Fast Five Worthless Opinions: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
Yes, it’s true. The rarely beloved and often reviled “Ten Worthless Opinions” feature is no more. Why, you may ask? “Well, it seems that due to the vagaries of the production parameters of this fragmenting of the audience to the cable television, carnivals, water parks,”¹, the 1000-1300 word length of the feature is much more relevant and readable when it is nearer the 500-750 word limit. Plus, it’s so much easier to come up with five opinions than it is ten. So there’s that, too. In any case, here you go.
1. Penske Domination: What can be said? Will Power was the class of the field until a very slight pit delay allowed Juan Pablo Montoya to take the lead during pit stops. After that, it was all Montoya. The Penske posse dominated the time charts all week and did the same in the race. This leads to the real question of how Penske does it. They have the same Chevy engine and aero kit as the other Chevy teams, so that is not the only reason. While the team does have more driver depth and talent than any other organization, it cannot be just the pilot. And yes, the pursuit of perfection by the whole organization certainly leads one to believe that Team Penske could dominate by sheer attention to detail. But after the parity of the last two years, what does this group have that other teams don’t? Hmm. I wonder how the Team Penske cars support all that downforce? Remember what other area is open to development, and you might have your answer.
2. Honda vs. Chevy: It is way to early to tell which will be dominant throughout the year. Chevy (read: Team Penske) certainly seems to have the upper hand on the street. We will see if the same holds true for natural terrain road courses at NOLA Motorsports Park and Barber Motorsports Park. The ovals are still a tossup between Honda and Chevy, particularly with the removal of so much downforce. What the series does not need is for Chevy for run away with everything, particularly after the last two years of parity and multiple winners from both large and small teams. When you hang you marketing hat on the series being competitive and it’s not, then you have a problem. Follow the leader (read: Team Penske) is not good for the series. Let’s hope Honda and the other Chevy teams get it figured out.
3. Wingapallooza: At least in St. Pete, the worst fears of many came true: Wingapallooza. In a clear demonstration of aerodynamics, a broken wing proved it can fly, sailing over the grandstands in Turn 10 and seriously injuring a spectator. It is the Law of Unintended Consequences in action. If injuries to fans isn’t enough of an issue, wing related issues affected the racing, also. No race needs 20% of the laps run under full course yellow conditions, particularly if most of those laps were a direct or indirect result of the less-than-robust wing assemblies being unable to take the punishment of the old Dallara wing. And it could have been worse! Race Control was very judicious in not throwing the yellow for every piece of carbon fiber that found its way onto the track. They even had a track worker pick up a piece on the main straight during green flag conditions. Let’s hope that this is a simple learning curve, and the drivers adapt to the new fragility of the front wing pieces. In any case, I can see an old Italian man sitting in a big office in Varano tapping his fingers together saying, “Eccelente.”
4. Tears for Graham: Let me go on record by saying that IndyCar needs Graham Rahal, an American driver with a superb racing lineage, to be successful. He is great with sponsors and supports charities. I pull for him. Really. But he makes it so hard sometimes. Even though I have a scanner, I really like the Verizon IndyCar 15 app. It offers drivers’ radio communication, the IMS Radio Network, and great visual information. And it’s free! This week, Graham Rahal was one of the featured drivers, and all I can say is that he is the poster child for the over-indulged generation. Nothing is his fault. He biffed Charlie Kimball, an aero kit casualty, and blamed him for basically being in front of him. When he was penalized with a drive-through, he radioed his dad and said, “They’ll find anything they can to screw me!” C’mon. Of course, this all may be sour grapes on my part since he also loves to tweet how much he loves flying with his new partner Wheels Up in their new Cessna King Air private plane. Just rub it in, Graham.
5. Chip’s Chatter: According to an interview at TrackSide Online, a subscription IndyCar news service, Chip Ganassi may be less-than-enthused about how Mark Miles is going about building a new schedule. His concern is that a short calendar season makes it hard to find sponsorship, and that the series should have extended the front of the series in February before axing the schedule after Labor Day. As much as I enjoy pointing out Chip’s foibles, I tend to agree here. Even though Chip Ganassi Racing is one of the big boys in the Verizon IndyCar Series, he does not have the budget and personal fortune of someone like Roger Penske. He must have the sponsorship to compete, and sponsors do not like the short season. Maybe it all gets sorted out with next year’s schedule, but for now, Chip is not happy and he is not afraid to make himself heard. As if there was ever any doubt of that.
That the five fast WO’s for this week. Let’s hope we have fewer flying wings and more passing at NOLA Motorsports Park.
¹ This is Kramer’s explanation to Raquel Welch in a Seinfeld episode as he fires her from the production of The Scarsdale Surprise for not swinging her arms when she dances. Seemed apropos here.