Barber Qualifying And Friday’s Thoughts

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My great day at the racetrack yesterday was marred by a dead battery on my car, when I returned to the parking lot. My car has one of those pointless key-fobs that you start the car with while the “key” stays in your pocket. When I took the cantankerous Mac back to the car around 11:00, I pushed the gimmicky button to the Acc position to lower the windows. Like an idiot, I messed around in the trunk and then locked the doors and walked away leaving my auxiliary power running for the next seven hours. Oops. Thank God for the Jefferson County Sheriff Department that was still on the premises.

Then the highway department had already begun theirGeoBarber Fri weekend paving project just north of Birmingham, which funneled three lanes of traffic into one. I went three miles in forty-five minutes. I arrived back home at 10:00 and was in bed asleep by 10:15. I am still pretty much wiped out today, but still got up to watch the Izod IndyCar Series qualifying.

Qualifying: Will Power continued his early season march towards the schedule, by wrapping up his second consecutive pole as he strives for a three-peat to open the 2010 season. If he continues at this pace, it won’t matter how adept he is on the ovals. His lead may be so large by the time the series reached Kansas, he will only have to be mediocre and finish the races on the ovals; his talent on the road/street courses is that good.

I really like Power, but it won’t break my heart if he is an early DNF for this race – simply to add some element of suspense to the season. We saw what complete dominance by two teams did for suspense last season. A surprise can be a good thing, much like the surprise we got when Mike Conway put his Roll Coater Dallara on the outside of the front row. There is no question that Conway is fast. Now it’s up to him to harness his skills and add a little maturity to the mix and bring it home in one piece. Credit his Dreyer & Reinbold team for making the off-season changes that this team needed.

Another surprise was Takuma Sato putting his LotusLotus sponsored car into the Firestone Fast Six. After seeing that car in person yesterday, I realized that television does not do that car justice. The British racing green livery that is reminiscent of Jim Clark’s cars from the early sixties is absolutely spectacular in person. Wandering through the paddock, every time I saw the car, I could not take my eyes off of it. In fact, the entire KV Racing Technologies teams deserves some praise for getting all three of their cars into the second round of qualifying.

For the second race in a row, Marco Andretti made the Firestone Fast Six and will start fourth. After his disastrous start at Brazil, Marco had a solid run in St. Petersburg. Hopefully, the fifth year veteran (is that possible?) can begin putting a string of good races together going into the Month of May where anything could be possible for the famous namesake. Some of the other usual suspects, Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon, will start third and fifth respectively.

Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan just missed the FirestoneSuave Dario Fast Six, while Ryan Briscoe had what I would term a second consecutive disappointing qualifying session and will roll off in the ninth starting spot. EJ Viso rounds out the top ten on the grid.

Ryan Hunter-Reay and Graham Rahal also had disappointing  efforts and will start mid-pack. Further back are surprising names like Raphael Matos (eighteenth), Danica Patrick (nineteenth), Alex Tagliani (twenty-first) and Dan Wheldon (twenty-third).

Randy Bernard: One of the bigger thrills I had yesterday was late in the afternoon. I had gone into the media center to load up one of my posts and to also try to not look as out of place as I did there earlier in the day. I have decided that nothing looks as much like an amateur blogger, as an amateur blogger in a media center surrounded by professional journalists.

Anyway…I was getting up to leave (and grab another free Coke) when I noticed a small group of five or six journalists surrounding someone with voice recorders stuck in his face. As I approached them, I could see that it was none other than new CEO Randy Bernard. I had nothing but an i-phone in hand (along with the aforementioned free Coke), but I thought “What the heck, I’ll go listen to what he has to say”.

I must say, the man is impressive. Although he was dressed in business casual attire, I suddenly felt woefully underdressed in his presence. The man carries a certain aura about him; and I don’t usually apply that term to many people. He is soft-spoken, yet he had the few reporters there hanging on every word. As he wrapped up, one by one the reporters left until there were only three of us; a gentleman with SPEEDTV on his hard-card credentials, another well-spoken journalist…and me. To my surprise, he suddenly turned and reached out to shake my hand and asked if I had a question.

So did I suddenly shift into hard-nosed journalism form and ask questions about the lack of American drivers or the new task force to recommend what to do about a new chassis? No. Instead, I said something idiotic to the effect of “No…I’m just a blogger”. He said “That’s OK, what would you like to know?” I had nothing. I went blank.

Before you all blast me for blowing my one big chance, realize that I had not prepared to interview ANYONE, much less someone of his stature. I was there just to take in the day and share my experience. But you’re right, I blew it. I should have been carrying some big question in my back pocket…just in case. Next time, I’ll be better prepared. There’s a reason I haven’t quit my day job.

Name-dropping: I did get to meet a lot of interesting people yesterday. I went up and introduced myself to Curt Cavin. He and I have swapped e-mails for years and we’ve spoken on the phone a couple of times, but we had never met. He is as nice in person as he is on his radio show. He and I had a good conversation about burgers, Nashville, etc. I also introduced myself to Bob Jenkins and Jack Arute. Bob Jenkins was enough of a gentleman to at least act like he knew who I was; but Jack Arute had no clue. I had to quickly play the Roy Hobbson card before a smile came to his face. I’m not quite sure how to interpret that. I now owe Roy one. Maybe while doing his nightly carousing, Hobbson might have to play the George Phillips card – but I doubt it. I don’t think that would get him very far.

Sunday: I head back tomorrow, this time with a carload and a racetrack rookie who will also be joining us at Indy. We hope to indoctrinate her with a good race and a fun time. I may do a quick post before the race, but won’t be blogging during the race. I’ll have a full re-cap of the race and my day on here by Monday morning.

I hope this is a good race for the future of this event. I know many say that there will be little or no passing. We’ll see. If it can be a decent race, the event will be a success because the crowds have turned out in droves and the track has certainly done things right. It’s no wonder that Nashville is no longer on the schedule. The local promoter here didn’t do a fraction of what Barber has done with this event.

I hope it succeeds and this becomes a new spring tradition in the south.

George Phillips

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14 Responses to “Barber Qualifying And Friday’s Thoughts”

  1. I still think Dan Wheldon will come out of nowhere and punk everyone. Which means he’ll probably DNF. But he’s my pick. I think he’s been overlooked by everyone, and that’s a mistake.

  2. That’s funny about the Bernard non-question, George. Maybe–for the future–write 5 questions on a card and keep it in your wallet. Along with a note that says “turn off car.” I bet you thought of fifty questions while you were stuck in traffic.

  3. Leigh O'Gorman Says:

    I’m going to chance my arm and go for a Marco Andretti win – and I never thought I would ever write that…

  4. One other thing. I’ve been sitting here thinking what I would ask if I met Randy B., because the first response I had when I read your anecdote above was the same: brain freeze. But if you see him again, I think this is a good question: “what ONE metric should I keep an eye on which would be a good indicator of how successful you’re doing and where you want the Indycar series to go? Is it the VS ratings? Is it overall viewership on television? Is it paid attendance at events? Is it the number of teams who are going to be in the season opener in 2011?

    I know it’s oversimplifying, but in many businesses, you can pick out a single item that you think is a barometer of where things are and where you want to be.

  5. George, how about the facility itself? Whenever I see a place with zero grandstand space (that I can see), I find it strange; is that some kind of issue, or does the natural terrain of the facility lend to good viewing? (the scenery in that photo DOES look fantastic…almost Laguna Seca-ish, but with more green)

    I can’t wait to see the KV-Lotus car in person…the green and gold F1 and Indy Lotuses have always been some of my favorite cars to just look at. Also, If you’ve never seen/heard a Lotus 79 (Mario’s ground-effect F1 car) in person, your life is only partially complete!

    • Oilpressure Says:

      Well, they’ve put up some temporary grandstands along what I guess would be the backstretch. But you’re right. There are so many excellent vantage spots that it is more of a natural setting just to take a lawn chair or a blanket. To be so new (2003), the place has a lot of charm and uniqueness about it. The local area seems to have really embraced this event. I certainly hope the race itself is as enjoyable as the entire event is. – GP

  6. Power will lead every lap and dominate the field in a complete snoozer of a race.

    Only way he doesn’t win, is if he breaks or Conway runs into him on the start. He is so much faster then everyone else, its not even funny.

    Power is a nice fella and obviously a good driver, but a complete bore and he could be turning this season into a real no drama deal. And Indy Car doesn’t need that.

    • He’ll probably not dominate the entire year. I think eventually someone will catch him, or he’ll get bad luck.

      But yeah, I’m not optimistic about htis event…

  7. I’m not sure Power will dominate on ovals, but we’ll see.

  8. Well, you could have asked Randy B. why they don’t have any 100% cotton polos. ;) Well done George and another terrific report. By the way, That SpeedTV fellow with the hard-card, was that Robin Miller? Next time talk with him, there isn’t a nicer guy and he is a load of fun.

    • It could have been Marshall Pruett as well. I’m certain he’s down there because he’s the #2 at SpeedTV for IndyCar and one of their two main sports car guys. He’d be down there anyway for the GrandAm race.

      Great write up, George. No stones thrown from me on the freeze-up. :)

  9. Mr. Barber has a strange sence of art and sarcasm; his thought may be that ants and spiders are more lethal than crashes..
    Hope everyone made it to chappel today-
    What a gorgeous site, if all goes well maybe they can make this the first race of the season! WHo would have guessed the answer lies in Mongmorey-grits and hamony, yum!
    William POWER deserves to win…again!

  10. Wow! You had the opportunity to meet Randy Bernard! I’m glad you were impressed with him- he definitely gave a good impression and it’s good to see that idea backed up by a personal encounter.

    It sounds like you had quite a day, but really enjoyed it (headaches and all). I hope the rest of your weekend is just as, if not more, enjoyable!

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