A Good Race is Hard to Find.
Flannery O’Conn0r wrote the Southern Gothic short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” about an old woman whose manipulative behavior and selfishness led to her family’s destruction. Luckily, there was very little destruction at Barber Motorsports Park for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Sometimes though, fans of the Verizon IndyCar Series think that in 2016, a good race is hard to find.
Quite obviously, I sometimes reach for my comparisons. This may be one of those times since Flannery O’Connor and her stories are not exactly household names. Of course, neither is the Verizon IndyCar Series. While many race fans love the verdant vistas of Barber Motorsports Park, they sometimes miss the fact that the racing is very good at this facility. On site at any road or street course, a fan only sees what is in front of them. Video boards help keep track of the action, but the view is most certainly limited. On television, the viewer is often left wondering what happened with any driver beyond the top five. That’s the nature of the beast. A good race is hard to find.
If you sat on one of the grassy viewing areas at Barber Motorsports Park, you would have witnessed Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon coming from last to 10th after an early lap dust-up with KVSH Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais left him at the back of the pack. Lap after lap you would have seen him weave though traffic, passing his way back to an acceptable placing. Afterwards, Mike Hull, Dixon’s strategist, said that was how championships were won. True that. Those same in-person fans would have seen Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya shred the field going from last to 5th. Both of these drivers put on a show that was seen by the patrons. Truly, it was edge of the lawn chair racing. Since these passes were not at the front, television didn’t show them. A good race is hard to find.
That’s the essence of the title reference. Sometimes the actual racing is hard to find during the broadcast. The limitation of live television is so clear on road and street courses. There is just too much to see. If you want constant excitement, follow the race on the IMS Radio Network. You may not hear every pass, but you are always hearing one somewhere. Sometimes telling is better than showing.
What was shown was certainly worth seeing, though. Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Graham Rahal carried the tattered Honda flag to a runner-up finish while driving most of the race with a damaged front wing and the end of the race without half of it. Plain and simple, Rahal can wheel a race car. His stalking and passing of Penke Racing’s Simon Pagenaud was epic, and I am not using the word loosely. This is what the current iteration of IndyCar racing is all about. A single car team challenges the big multi-car team for the top of the podium with skill and guts. And Pagenaud got him right back . It was worth waiting for. Even after Rahal lost his wing after bumping Jack Hawksworth, his manhandling the car to second place was legendary. And again, that word is not used loosely.
Every form of viewing a race has limitations. At the track you can’t see everything, on radio you can’t see anything, and television, well, let’s just say that we don’t see everything, even though we could certainly see much more than we do. The truth is in the Verizon IndyCar Series a good race is easy to find if you know where to look. The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama proved that at Barber Motorsports Park.
I’ve been a fan of F1 since the ’60s, saw stock cars on the beach at 3 or 4 yr old and I’m beginning to understand NASCAR. Watching Jim Clark chase the roadsters off the bricks was sublime. The ensuing decades up to the split were everything I could want. Now I find it kind of pathetic, the broadcasts, the “analysis”, the meddling by race control… Just doesn’t seem to be much about racing with the exception of the drivers you’ve mentioned and a few others.