Random Thoughts On Edmonton

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My much anticipated day of being a TV slug and enjoying a full afternoon of racing ended up being six hours of my life that I’ll never see again. That may have been one of the most boring afternoons of racing that I’ve seen in a long time. Anyone that complained that the Indianapolis 500 was a boring race, needed to watch the Brickyard 400 yesterday.

The only intrigue was to see if Juan Montoya would become the first driver to win both oval races at the Speedway. It appeared that was going to happen until Montoya was taken out of contention by supposedly speeding on pit road. Before that happened, Montoya was dominating the track just as he did when he won the 2000 Indianapolis 500. There was barely any more passing than what occurred in May. At least the Indy 500 had some lead changes.

As I was getting bored with the Brickyard, I kept telling myself that the IndyCar race was going to be exciting. Coming on the heels of Toronto, which was one of the most entertaining races of the season, I was certain that the wide sweeping turns of the City Centre Airport at Edmonton was going to be just as entertaining. I was wrong.

Will Power dominated this race more so than the way Montoya had dominated the Brickyard. He led from the pole position and only gave up the lead on pit stops. As the pit stops cycled through, Power was always back on top. There was little change among any of the usual contenders behind Power except for a few battling backmarkers. Given my feelings for Mario Moraes, I couldn’t help but laugh as he got the chrome horn from his teammate, Paul Tracy, on the first lap.

The race was a relatively clean race. Most of the damage took place on the first lap, as the three cars of Rafa Matos, Mario Moraes and Mike Conway were all off-course. Beyond that, there were so few incidents that there were no full-course yellows until there were less than two laps to go. Consequently, there were no chances to re-stack the field for a re-start. The race ended under caution, but before that — Power was winning going away.

More AGR Woes: The scariest moment came on lap thirty-four as Tony Kanaan’s crew set him on fire (again). Since I heard no one say that the fuel coupler was faulty, I am assuming this was the fault of the fueler. Kanaan was much more gracious than I would have been, as his nightmarish season continues. How much more will Kanaan have to endure from this Andretti-Green sideshow, before he asks for a release from the four years remaining on his contract?

I almost feel like a broken record wondering each week what in the world has happened to this team. They have absolutely collapsed this summer in almost laughable fashion. I always wondered if the problem was Danica or Marco, but I think it runs deeper than that. I don’t know what the problem is, but if I were Tony Kanaan — I would pay whatever I had to in order to get out of that nuthouse.

Power Performance: With Sunday’s win, Will Power strengthened his case for a full-time ride with Roger Penske next season. His average finish for the races he has participated in is 3.4, and he certainly deserves a full-time ride. Marlboro has stipulated that they will only fund a two-car team, which is why Power has carried sponsorship from Verizon and Penske Truck Rental. The rumor is that the Verizon colors carried at Long Beach and Indy was a payback from Penske to Verizon for their continued participation in Penske’s NASCAR program despite the fact they cannot carry signage on the car in that series.

As wealthy as Roger Penske is, he didn’t get that way from throwing money away. He cannot and should not fund a full-time ride out of his own pocket. That being said, I have to believe that something is in the works to expand to a three-car team next year.

Reading between the lines, I think that Tim Cindric hinted to such a development in his post-race interview. Penske employees tend to choose their words carefully. Cindric specifically said that he hopes they are able to put a full-time program together for next year. Had something not been in the works, he would have deftly avoided the subject altogether.

I still say that Power was wise to stay with Penske with a very limited schedule rather than a full-time ride with a lesser team. I think it will pay off. One angle Penske may be considering is that all rumors point to Danica Patrick moving to Ganassi next year, as Ganassi expands to a three-car team. Penske may feel the need to expand to three cars also.

TV Coverage: Getting back to the Brickyard for a moment, I have to say I was impressed with ESPN’s pre-race coverage. So much so in fact, that I was wondering why they couldn’t put that kind of effort into the pre-race of the Indianapolis 500. The pre-race show for the Brickyard featured an entertaining segment with Tony Stewart and AJ Foyt having a conversation at the yard of bricks. That was soon followed by a good piece with Kelly Ripa interviewing Jeff Gordon. The two pre-race segments in May featured Helio crying and TJ Patrick.

Kevin Lee did what I thought was a great job, subbing for Jack Arute in the pit strategist role on Versus. Kevin is usually on the IMS Radio Network and is also Curt Cavin’s co-host on 1070 The Fan every Thursday night. Kevin did himself proud and should be considered for future openings. Otherwise, it was the usual strong showing for the Versus crew. Some of their camera work was questionable, but they may have been subject to using the Canadian TV feed. The chemistry between this crew is so much better after a few races than what Marty Reid and Scott Goodyear have developed at ESPN over four years now.

Danica Update: I have purposely avoided this subject for many reasons. I think Danica gets way too much coverage and what can I say here that hasn’t been said already? I also don’t want to waste tine and energy engaging in the debate as to where she might go. But by now, it keeps sounding more and more as if she will land in a third car at Ganassi. I think that’s best for everyone (except for maybe Dixon and Franchitti).

I’m not a fan, but the league needs her. Ganassi could probably leverage her marketing presence for more sponsorship deals for his other cars. She also needs to stay in IndyCars for her own sake. The transition to NASCAR is tough, as seen by Hornish, Franchitti, Montoya, etc.

To do it right, she should start off in ARCA or trucks and then the Nationwide Series. It might be several years before she would be ready for cup. By then she is in her thirties and forgotten about and not nearly as marketable. If she is curious about it, Ganassi gives her the opportunity to run a few NASCAR races on off-weekends to give her a taste. In the meantime, Ganassi also offers her some of the top equipment in the IndyCar Series.

If she were to go to Ganassi, there would be no more excuses. If she did join Ganassi and they suddenly became a backmarker, then we know that Danica is the problem. Rahal-Letterman was strong when she arrived. By the time she left, they were in shambles. Now the same scenario is repeated at AGR. Am I saying she is a hurricane that throws teams into chaos in her wake? No — I truly think it is a coincidence. But if she went to a powerhouse like Ganassi and they went into the toilet, one might begin to wonder.

Overall: I was very disappointed in the Edmonton race. It dragged on and on offering little reason to continue watching. Given the fact that there are some aero-tweaks planned for Kentucky, I am looking forward to getting back to what this series used to do best — ovals. Let’s hope this will at least help.

George Phillips

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8 Responses to “Random Thoughts On Edmonton”

  1. The IndyCar race was fugly. When you rely on lapped traffic to create two minutes of excitement in a two-hour race, that’s bad. Horrible.

  2. I really pity Tony Kanaan and wish that he hadn’t signed for SEVERAL years at AGR… ugh.

  3. Judy in Texas Says:

    First race when I’ve actually snoozed and missed the finish. It nearly made the Brickyard 400 look exciting and I thought that would be impossible. Can’t help but be concerned for TK — he deserves better!

  4. I heard that AGR loaned Luczo Dragon a fueler yesterday? Was it Tony’s by chance ?

  5. James O. Says:

    Re: “As wealthy as Roger Penske is, he didn’t get that way from throwing money away. He cannot and should not fund a full-time ride out of his own pocket. ” Would it really be out of line to have his companies sponsor a car? I don’t think so. For one, it’s a good argument when you’re knocking on doors. You’re not just saying, “our market research shows we reach college educated men ages 30-60 with a median disposable income blah blah blah,” you can say “we use it to promote our own products. Our product awareness in our target groups is xxx, and we think it’s paid off for us in yyy and zzz.”

    I never realized that Clabber Girl was owned by the Hulman family until the big shake-up last month. As ridiculous as it sounds, given the choice between GC and Calumet at the store, I’d buy GC as a way of supporting the team. Should GC be a major sponsor? Probably not, but some minor sponsorship would have made it on my radar, and that’s what advertising is about.

    It’s trite, but that TV pitch is famous and memorable because it means something: “I’m not just the president of Hair Club for Men–I’m also a client.” That kind of personal commitment offers something that pure market research does not.

  6. I don’t know George – I think the road courses have been very good so far this year, so I think it was inevitable that we’d hit at least one dud.
    Still – looking forward to Kentucky this weekend

    – Leigh

  7. The Kentucky race was great. Now that’s why I love the IRL on ovals. After last nights great race, I wonder if Richmond is sorry the made the stupid comment about “it’s not the kind of racing our fans have come to expect.” I guess they expect a boring napcar race and that’s what they get. Oh well, Richmond was too small of a track anyway.

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