in the Andretti pits knock on wood, throw salt over their left shoulders, or genuflect? Could they not see the sea change in their kismet?
Bad luck was just beginning. Ryan Hunter-Reay was moving into the lead when Takuma Sato forgot that you need to slow down when you enter the pits or, you know, you run into people who have slowed down. Poor Hunter-Reay. He probably forgot his talisman on Sunday.
And there’s the sad case of the luck of hometown boy Marco Andretti. He dominated the weekend and the portion of the race he was allowed to run before being told to slow down to conserve fuel. Bad luck may be tantamount to bad strategy…or just bad fuel mileage.
The bad luck/good luck dynamic was not just connected to Andretti and Ganassi. Tony Kanaan of KV Racing was working on the lead for the second leg of the Fuzzy’s Triple Crown for a million dollars when he bent his wing passing race winner Scott Dixon. I think Kanaan cashed in on serendipity when the late yellow came out at Indy.
Call it karma, fate, luck, or whatever, but Ganassi Racing had more on Sunday at Pocono than anyone. Luck? They stripped the downforce off the cars for speed and mileage and kept them off the walls all day. That is really two things: luck and guts. And you might add the fuel sipping Honda engines to the mix. Sometimes the stars line up and preparation meets opportunity. It certainly looked that way at Pocono as Dixon, Charlie Kimball, and Dario Franchitti swept the podium in a Ganassi domination.
Maybe luck has turned for Ganassi. I’m sure Chip would deny it, but I swear I could hear chanting and smell burning chicken feathers coming from his motorhome on Sunday morning. Whatever it takes.