Wow

Posted by Iannucci | 8/05/2007 | 8 comments »
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My goodness, where to begin. How about here: right after the race MoneyCJ calls me up and declares "I'm exhausted!" That's the kind of emotion usually saved for Indianapolis, but after all of the rain, the numerous interviews, the frenetic racing, the INSANE wreckage, more crazy racing, the interminable yellows, the Kanaan/Andretti duel - yes, exhaustion seems appropriate.


With the lead changes, the aggressive driving, the crazy wrecks and three-wide passing it was like 2003 all over again. THIS is the racing that has hooked IndyCar fans. Not that parade stuff at Mid Ohio, not that single groove nonsense at Nashville, and not that can't pass high stuff we've seen lately at former stalwart tracks like Texas and Chicagoland.

No, this was racing. IRL-style. Don't blink or you might miss something.

The wrecks were spectacular to be sure, but I've said before I don't watch for the carnage. If you want wrecks watch NAPCAR - they crash all the time. It's all about the racing to me, and the Firestone Indy 500 at Michigan International Raceway had RACING.

The only annoying thing about this race was the fact that all anyone - myself included - could think about for much of the race was Danica Patrick's prospects for victory. When there were seven cars left in the race tell me you weren't thinking she had it. Tell me you weren't pondering the phrase "team orders". Tell me you weren't noting the irony that her first win was going to be airing live on ESPN Classic.

And this was annoying because there was some crazy insane wheel-banging from more than the usual suspects. Somewhere near lap 70 there were 12 cars within a second. Twelve! If you don't think this stuff is exciting then you need to change you psychotropic medication.

The Good

Before any racing accomplishments are cited, it needs to be pointed out that after "the wreck" Sam Hornish Jr was seen assisting the Delphi Safety Team in turning over Dario Franchitti's #27. We've been harsh on Sam and his NAPCAR indecision, but his actions today show that he's a credit to any league in which he's participating. This is why we're bitter, Sam - because you've been such an incredible representative for American open-wheel drivers.

Speaking of, did you see the way Dario was driving before he launched? Like 18th to near the lead in half a dozen laps? Road couse specialist my arse.

There are few phrases more silly than "deserved to win", but boy is it tempting to label Tomas Scheckter as such. Vision was a total backmarker team last season, but The Wrecker was looking today like the best oval driver in the series. Did you see those passes? (If you didn't, you can watch them on Monday morning.) Forget Danica winning - what's it going to be like when Tony George hands himself a trophy because of this guy?

Anyone think Marco Andretti still has issues with ovals? Anyone? Mark it down - NEXT year he will be contending for the series championship. And I don't think I'm going out on a limb with that one.

Ryan Hunter Reay scored another Top 10 finish. After two races he's only 27 points behind Milkalicious for Bombardier Rookie of the Year. Ethanol vs Citgo, American vs Venezuelan - now there's a fun battle to watch.

Kosuke Matsuura finished fourth. Congratulations, and a plague of locusts is gathering on the horizon. At any rate, solid work by him and his Panther team!

The Bad

I can't even be too disappointed with "The Bad" this week. Helio Castroneves got collected racing next to Vitor Meira, and after they both slammed hard into the wall Spiderman got out, lectured Meira, and then walked back across half the track talking and gesturing to himself. Either he's become a one-man reality series or he just behaved like he suffered a concussion. Either way it was entertaining.

Everyone is going to lament Danica Patrick's late tire deflation at robbing history, but I'd like to point out two things. First, here's to the awesome technology that discovered that issue before she went into the wall. Second, she wasn't certain to get past TWO of her teammates after her crew decided to pit her AFTER her them during the eternal yellow near lap 160.

Dreyer & Reinbold's cars looked the worst of the series regulars, and yet Buddy Rice scored his third Top 5 of the season. Normally you would think they would need to find a little more speed, but perhaps they can just keep Buddy on the track while everyone around them falls by the wayside.

Even the rain delay worked out, as we were treated to more interviews about personality than track position than usual. The rain delays at Indy, Nashville and Michigan have probably provided more IndyCar background than has been televised in the last five years. Which is great, but it's totally cool for the sun to come out for all the remaining events.

Dario Franchitti will now possibly surpass Buddy Rice for "flying car intro" for the next few years, but as his car came down you either began praying or uttered an expletive. And not just for him, but for Scott Dixon as well who found himself under Franchitti's Dallara. And honesty, I've seen other drivers die from the type of rear-first impact Darren Manning took into the wall before, not to mention the tire and rods landing in his lap! But all drivers walked away today, and with that kind of luck they should really consider buying some lottery tickets.

The Ugly

And now the reality hits - this excitement won't happen next year. Three or four years ago nearly every oval (which of course would be every race) featured this kind of excitement, but since the ICS has become a spec series (same chassis, same engine, same tire, same red paint) it's had an outbreak of non-passing. Michigan is still configured to allow for glorious side-by-side racing, so the league can't just cast aside a track that can feature IndyCar races like this.

Maybe the wreckage today was caused by drivers losing their grasp on how close they can actually race. It's not like they get past each other very often, especially in recent weeks. High-speed and high-side passing is a skill, and like any skill if it isn't practiced it diminishes. Sure there were wrecks in the races featuring all those photo finishes, but geez louise they had more than seven cars at the finish back then!

Listen, I don't care who is right or wrong here: get this track back on the schedule. If the league has to take it in the shorts for one event then let it be this one. This is for the fan base, the 20,000 people who still turn out to every under-hyped venue. A lot of tracks out west have been lost, but give us Michigan and this last bit of racing before you go all parade-route with half the schedule.

Make it happen. Please.

8 comments

  1. The American Mutt // August 06, 2007 4:28 AM  

    Having been there, seen that race in person, I can only say that YES they need to keep this track.

  2. Dale Nixon & Ms. Kitty Killy // August 06, 2007 5:53 AM  

    Think that extraction of Dario made Sam's mind up about having some tin around him?

  3. Anonymous // August 06, 2007 7:21 AM  

    i was in the agr pits during the race. the moments before dario got out of his car were the longest EVER! one crew member was almost sick to his stomach. there was much rejoicing when he came out unscathed. when dario finally made it back to the pits there were many tears, hugs and smiles. i love indy car racing, but i can't stand seeing wrecks like that. thank god everyone made it through okay.

  4. john c // August 06, 2007 8:00 AM  

    it gave me a knot in my stomach and i wasn't there, it really was a gut-wrencher of a day, all around.

    did anyone else see quattro's helmet?? oy.

    on a lighter tone, given robby gordon's (and others') frustration with crapcar's variable rule enforcement, do you think he's ready to come back to indy cars?

    sooner or later they must want to have another go at Indy500, don't you think?

  5. Jennifer of Dog.Yarn.Knit. // August 06, 2007 8:10 AM  

    There are so MANY things I could say about this race. But I’ll keep it simple. Isn’t it just down right hilarious that after a race like that KOSUKE actually finished? Forget that he finished fourth. I’m just impressed that he finished at all and managed to stay out of all carnage.

  6. john c // August 06, 2007 8:22 AM  

    It was sofa king special to see KOSUKE finish 4th.



    **note: ever since I read "SOFA KING" on this blog, I've transferred it to real life and it's caught on. We use it as "code" at work when we want to cuss in our email, but don't want to get caught.

  7. Johnny // August 06, 2007 9:27 AM  

    R. Gordon will probably just do that off road racing stuff full time instead of moving back to the IRL, although I'd love to see it and you think some of the sponsors would be down.

  8. Anonymous // August 06, 2007 7:46 PM  

    Thanks to our local Time Warner company, I had the choice of Mike King et al on radio or the ESPN Classic replacement of "VH1 Classic". Thank God for Mike and his fantastic crew. It was like I was 12 again and listening to the excitement of Indy with Sid Collins. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a hook-up with the web broadcast, but did get to see replays on Indianapolis Channel 6. WOW!!!! This is what it is all about! And I do speak from experience of watching Indy cars for over 40 years and photographing them professionally for 25 of those years. It's just oo bad that "real" racing fans still can't "see the light" of the IRL!