Random Thoughts On Kansas
Just about the time that the green flag fell at the Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 from Kansas Speedway; a deluge of rain, lightening and tornados struck the Nashville area. While I understand the importance of making the public aware of potential danger, I don’t know why a crawler or split screen can’t be utilized. Instead, the last sight I saw of ABC’s race coverage was around lap 76, just as they were showing a replay of Ryan Briscoe coming in to get a new left-front wheel. It was at that point that our local ABC affiliate decided to dump the race and show their radar showing potential tornados and flash flood areas. They came back for about two laps and a round of commercials at around lap 134 before returning to the giant radar screen. The race never returned. Granted, the flooding was bad – some of the worst I’ve ever seen here, but the tornados never amounted to much.
In frustration, I went to the computer to watch the race online. It was spotty and kept freezing up. Despite the three or four in-car camera views that were offered with no commentary; I chose the track feed featuring commentary from the IMS Radio Network. Actually, the radio feed was fine. I’ve always said Mike King does a decent job as a lap-by-lap announcer. It’s when he slips into commentary mode, when I have a problem (see below). But the video feed was lacking, to say the least. It was one camera placed on top of the press box that seemed intent on following Mike Conway and Sarah Fisher for most of the race, rather than ever showing any of the leaders.
But based on what I did see and have since read – if there was going to be a race that I couldn’t see, this would be the one to choose. It was better than last year’s race, but that isn’t saying much. I still maintain that there is a correlation to moving this race from the heat of the Fourth of July weekend to spring, that has turned it into a snooze fest. Ever since they moved this race to the spring in 2007, they have had cool temperatures and boring races.
The crowd was also terrible. My girlfriend walked in while they were interviewing Ryan Hunter-Reay during the pre-race show. She asked if the interview had been recorded this morning, because there was no one in the stands. When I told her it was live, her mouth dropped. Although I hate to see yet another oval fall off of the schedule, if ISC refuses to give an earnest effort in promoting this race – I say let it go.
IMS Radio Network: As I mentioned earlier, I think Mike King does an OK job as the lead announcer for races. But when he starts talking about things outside of what is going on directly in front of him – he gets into trouble. There have been multiple gaffes over the years where he makes it painfully obvious that he doesn’t have a clue what is actually going on in the IZOD IndyCar Series. He did it again on Friday.
For over a week now, the racing world has known that Mike Lanigan was no longer involved with Newman/Haas Racing – to the point where Newman/Haas went out of their way to make sure that everyone knew that they had gone back to their old moniker. I suppose Mike King isn’t part of the racing world, because when Hideki Mutoh was on his qualifying run – Mike King blurted out that he had just noticed that the sidepods no longer said Newman/Haas/Lanigan, but simply Newman/Haas. Davey Hamilton went on to explain the move that we all had heard a week earlier. Maybe this is a coy way of setting up Hamilton to deliver the news, but I’ve heard King say similar clueless things far too often.
As far as I know, this is King’s day job. If that’s the case, it’s almost criminal that he can’t pay $22 a year to subscribe to Trackside Online. Maybe he does, but just doesn’t bother to read their e-mails. But it is inexcusable for fans that have real jobs, to know more than the professional does about what is going on in his own work environment.
TV Coverage: Bear in mind that I only saw one-third of the race from ABC. In that time, the only thing I saw that made me cringe was the seemingly obligatory in-car reporting. This week, Dan Wheldon was the victim. They chose to check in with him just as the cars were about to roll off of pit road. Wheldon blathered on with the meaningless conversation and then proceeded to stall his engine as the cars were pulling away.
I don’t know if the interview had anything to do with his stalling the car, but this is a practice that needs to go away. Most of the time, the radio hook-up doesn’t even work; leaving the booth announcer to annoyingly keep asking if the driver can hear him. When it does work, it comes off as awkward and contrived. It is racing’s equivalent to the ridiculous halftime coach’s interview at a college football game. You know, when the pretty sideline reporter sticks the microphone in a coach’s face. The coach rambles on in pure coach-speak about how they’re going to have to do things differently in the second half; when all the while his face says that the only reason he is talking to her is because it’s in the conference TV contract.
The race: Even though the race was dull, it did tend to shake up the point standings. Race winner Scott Dixon jumped to second in the points, while Will Power saw a good chunk of his lead evaporate by finishing twelfth and two laps down. Dario Franchitti finished second, yet remained fifth in the much tighter point standings. Likewise, Tony Kanaan finished third but remained mired in the eighth spot in points. The drive of the day had to belong to Ryan Hunter-Reay. He took a car that started twenty-second and was a sled on Friday, and moved it steadily through the field to finish fifth. Still he dropped from third to fourth in the standings.
Helio Castroneves drove a steady if unspectacular race to finish fourth. He too dropped one place in the standings, sliding from second to third. Two drivers drove well but lost positions in the pits. Due to the dropped TV coverage, I don’t really know what happened to Ryan Briscoe, other than he had to come back to get a new left-front wheel. I am assuming he didn’t leave the pits without one, so I’ll figure his crew somehow screwed up. Still, he battled back from seventeenth to finish sixth and remains seventh in the points. I was pulling for Briscoe. He had such a strong qualifying run and he desperately needed a good finish. At least he didn’t lose ground.
The driver that drove his heart out, only to be repeatedly let down by his crew, was Vitor Meira. He had a fast car all day and drove a strong race. Yet every time he pitted, he lost positions. The first round of stops, he came in fifth and left in seventh. By the second round, he had regained fifth on the track yet came back out in ninth. His car owner, AJ Foyt, wasn’t there yesterday. He was at the Kentucky Derby. I’m not sure Foyt’s presence would have made a difference.
If you look at most teams, their crews are physically fit athletes. A lot of the crew guys on Foyt’s team look like couch potatoes. I hate to keep picking on this guy, but Meira’s outside front tire-changer looks like Chris Farley and moves about as fast. Whatever talent this guy brings to the table, agility isn’t it. They need to hire someone a little more svelte and mobile for that job. Otherwise, they will continue to have strong runs negated by slow pit work. After starting sixth and running as high as fourth in the early going, all Meira had to show for his hard work was a tenth place finish. He deserved better.
All in all: ABC sure didn’t get a very strong product as an enticement to get new fans to watch the Indianapolis 500. It was a dull race that didn’t offer much in the way of entertainment. However, it was a relatively clean race with only a handful of incidents. Milka Duno continued her stellar season by being oblivious to everyone around her as she left pit lane. If only she were in better equipment.
Jay Howard apparently committed a major no-no. Due to my lack of video, I never saw a replay, but based on what I’ve read; Howard reportedly almost took out his boss – car owner Sarah Fisher, just before hitting the wall. Not a wise move. The last time Howard was slated for a car in the Indianapolis 500, his owner-teammate Marty Roth decided on the morning of pole day, to drop him in favor of John Andretti. Sarah was reportedly very upset with Howard. It probably wasn’t a great career move to almost take out his new boss during his debut.
Speaking of John Andretti…he continues to be my favorite Andretti. In his first time in an IndyCar in eleven months, he drove a solid race from a starting spot of seventeenth up to a ninth place finish. John is one of the smartest drivers out there. If I won the lottery and started up a team from scratch – he would be my driver. His career has been chocked full of potholes, but he just keeps on plugging along and does the most with very little. Now that he has a ride for Indy in good equipment, I would love to see him do well in May.
But, now we are in May. The Speedway opens for practice in less than two weeks, but the Month of May has already started. With forty cars already entered for the Indianapolis 500 and a new qualifying format, this month has the potential to be something special. To help celebrate the coming of May, I’ll return to daily postings for the entire month (except for the first two weekends), before reverting to my usual Mon-Wed-Fri pattern in June. It should be a lot of fun.