Random Thoughts On Sonoma
I was not looking forward to this race at all. Before the race, I was tempted to watch a Jake & The Fat Man marathon that I had come across, but I had promised Roy Hobbson that I would join him on his Versus Live Chat that he was hosting. I don’t think he would have missed me. The Pagodians were out in full force and I contributed little, if anything, to the event.
In all honesty, the race was better than I expected. It was sloppy and lacked suspense, but there was a lot of bumping amongst the backmarkers to keep things interesting.
Simona de Silvestro was using her heavier old Dallara as a tank. She booted Rafa Matos, as his car suddenly had a forty-five degree tilt to it – but amazingly, he held onto the position. Later on, one of the KV cars punted her – but that was nothing compared to the shove that Takuma Sato gave Danica Patrick with three laps to go.
The most spectacular event involved Dan Wheldon, before he even got to the green flag. Bertrand Baguette ran up into the rear of Wheldon’s car. When they locked wheels, Wheldon’s car flipped over and spun like a top as car and driver pirouetted down the track. Fortunately, Wheldon escaped injury.
Marco had an unspectacular day, as well. He ran into the side of JR Hildebrand, ending Hildebrand’s day early and generally just being a nuisance to most of the drivers, on his way to finishing twelfth. His teammates had varied results. Danica would finish sixteenth, but Tony Kanaan and Ryan Hunter-Reay finished seventh and eighth respectively.
The final standings of this race were pretty predictable. The top five were three Penske cars and two Ganassi cars, followed by Justin Wilson for Dreyer & Reinbold, the two Andretti Autosport entries and then Graham Rahal. The only pleasant surprise was that Alex Lloyd finished tenth for Dale Coyne.
TV Coverage: I hate to say it, but this was the weakest effort I have seen from Versus this season. They over-hyped the Will Power accident from a year ago. Sure it was worth mentioning and doing a small feature on it, but the feature was way over-dramatic and way too long. Then, we were subjected to mentions of it throughout the telecast and then again in victory lane.
Lindy Thackston seemed a little off her game as she stammered and stuttered at the beginning of the telecast, as well as during her Dario Franchitti interview before the race. All three in the booth seemed to have some gaffes and Robbie Floyd had an ill-timed and boring feature on heart rates of drivers. Mid-way through the segment, Baguette crashed, but instead of showing replays as to what happened – they returned to the “Pit-Fit” guy to show us graphs on driver’s heart rates. I know this was Pit-Fit guy’s time in the spotlight, but was that more important than the accident?
The worst moment for Versus was when they cut away to yet another commercial with five laps to go. There were only two laps when they returned, but they felt compelled to show some intro shots of Will Power instead of the final moments of the race. It was frustrating, to say the least.
Quiet day for some: Although Versus chose to focus most of their air time on Will Power pulling away from the field, there were some nice drives that got little play because their days didn’t involve turning people sideways. Vitor Meira had a very nice, albeit invisible, day yesterday as he calmly worked his way up from his twenty-first starting spot to finish fifteenth. Graham Rahal overcame a miserable qualifying effort to move up from sixteenth to finish ninth. Alex Lloyd moved all the way to tenth after starting twenty-second.
Nice mention: I was glad to hear Bob Jenkins acknowledge that it was thirty-five years ago this week that Mark Donohue lost his life. Donohue had come out of a self-imposed retirement to run in Formula One for Roger Penske. It had just been three years earlier that Donohue gave The Captain his first of fifteen Indianapolis 500 wins. While practicing for the Austrian Grand Prix at the Österreichring, Donohue crashed into a catch fence after cutting a tire. Safety precautions are not what they are now and Donohue was dropped off at the Penske garage even though he had admitted to hitting his head. He collapsed soon afterward, slipped into a coma and succumbed to his head injuries a few days later. Although his career was relatively short, he was one of the great ones and should not be forgotten.
Points race: Don’t hand the overall championship to Will Power just yet. Things look pretty secure for now, as he did what he needed to do by winning on the last road course of the season – but he still needs some good performances on the remaining four ovals to wrap this up. With a fifty-nine point bulge, he could stay home from Chicago and still be the leader afterwards, even if Dario Franchitti won the pole, won the race and led the most laps – netting himself all fifty-three points available.
But all it takes is one chance meeting with a Milka Duno or a Mario Moraes to tighten things up a bit. The same logic applies to Franchitti – any blunder on his part, could put the championship completely out of reach for Dario. I’ll be curious to see if there are any shakeups with the points after the Chicago race on Saturday night.
All in all: Yes, it was a boring race – but we all knew that going in. The action in the back kept it watchable and Dixon’s hot pursuit on the last restart kept things fairly interesting for a couple of laps near the end, but I don’t think anyone really expected Dixon to overtake Power for the win.
The best news (for me, anyway) is that we are done with the road/street courses for the year. The next two races, at Chicago and Kentucky, are normally very exciting. Motegi and Homestead, normally aren’t that riveting, but are still much better than what we’ve seen for the last couple of races.
I just wish that we didn’t limp towards the finish where the last three races take six weeks to run. With college and pro football cranking up and one of your last three races across the International Date Line, it’s easy to see how the IZOD IndyCar Series will be lost to the casual fan. Hopefully, Randy Bernard can rectify that situation to keep the momentum strong for the end of the season in years to come.