Random Thoughts On Watkins Glen

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It’s always interesting to get the different perspectives from people that saw the same race. This weekend found me armed with a couple of days off and tackling several projects that had nothing to do with racing, but involved chain saws, hedge-trimmers and cleaned out gutters. By the time Sunday hit, my age was showing and I had vowed to be a slug and stay inside to watch the Camping World Grand Prix at the Glen. I was exhausted and at times found myself getting drowsy during the race.

When the race was over, I had decided it was not the most boring race I had seen, but it was certainly not the most exciting. Then my brother, who is a bigger oval fan than I am, called and let me know what an entertaining race it was. Go figure. I don’t know if I was so tired that nothing would have entertained me, or if he was just in the Independence Day spirit. I have since spoken to a couple of other people who also gave me mixed reviews.

Maybe it was a great race, but my gut reaction is that it was typical road course – nice scenery, attractive venue, minimal passing and Will Power dominance. Power  certainly deserved to win. He made driving the historic circuit at Watkins Glen look easy. I don’t know if his car was any better than his Penske teammates, or if he is just that much better. I like Power and will certainly have no problem with him winning the championship this fall. But with him still leading the points after four straight ovals – it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the field as they just finished the first of five straight road/street courses. Power got the maximum available points this weekend by winning the pole, the race and leading the most laps.

TV Coverage: There were a few plusses but several minuses. Other than the Indianapolis 500, it is rare for either of the network partners of the IZOD IndyCar Series to show the playing of the National Anthem. Fortunately, ABC considered it appropriate to show it on the Fourth of July. Good for them.

I also think they have seriously upgraded their pit reporting with Rick DeBruhl replacing Brienne Pedigo. Jaime Little does a good job and Vince Welch is generally at the top of his game. But the two in the booth still put me to sleep, no matter how much yard work I’ve done.

The biggest gaffe was at the drop of the green flag. As the cars had already gotten into their rows of two and were approaching the final turn, they inexplicably chose that time to explain the difference between the primary and alternate tires. The field was already into turn one before Vince Welch realized that they had already taken the green flag. Not good.

Marty Reid also touted how great their side-by-side coverage was by explaining that we hadn’t missed a thing, while they were away. The trouble was, the break didn’t feature side-by-side. Oops!

KV crashless (almost): The good news was that all three cars from the KV Racing Technology stable finished the race without incident. I’m not sure, but I think that’s the first time that’s happened this season. The bad news is that EJ Viso wadded up his car on Saturday and had to start in an untested backup at the back of the field.

Maybe they can have a race weekend at some point this season where all of their cars make it back to the shop unscathed.

Good weekend for Hunter-Reay: The financial pressure that has dogged Ryan Hunter-Reay has finally reached a happy ending. It was announced on Sunday morning that many of the current Andretti Autosport sponsors have stepped up enough so that he can continue for the remainder of the season. He responded by turning a sixteenth place starting spot into a seventh place finish.

Andretti woes: Unfortunately, the rest of the Andretti Autosport team didn’t fare so well. Tony Kanaan qualified thirteenth and ran as high as sixth before a last lap splash & go forced him into a twenty-first place finish. Danica Patrick ran at the back of the pack all day and was never a factor. Marco Andretti is now setting a pattern of being racy in the first half of a race and dropping like a stone in the second half.

Other than Hunter-Reay, it appeared that their bright spot was going to be newcomer Adam Carroll. The twenty-seven year old from Ireland certainly didn’t drive like this was his first IZOD IndyCar Series race. He held his own; running as high as ninth, before a pit miscue sent him to the back of the field. He recovered somewhat to finish sixteenth.

All in all: It was a fairly predictable race. It was pretty much between Penske and Ganassi drivers all day. Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves tangled early and put themselves in an off-pit strategy situation that didn’t work out. While the announcers kept putting the blame on Dixon, I thought that Helio moved over on him causing Helio’s rear tire to collide with Dixon’s front-wing. Whoever was to blame, it essentially took two of the front-runners out of contention early.

With four more road/street courses looming ahead, the championship contenders have been put on notice that Will Power is serious about winning this title. Others need to step up their game or else his perceived weakness on ovals won’t matter late in the season.

George Phillips

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32 Responses to “Random Thoughts On Watkins Glen”

  1. Well I enjoyed, but thankfully I was saved the hell that is ABC – just watched on the indycar website knowing in advance how truly awful the TV coverage would be.
    It would

    • I watched the Lights race online (Obviously my only option in N/A) & perhaps should have done the same for the IZOD event. I used to think ABC stood for American Broadcasting Company…. well for their IndyCar infomercial its been re-named: ALWAYS BROADCASTING COMMERCIALS :!: :( :(

      They averaged 5-6 minutes of race coverage & then gave us a commercial break or the almost useless Side by Side nonsense. The flow of the race was totally gutted. If I wasn’t a diehard… I would have flipped it off (TV & the coverage). I had flipped on the NAPCAR Daytona coverage the night before. TNT’s “SbS” was the benchmark the ICS should follow :idea: No reduced screen (to showcase meaningless background gpx, 2/3rds race picture & 1/3rd commercial rectangle (+ a sponsor “scroll” @ the bottom of the TV). Believe they called it Continuous Coverage. Randy… PLEASE… PLEASE just blatantly COPY the TNT boys on this. PLEASE :!:

  2. Not enjoyeable, as I’ve said many times, I’m not sure what to judge the actual racing, as the ABC coverage was awful. Danica was awful. I think she may be getting worse… in 07, granted, pre unification, but she was able to qualify outside pole at Mid Ohio, this year she never seems to make it out of Q1.

  3. at one point I realized the announcers were speaking in the hushed, reverent tones of a golf match. it was funny how sedated they were. I miss Jackie Stewart. I miss Bobby Unser.

    it didn’t seem like a bad race, lots of overtaking in the pack, and a little bit in the front. and it was quite “scenic.”

    but I keep thinking about the poll question George, and how no one would consider it “thrilling.” shouldn’t all automobile races be thrillling? because why would anyone buy a ticket for an event that was wasn’t thrilling? shouldn’t that be the mission statement for any racing series–we will be thrilling.

  4. Did anyone see in-person, via TV or via website an army of fans at The Glen? Will we hear attendance figures or TV ratings? I hope that this venue isn’t deleted from IICS schedule. Like to see more natural-terrain road courses (and ovals), rather than adding temp circuits such as Baltimore.
    I’m disappointed that unlike citizens of other nations (such as Canada), we don’t sing together our national anthem. Was disappointed that no one sang with a microphone, so we only heard a drum and horns playing the tune of an old British drinking song.
    Really didn’t like the blather about tires during the start.
    Really want to like Marco and Danica, but their only wins were lucky ones b4 unification. Why did Marco drift backward thru field at end? One day I will log onto Race Director to see & read more during race (during ad breaks).
    Like to see something other than ESPN crew produce broadcasts.

    • I know the Glen is not Road America HUGE… but its a helluva lot of NY real estate. No one is gonna sit in aluminum GS’s & bake in 90 degreee sun :idea:

      Having said that… the Glen is getting pimped with the 4th of July date. JMO. The 4th is family picnics, bar-BQ’s & fireworks near a lake. Even I might pass up tickets to Watkins Glen on this date (even w/ the Finger Lakes & numerous fireworks shows in the area…)

      • You’re right, and the businessmen/sponsors talking to Mr. Bernard are correct: Americans have far too many choices on that Sunday afternoon to tune in to the race at the Glen. Die-hard fans will budget time to drive to The Glen or to watch on TV, some will record the broadcast to watch later, and most Americans will ignore the race. Better to move the race to another weekend.

  5. I tend to agree with you, George, that it wasn’t the most exciting race but not the most boring either. What made the race somewhat boring for me was the usual slipshod job ESPN/ABC did with the play-by-play and analysis. From Marty Reid being his usual unaware self to Scott Goodyear’s mentioning of the extended section of Watkins Glen as new-it was added for Formula One in the 70’s, I believe-this was the typical bad job done by them. (The only saving grace is that as IndyCar fans, we’re not subjected to the dulcet tones of Andy Petree, for whom the next intelligent thing he says will be the FIRST intelligent thing he says.)

    Beyond that, it was a good race. Will Power is likely to be the first winner of the Mario Andretti road course trophy. Dario Franchitti ran good, as did Ryan Briscoe. The race was somewhat anti-climactic, but good anyway.

  6. As an aside to your column, a comment about Simona — who has continually looked much better on the track this year than her results would suggest. It’s a shame that she has not been able to translate very decent racing performances all year long into comparable finishes. Yesterday she had been running a solid mid-pack race, and up as high as P10, when she lost it on cold tires after the last pit stop. It’s also a shame that she had to end up finishing behind DP, whose performance was one step above “pitiful” (read: Milka Duno). I think she definitely has the ability and temperment to out-perform Patrick as an all-around driver (even in inferior equipment), and I hope that this rash of tough breaks doesn’t cause her to lose confidence and focus.

    • Simona rocks. IMO We don’t need to compare our Indy woman either… just enjoy them all (except the freak-show that is Milk ‘N Donuts)

      On the Indycar.com Fan Forum… some goof posted that Target’s marketing folks are questioning their ICS sponsorship. The typical shopper can’t I.D. Dario or Dixie as Target drivers, so they want a woman driver to make the 70% women demographic happy. Same goofball says Katherine Legge will be brought in for a post season test :shock:

      Numerous people suggested the return of “Jah-mie & Alex” style ads (to promote the Target drivers) & testing Simona or Bia in this rumored test. IMAGINE: Simona in a 3rd Ganassi car (w/ her current engineer M. Cannon)

      • I don’t know why Target doesn’t capitalize on its IndyCar sponsorship by featuring its Indy 500-winning and championship-winning athletes on TV ads, in Sunday newspaper ads and in stores… If Target has a new marketing boss, and (s)he wants to use Swiss Miss, okay by me! Would like to see if Simona or Katherine can succeed with top-shelf equipment. But Target stepping up with more cash for a third driver?… I dunno…

      • Bringing back Legge & especially dropping her into one of the BEEST TEAMS would pi$$ me off to no end. All the Danica Haters that stood on their Soap Box to scream she never paid her due, etc… better scream the same d*mn thing about Legge. She won in weak ATL fields & was mid pack in equally weak CCWS events.

        I could handle Simona being a Target girl because she is about 10 years younger than Kat & focused her career on the USA’s OW junior formula. She has also proved she is awesome with the media.

        Remember… Dario’s car is almost never in Target Red :idea: A 3rd car for this rumored women demographic could be a Target deal with numerous brands aimed at the lady shoppers.

  7. I had the same conclusion. So-so. I don’t blame the track–it’s often difficult to overtake on ovals as well. We did see some mixing up of positions. But the end result of Power-Briscoe starting and ending 1-2 does take a lot of the fun out of it.

    NASCAR hightlights looked like bumper cars with fire. There ought to be some kind of middle-ground.

    I was irritated with the coverage (and lack thereof) of what the story is with Adam Carroll. Is he a 6th Andretti car? If Michael’s his strategist, who’s doing Danica now?

    Lastly: I haven’t seen any other mention of it, but Marty Reid make a quick comment at the end of the broadcast about something going on with Bob Jenkins. I always liked Jenkins, so my thoughts and prayers go out to him for whatever’s happening.

  8. at some point, i’m guessing with 10 laps to go, i noticed Milka Duno was listed as -2 (laps down) and was quite shocked, but after the race ended, I hear the announcers claim she was 30(!) laps down! That’s more like it I guess …

    @JamesO: Michael haven’t done any strategy all season long as far as i know, since he became team owner. I too was wondering which team Adam was with, I guess i mostly assumed it was AA due to their previous Boost relationship.

    • Homer: I saw 3 laps down… but we had a helluva lot of CAUTION + the Glen is a l-o-n-g track as well.

  9. Redd, not all racing is expected to be thrilling – look for all those Le Mans events.

    ESPN Latin America announcers kept saying “X has just passed Y” to cover ABC’s horrible directing. It didn’t seem like there was lack of overtakes, but only about of a third of them in the front half were shown.

    • Yes, those LeMans events with their diverse technology & four classes of racing… no thrill there for a motorsport fan :roll: Please tell me you were joking…

      • I think he just means that ALMS and Le Mans races don’t tend to be Handford-style, restrictor plate-esque thrill per second, lead change every lap crash-o-ramas. Which is fine, by the way. In my opinion, most motorsport has never been that, though my acknowledging that is probably about to touch off a 98 comment thread about how IndyCar needs to be…

  10. Jim Bob Says:

    Will Power will have to screw this up to lose the title. In fact, he may have such a big lead that those last couple of races won’t even matter. I don’t see him pulling a Briscoe and choking.

    Will it be sullied a bit though, if he wins the championship and still hasn’t won a oval race in his life? Still not a true champion in my book.

    Must drive Helio crazy too. He’s been with Penske for 9 years now and will still never have won a championship. That’s hard to believe that any sort of decent driver could go that long with RP and not win a trophy. That also hurts Helio’s legacy as a race driver too.

    Hunter-Reay leads the “Others” category in the points. I think that championship needs a famous racer to be named after too. Maybe the “Eliseo Salazar” trophy?

  11. nickh360 Says:

    I thought the race was decent, not thrilling, but pretty good. We were hanging out with family for the holidays and it kept most of them entertained – so that’s a good sign. It is kind of odd that the die-hards found the race so/so, but casual fans seem to have enjoyed it more.

    George, I know you’ve traded a lot of correspondence with the ABC guys and I hope they get an earful after the Glen. Their coverage was inexcusable. How do you have a pit-reporter rambling on about tire compounds while the race goes green? Not sure the start could have been any more anti-climatic. Would ABC/ESPN ever do that during a Nascar race? Then they’re away at commercial while the race goes back to green after the first caution. Down-right awful.

  12. The race was probably much better thanwas shown on TV. They certainly don’t understand how to show an overtake.

    TK’s hypocrisy continues to amaze me. If DP or Marco had stood in the way of his progress the way he did for Marco he would had a conniption, threatened to quit the team and maybe even pocked a fight with a parent. Funny how the guy who refused to pass Dario without a wing for ‘the team’ made Marco drive his tires off on two stints.

    • Scott, TK was FASTER in one part of the track & Marco was faster in another. If TK pulls over he looks like Marco’s B*tch. Still a race & Marco was close though the twisties & 2-3 car lengths back in the straights. JMO

  13. Two problems with ABC: Talking points and a fear of dead air. At one point I thought why can’t you guys shut up for a second, actually take a look at the standings and question why Taku dropped to the back of the feild. Then point that out to us and tell us you will get the story. But you won’t because no one gave you that talking point and heaven forbid you don’t know something.

    The SpeedTV F1 guys should be the model. Put three EXPERTS in front of some monitors and let them have fun. Dead air is ok. Being a little unprofessional by showing personality and feelings is better than being unprofessional because of incompetence.

    And its Rafa not Raffie no matter how many times you say it!!!

  14. billytheskink Says:

    I’d pay good money to see Matos sing Baby Beluga…

  15. The Truth Says:

    ABC isn’t going to bend over backwards for a sport that generates no interest.

    Do you really blame them for half-assing it? These races have literally NOBODY watching. The commercial money has already been paid (by the 2 or 3 sponsors the league actually has). They’ll spend more time and money when the sport deserves it. And right now, there is no evidence it deserves it. Why throw money down the toilet? Its the same reason no sponsors are signing up to be on these cars and most of the field are ride-buyers.

    ABC wants the Indy 500 and nothing else. Its the only race that generates any ad revenue for them and any eyeballs on the TV.

    What do you guys want? If you want better TV coverage and more emphasis from the big wigs on TV, you gotta give them better then the slop you give them now.

    • What do I want? Well, Marty Reid giving me the impression that he does more than fly in race morning, skim a sheet of the drivers names and car numbers over a cup of coffee and then completely winging it on remembering which driver goes with which car would be a good start. That doesn’t cost a penny, and would seem to behoove somebody who is allegedly doing this professionally. Next on my wishlist would be a race director who didn’t give me the impression that he was calling out cameras while simultaneously trying to complete the last three Sunday New York Times crossword puzzles, but I’ll start with the Marty Reid thing. Either way, ABC could make a lot of improvements without putting forward any money or even much of an effort.

  16. Rick DeBruel gave me flashbacks to SPEED F1 days when Bob Varsha was under contract to Champ Car & ESPN :idea: :( :( He might be a nice guy (& a huge fan of motorsport) but he should only be allowed to do his day job: Giving people the weather report in Arizona :!: :!:

  17. Ron Ford Says:

    Still another dreary, negative rant from da Truth. Is there anyone out there responding to the various IRL blogs who is more consistantly negative than this guy? I can’t handle the Truth. An hour with Dr. Kavorkian would be more fun than reading “the Truth”. Does this guy start each day with a bowl of grumpy flakes? What a downer!

    • :shock: Ron, are you talking about Oilpressure or did you mean to leave your comments @ the Defender of the IRL’s blog :?:

      • I don’t want to speak for Ron (though I’m about to anyway), but I think he means the commenter a few up from here named “The Truth”. I’ve been reading (for whatever masochistic reason) comments on IBJ the last week or so and somebody by the name of “The Truth” loves to leave dozens of comments about how everything is terrible, everybody who doesn’t proclaim thrice hourly how everything is terrible is a Tony George bootlicking gomer and that the IRL is doomed, doomed, doomed. I guess for some folks there’s no middle ground between “everything’s peachy” and “stock up on canned foods and bottled water”.

      • Now I understand… perhaps the Truth is “Defender” :?: :)

  18. Ron Ford Says:

    Yes, the Speedgeek has it correct. I was not referring to Oilpressure.

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