Random Thoughts On Texas
The Firestone 550K at Texas Motor Speedway was a vast improvement over last year’s race, even though it didn’t have quite the pack racing they used to have several years ago – but that may not be a bad thing. With so many close calls with some wheels actually touching and others nearly touching, the side by side racing was tense enough. There was certainly more passing than last year’s race, especially toward the front.
Danica Patrick certainly deserves credit for driving an excellent race. I am not a Danica fan, but she is due some praise after her drive Saturday night. This is one of the few top finishes she has had, that I felt like she actually earned. Most, if not all, of her good finishes she essentially backed into before Saturday night – but not this none. She started eighth, fell back a couple of positions and then started carving her way up through the field. When I saw her pass Scott Dixon during the first stint, I began to take note. Apparently, she and her crew have made up from her blasting them at Indianapolis. They gave her a good car and she responded with it, holding her own with eventual winner Ryan Briscoe before settling for second place. It’s amazing how good results on the track can bring smiles to everyone associated with a team.
Now, she has to mend fences with the 7-Eleven team, after she came down on teammate Tony Kanaan as he was trying to pass her. Kanaan had to get out of the throttle and lost several positions in the process. He was none too kind when speaking of the move after the race – saying basically “what goes around, comes around”.
Of course, the sidebar to Danica’s “amazing” second place finish is that Ryan Briscoe won it. Fortunately, the Versus crew didn’t focus too much on Danica’s drive after the race, and gave Briscoe his moment. Of course, during the race – it was the Danica show. I understand that there are some fans who only tune in to watch Danica, but please…there were other spirited drives out there.
For one, there was Vitor Meira who started nineteenth and steadily moved up through the field to run as high as ninth, that I saw. Yet, they never mentioned him or showed his car until the latter stages of the race when Bob Jenkins finally acknowledged his good run.
All of Danica’s teammates at Andretti Autosport had good runs too, especially Tony Kanaan and Ryan Hunter –Reay who started thirteenth and twenty-fourth respectively. Kanaan finished sixth and Hunter-Reay finished seventh. Marco Andretti also had a good run, overcoming a botched pit stop where he lost his right-rear tire. He finished third for the second race in six days.
The expensive woes for KV Racing Technologies continued as Takuma Sato and Mario Moraes each had damaged racecars before the night was out. EJ Viso was the only KV driver to finish, but was never a factor. KV is spending all of their time and money repairing damaged racecars.
TV Coverage: Overall, I thought Versus did a nice job. I like Lindy Thackston in the role of host for their pre-race show. Jon Beikhus did a good piece on the planning for different scenarios that goes on at Target Chip Ganassi. The guys in the booth were their usual stellar-self, while the pit reporters did a good job also.
The only gaffe that comes to mind was when Lindy tried to interview Clive Howell with Will Power’s team. It got awkward quickly when he wouldn’t talk to her at that moment.
Fire response: Without a doubt, the scariest moment of the night was when Simona de Silvestro slapped the wall and then had her car engulfed in flames. It has been a long time since I’ve seen a fire like that in an IndyCar race. Apparently, it has been a while since anyone on the Holmatro Safety Crew has seen a fire like that either.
Make no mistake, I think that they are the best in the business. Normally, their response is swift and efficient. However, they looked lost and hesitant as they encountered the burning Dallara of de Silvestro. It was as if they had never gone over the possibility that they may come across a driver stuck inside of a burning car.
In what seemed like an eternity, they sort of looked at each other like they were hoping that the other was going to do something. All the while, Simona was struggling to get out before becoming overtaken by the growing flames. Although she was wearing fire-retardent equipment, I was afraid she would inhale the flames. Even the guys in the booth started screaming “C’mon guys – get her out of there”. Finally, they were able to literally yank her out of the cockpit.
It seems a minor miracle that all she suffered was a burn on her right hand. Her spirit hardly seemed shaken as she proclaimed calmly in a later interview that she would be back at Iowa, which is the next race in two weeks. There seems to be much that can be learned on several fronts from this accident. The IZOD IndyCar Series needs to minimize the chances of a fire like that ever happening again; but if it does – the Holmatro Safety Crew should make sure they are better prepared for it. Everyone got lucky this time.
All in all: It was a pretty good race. There was enough side-by-side racing to keep things interesting, but the cars spread out some over the long stints to not make things insane. The Versus crew did a good job in showing the montage of Tony Kanaan’s wild ride through the field. You had to feel for Sarah Fisher again. After Jay Howard failed to get the Service Central car into the field at Indy, they were the first car out Saturday night. Sarah’s team needs some good fortune on the track, in order to make things a little easier financially off of it. At least both cars left Texas in one piece.
Alex Lloyd gave the Boy Scouts of America car a great run, despite a bad pit stop where he couldn’t fit his Dallara into the pit box. He fought his way back and brought his Dale Coyne entry home in eighth place, while his teammate Milka Duno mysteriously disappeared early and was credited with finishing twenty-third. Hmm…
Other than Simona’s scary brush with fire, it was a relatively clean race. The other incidents were minor – although you might have a tough time convincing Helio Castroneves or Bertrand Baguette of that. Ryan Briscoe did what he needed to do to start turning his disappointing season around. I’m not sure what it says that every time there are whispers that Briscoe’s job may be in jeopardy; Briscoe responds with a win to silence the speculation. It’s good that he doesn’t succumb to pressure, but why does he keep putting himself in these situations? He is a good driver and by all accounts – a really great guy. I hope he can continue this momentum for the second half of the season and seriously battle for the championship
Yes the Penske/Ganassi stranglehold on ovals continues; but Andretti Autosport seems to be closing the gap – in race trim anyway. I predict that in the oval races we have left in the IZOD IndyCar Series season; a non-Penske/Ganassi car will win an oval and break the streak of fifty-plus oval wins by these two teams.
So, now we have a new points leader – as Dario Franchitti has dislodged Will Power from the top of the standings. Things are certainly tightening up amongst the five drivers on the top-two teams. As we approach the halfway mark of the season, it will be interesting to watch those five drivers jockey for position, while seeing if any driver for another team can ease themselves into contention. It should be an interesting summer.
Please note – There will be no post on Monday June 7. Now that May is behind us, I’ll return to posting every Mon-Wed-Fri, with additional posts on race weekends. I will return on Wednesday June 9 – GP.