A few folks have been kind enough to gently point out that I sound (well, read actually) like some kind of crank in my little synopsis of thoughts on the race in St Petersburg. If you will afford me just another moment of your time I will attempt to reassure that I am not at all dismissive of a race that included many highlights. Truth be told I didn’t get a chance to watch the race until late last night, at which point I sufficiently primed for “nodding off”.
My concern with the street course races – and to a similar extent the road course contests – is the vast reduction in passing lanes. The narrow courses with many kinks challenge the drivers, but with only three or four places on the whole course wide enough for passing the actual racing gets clogged up. Drivers can pass each other on pit stops or when someone spins or wrecks, but otherwise it’s just a total blockfest.
And I’m OK with that as long as there is some drama somewhere on the track. Unfortunately that drama wasn’t at the front, where Scott Dixon chased Helio Castroneves all day long. Sure, Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti went to the back and worked their way up, but much of whatever passing they were accomplishing wasn’t televised.
So with that said I’m going to instead list a bunch of things I truly enjoyed about the race telecast and not even once mention my untimely nap.
• Anytime Helio Castroneves wins I look forward to his post-race antics. At some point in time it will get old, but I appreciate his bubbly exuberance in this era of so many dull corporate race car drivers. It may be a total act but I like the act, and it’s the kind of act that appeals to the casual race fan.
• Speaking of winning, I thought it very cool to have Vince Welsh interview Spiderman on the track after the race. No need to wait until victory lane when your reporter can just get out on the pavement and interview the winner as soon as he climbs down from that fence.
• Also, the helicopter camera was great for making the cars look fast. Those long shots down the runway, err, front straightaway made them look school-zone slow, but the overhead shot revealed what 160 MPH is supposed to look like. As Pressdog is fond of saying, “Get the cameras up in the air.”
• Darren Manning made my day. Not since the days of Kenny Brack has the Foyt entry looked so solid, and I will completely admit this usually neutral observer was pulling for Danger Mouse. No one wants to see a legend like Super Tex humiliated, and seeing the Foyt car near the back for so much of the last few seasons is just painful. I sincerely hope this performance is a sign of a turnaround and not a fluke.
• When I heard Kosuke Matsuura’s started speaking in R-rated language, my first thought was “What did he just say?” But my second thought was “Does he know you don’t say that on TV?” Maybe living in the racing world he thinks everyone talks like that all the time. It’s not like he gets a lot of interviews to practice his English. When was the last time this guy got air time? I remember during the rain delay at Michigan last year he was just standing around while everyone else got interviewed. Well, now we’ll remember him.
• You can’t say enough about the recovery of Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti. To go backwards on the first lap and work back into a Top 5 is nothing short of incredible for both of them. One can only wonder how their day would have gone had they not had that early collision.
• Not only did Sarah Fisher finish her first street event, but more important was that she didn’t disrupt the race. Like Marty Roth on an oval, her goals were to keep the car in one piece and to avoid taking anyone else out of the race.
• I don’t know if this as an ESPN thing or if this is the league’s doing, but I’ve noticed this year the “I Am Mindy” segments actually have drivers with faces and names in them. THANK YOU!
• A big thank you as well for keeping the side-by-side commercials, no matter how dull the racing is. While NASCAR fans are treated to studio breakaways during green flag racing, IndyCar fans get all racing all the time.
• And not only that, but I would almost enjoy watching that Firestone commercial no matter what’s happening in the race. I almost cried the first time I saw it, and I haven’t cried at anything like that since the end of “Babe”. (OK, too much information.)
• The one drawback about night racing is that we don’t get to see Dan Wheldon’s crazy white sunglasses. This is just a personal game I play, but whenever he’s on screen wearing those things I start humming Elton John’s “Rocket Man”. One day my kids will appreciate this, right?
• And finally: kudos to Dixon for not wrecking Castroneves. His frustration could have come to a desperate move late in the race, but he showed his professionalism in defeat. As much as the actual result was boring, I would still prefer boredom to a last lap crash taking out the two best cars of the race.
This is probably my most boring post yet, but I'll rest easier knowing it's up.
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