Random Thoughts On St. Petersburg
The 2010 edition of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg started out like it was worth the wait – especially for people like me who avoided the internet and radio all day long in order to be able to watch the DVR event on Monday night, as if it were live. My girlfriend had learned the results and seemed very intent on sharing them with me. As she dropped a couple of hints that sort of told me how the thing might end – I had to get a little testy with her. I don’t think she was amused. She left at the halfway point.
Anyway, it started off like it would be a wild race but the last stint proved to be mostly a parade and a bitter reminder of what I don’t like about street courses. Although Nashville area resident Dario Franchitti showed everyone that passing was still very possible in the late stages, most drivers played follow the leader for the last twenty or so laps. Given the fact that my earlier TV companion had already graciously informed me that there were no surprises, it did not make for a great deal of intrigue. Lately, she has fallen into a habit of not reading this blog that often. I hope that trend continues for at least one more day or else I’m in trouble.
The Izod IndyCar Series had quite a bit of misfortune with this race. Qualifying was interesting, but unless you were one of us diehards that watched it online – no one knew because ABC/ESPN doesn’t show a qualifying race. When the rains came on Sunday, it took away the chance for a large viewing audience. But I’ll repeat my stance from yesterday that Brian Barnhart definitely made the right call in postponing the race until Monday. I give him plenty of grief when he makes the wrong call, so it’s only fair to recognize him for getting it right.
By winning his second race in the first two events, Will Power showed everyone what he showed us in Brazil – that he is the king of the streets. With more non-ovals on the circuit this year, he has already made himself an early favorite to win the championship. If his team can do on ovals what they’ve done on the streets…look out!
The drive of the day is a tie between Franchitti’s recovery from a spin at the beginning to finish fifth, and Ryan Briscoe’s recovery from choosing the wrong tire in qualifying and a nineteenth place start to finish third. Breaking the tie, I’ll give the nod to Briscoe simply because he didn’t make a mistake in the race like Franchitti did. Dario was the one who put himself back there to begin with. Briscoe’s poor starting spot was more of a team effort, but he advanced through the field quite nicely on Monday. A win would have atoned for his mistake in Brazil, but he has at least gotten himself out of the doghouse.
Danica Patrick and Rafa Matos both deserve a tip of the hat for their recoveries after poor qualifying efforts on Saturday. After starting near the back, Danica and Matos both finished seventh and eighth respectively. Marco Andretti drove like his father in the early nineties during the first few laps, before settling back and getting some laps in before finishing twelfth.
Among some of the disappointments of the day, Tony Kanaan was probably tops on my list. Starting second, he was already in fifth after the first turn and never threatened. I really thought he had a strong chance to win, but he disappeared early and rarely resurfaced before finishing tenth. Scott Dixon continued the underwhelming early season for Target Chip Ganassi when he clipped the wall and finished eighteenth. With all of the hype going into the race, I expected more out of Graham Rahal. Yes, Sarah Fisher’s team is small and does not have the budgets or resources of some of the teams his name has been tied to lately – but I saw a lot of mistakes from the young Rahal and not a whole lot that told me he was worthy of the all of the hype he had gotten this off-season. I expect more at Barber and much more if he re-joins NHL at Long Beach for the season, as rumored.
One of the bonehead moves of the day goes to one of my sentimental favorites; AJ Foyt Racing. While the rest of the field made their final pit stops, the Foyt team inexplicably left Vitor Meira out on the track. Yes he led a few more laps to add to his total from earlier in the race, but just a few laps after the field went green – he pitted! He re-entered the race in the seventeenth spot and finished fifteenth. It’s moves like that, coupled with their unbearably slow pit work that relegates this team to never being more than a third tier team. I’ve also noticed that they still have their morbidly obese outside front tire changer, who could rival AJ in girth and lack of agility. I’m sure this gentleman brings a lot to the team, but they should get a much younger and quicker person in that position.
TV coverage: It’s a shame that the race got shifted to ESPN2, but I understand why it happened. Such is life when dealing with rainouts. I’m just glad there was some place to put it. Marty Reid didn’t do anything to laugh at nor did he give me any reason to think he was the best man for the job. He just made me appreciate Bob Jenkins that much more. One massive improvement for the ABC/ESPN crew was the addition of Rick DeBruhl in the pits. The talent level in the pits was seriously upgraded with DeBruhl taking the place of Brienne Pedigo. DeBruhl meshed right in with the rest of them and you felt like he had been working with them for years. It took about thirty-seconds into his first interview before the race to show that he had credibility in the series. Whoever made the decision to bring him in…good hire!
All in all: It wasn’t a bad race given the circumstances. It wasn’t as entertaining as Brazil, but most of them aren’t. Justin Wilson broke up the Penske juggernaut as he sandwiched himself just behind Will Power and in front of Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves. Franchitti did well to salvage fifth after a sub-par weekend. And another outstanding job for Alex Tagliani and his Fazzt Racing Team. To me, that is the biggest surprise of the young season.
On to Barber: Next Friday April 9, I’ll be attending practice at Barber Motorsports Park. I went to the pre-season test there last March, but this will be my first race weekend at a road course. Family obligations will prevent me from being there on Saturday for qualifying, but I’ll be back on Sunday for the race. I have heard from a few fellow bloggers and several readers that plan on going. If you are going, please e-mail me at email@example.com and let’s try to meet somewhere. I’m anxious to get to meet a lot of people that I have been corresponding with for the past eleven months.
No post on Wednesday: Due to the extended schedule for the race weekend, there will be no post here on Wednesday Mar 31. I’ll return here Friday Apr 2.