This is where Will Power won his first race in an IndyCar. He won the IRL sanctioned event at Long Beach in 2008, during the Champ Car finale and the farewell to the Panoz DP-01; but this was his first win in a Dallara. Seeing the bright yellow Team Penske entry in victory lane was reminiscent of watching Big Al driving the Cummins/Holset Turbo sponsored March/Cosworth to an improbable victory at Indianapolis for The Captain in 1987.
Unfortunately for Power, he didn’t get much time to savor the victory. His part-time season ended in a practice crash at Sonoma just a few weeks later that resulted in a broken back. The injury doesn’t seem to have slowed him down much. He is pretty well making a mockery of this season’s championship. In fact, about the only way that Power could be out of first place after this weekend would be if he stayed home and Dario Franchitti won the race. Otherwise, he would still be in the lead. But that isn’t happening. Will Power will most certainly defend his Edmonton crown this weekend.
This is an interesting venue. It could be the bumpiest surface that the IZOD IndyCar Series races on. The future of this event has been in question as far back as last year’s race there. The race has been financially strapped for years. But on the eve of this year’s race, the Edmonton City Council voted 7-5 to negotiate a three-year deal with the same group that promotes the Formula One race in Montreal (which is another venue I’d love to see the IICS visit). This gives new life to this troubled race. Earlier this week, ticket sales were down twenty percent even though corporate sales were reportedly up over last year.
I have to admit that by the time Champ Car started racing at Edmonton in 2005, I had pretty well given up on the former CART series. I never boycotted them. I was squarely in the CART corner in the late nineties. But by the time Penske, Rahal, Ganassi and AGR had migrated over to the IRL, I just kind of stopped watching. The first race that I watched at Edmonton was in 2008, when it was one of the races absorbed into the IndyCar schedule after unification. That race was run on a Saturday in order to not conflict with the Brickyard 400 at IMS.
That was logical because it didn’t make sense to compete with another Hulman property. Oddly enough however, they have chosen to run the next two races at Edmonton on the same day as the Brickyard. In my opinion, this is a race that needs to defer to NASCAR – especially with NASCAR running at the track that essentially owns the IZOD IndyCar Series. It makes no sense ratings-wise.
Anyway, back to the track…Racing at airports is nothing new. CART did it for years while providing some of the best racing at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland. The street race at St. Petersburg is run partially on an airport runway. While Edmonton’s airport race hasn’t produced any Cleveland type racing in the last two events, both races have been entertaining.
What I remember most about this race two years ago, is the closed door meeting in the Andretti-Green trailer afterwards. Tony Kanaan was the only AGR car having a decent day. As he was about to lap two of his teammates, Marco Andretti and Danica Patrick, they inexplicably would not let him by. After Kanaan finally passed them both, Marco punted Danica into the tire barrier. Michael Andretti was not happy.
Last year was Power’s well-earned victory. He has since shown that that was no fluke.
We are at the point in the season where the leaders will begin to pull away, while some early season hopefuls will start fading away. Scott Dixon has had a mediocre season, to this point. He sits in a distant third place, seventy-eight points out of the lead. Will he make one last stand or will this be the race where he essentially gives up on the championship? So far, he has done nothing to disprove owner Chip Ganassi’s harsh statement that he never saw having a child, make a driver go faster.
The other two Penske drivers need to have a good run this weekend. Actually, by “good run”, I mean they really need to win. Rumors persist that if Roger Penske doesn’t find sponsorship for Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe, one of them may be sent packing in the offseason. That would be a shame because I like them both, but it speaks of these strange economic times.
Justin Wilson has won this race before. In fact, in his Champ Car days driving for RuSport – he finished fourth in 2005, first in 2006 and second in 2007. Then, the next year, he drove to a third place finish for Newman-Haas in 2008. His worst Edmonton finish was eighth, while driving for Dale Coyne. He returns this year with a strong Dreyer & Reinbold team, coming off of the heels of a race he possibly could have won had he not spun on his own in the closing laps. I expect him to be out to prove something this weekend.
Paul Tracy is back for another go in the KV Racing Technology effort. The only real anticipation with this team is now waiting to see which driver(s) will crash on a given weekend. They are up to twenty crashed cars thus far in 2010, with seven races to go. I’d say the odds are good that at least one of the four drivers will find the wall this weekend.
One team that I think will struggle is Andretti Autosport. The best an Andretti car has finished at Edmonton is when Tony Kanaan finished ninth in 2008 – the year he was held up by his teammates. Other than that unspectacular finish, it has been a bag of forgettable finishes for that team. I look for that trend to continue this weekend. Ryan Hunter-Reay once finished eighth at Edmonton while racing for Rahal-Letterman, but fared no better than seventeenth driving for AJ Foyt last year. I just have this feeling that the entire Andretti team will be happy to leave Alberta on Sunday night.
So who will win? A betting man might let the chips ride and take Will Power once again. Three in a row is a tall order for any driver. These things just aren’t that easy to win. I think Power will smartly collect points and not go for the kill. Therefore, I’m going to pick Justin Wilson to atone for his embarrassing mistake last week and bring home the win for Dreyer & Reinbold. They are both due.