With sincerest apologies to the memory of Charles Dickens, “It was the best of races, it was the worst of races…” at Detroit this past weekend. What, you don’t recognize the mangling of the opening line from Tale of Two Cities? What were you doing in high school? It was required reading! You can always count on New Track Record to bring up arcane connections to help you understand the value of a liberal arts education. Let’s look at the best and worst of the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit.
Best of Times
- Roger Penske has created one of the best street courses in IndyCar racing. He took a broken track in a broken city and made it racy. From a track where passing was nonexistent and asphalt patches attacked the racers, Penkse revealed a new layout that not only held together but allowed actual passing.
- Besides making a racy layout, Roger Penske is building one of the crown jewels of the IndyCar season on Belle Isle. Yes, the racing is good, but so is the event. Roger Penske is a businessman and promoter nonpareil. At a time when most venues see no value in hosting the IZOD IndyCar Series, he saw an opportunity. Instead of banking on ticket sales for his profit, Penske worked the business-to-business angle and made his money on corporate sales. Having Chevy as a title sponsor helps, too. According to Doug Guthrie of The Detroit News, grandstands across from pit row will become double-decker corporate chalets next year. And we all know that a “chalet” is much tonier than a suite. Great event, great people, great organization.
- One of the best things about the year is the parity between the big and small teams. Fill-in driver Mike Conway won the first race for Dale Coyne Racing and landed on the podium for the second while Simon Pagenaud won the second race for Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports. You know that has to chafe Chip Ganassi, Roger Penske, and Michael Andretti like sand in the swimsuit. Expect changes to the formula that allow the teams with the most money to buy success. It’s the American way.
- Mike Conway’s win was the best thing of the weekend. A journeyman winner is always welcome, particularly one who suffered such serious injuries in a horrific crash at Indy.
- Honda had a pretty good weekend in the heartland of Chevy. After failing on the national stage of Indianapolis, the Japanese marque showed their twin-turbo street course savvy at Detroit by winning both races and sweeping seven of the top ten spots on Sunday.
- Personalities once again shine. In the first race, Sebastian Saavedra waved the double middle finger salute to Marco Andretti while Will Power, known for a similar obeisance to race control two years ago, hurled his gloves at Sebastien Bourdais after a safety worker restrained him from an actual physical attack in the second race. Anything that makes me laugh out loud is the “best of times.”
- Beaux Barfield, whose honeymoon is over with the drivers and teams, made a great call with a local yellow for Ryan Briscoe’s shunt into the tires at the end of the first race, allowing the race to end under green and silence the groundswell of moronic insistence for a green-white-checkered rule to prevent yellow flag finishes. Kudos, Beaux.
- Call it what you will, the doubleheader format worked. The ratings were up, and the crowds were good. The drivers, and especially the crews, suffered from lack of turn-around time, but tin-top drivers and dirt track racers have been doing it for years. It was a good show. Do it again.
Worst of Times
- After the first race had only three yellow flags, there were high hopes for plenty of green flag racing for the second contest. Not so fast. Whether it was fatigue, as suggested by the television crew, or an abundance of optimism and idiocy, as suggested by me, the drivers could not seem to get out of each other’s way. Ed Carpenter nerfed Alex Tagliani. Sebastien Bourdais biffed Will Power, starting a six car scrum. Simona De Silvestro and Ryan Hunter-Reay both found the same wall. Not quite the smooth event from the day before. The big question about the two race format is simple: what if these wrecks happened during the first race? Would safety be compromised because of crew fatigue and time constraints? If the format is continued, we will find out.
- The worst luck of the weekend happened to A.J. Allmendinger. The Penske Racing driver did not complete a lap either race. The cherry on his bad luck sundae was that both wrecks can be chalked up to driver error. The pathos of his sincere sorrow and completely defeated demeanor touched me. It truly was “the worst of times” for A.J.
- Could the timing of IndyCar’s press conference regarding aero kits be any worse? Since Mark Miles, the new chief plumber at Hulman & Co., has not yet been able to plug the press leaks that have plagued IndyCar, the series was forced to go public with their plan to increase speeds, provide more team development opportunities, and allow manufacturer designed body parts before they were ready. Way to steal a promoter’s thunder, IndyCar. We wouldn’t want the media talking about the race happening on the track, would we? The politics and drama of the series continues to provide fodder for low-life bloggers like me to mock the dysfunction. And I thank you.
- Social media once again provided entertainment. The Twitter dust-up between Randy Bernard (@RBINDYCAR) and Panther Racing (@PantherRacing) made me smile. Gig ’em, Randy! I actually debated which category this fit. For entertainment, it’s the best; for the IZOD IndyCar Series, it’s the worst. Call it a coin flip. If you are not on Twitter, you are missing people talking first and thinking later.
- The gimmick of double-file restarts causes wrecks on narrow street courses. No debate. Proponents can justify them by arguing TV ratings and NASCAR, but they create pack racing and lead to FUBAR’s like the six car melee that ended Will Power’s day Sunday. Unlike the 40+ cars in NASCAR, the IndyCar Series has a diminishing number of contestants and open cockpits. Exciting? You bet. Dangerous? Absolutely. Necessary? That’s the real question, isn’t it?
- Listening to the radio feed of an IndyCar race is exciting. The announcers scream about the action in front of them. It sounds like something is happening. Listening to the ABC broadcast is mind-numbing. The vapid and insipid delivery of the boys in the booth truly harshes the buzz of the great racing we are seeing on the screen. I wonder if Lunesta, a sleep aid advertising on the race broadcast, complained about ABC/ESPN competing with them with its choice of broadcasters?
If only this writing was “a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done…” Get it? That’s the last line from Dicken’s Tale of Two Cities. You Philistines simply must read the classics. It is always high art here at New Track Record.