Many races in the IZOD IndyCar Series leave lasting images. The 2011 Indianapolis 500 will best be remembered for the shot J.R. Hildebrand sliding along the wall towards the finish line as a surprised Dan Wheldon sped past. 1989 conjures up images of Al Unser, Jr. spinning into the wall as Emerson Fittipaldi somehow managed to keep control. The 2009 race at Kentucky Speedway will forever be known for the scene where Ryan Briscoe barely nipped Ed Carpenter at the line, preventing Ed and Vision Racing from scoring an improbable victory.
Likewise, the 2010 Honda Indy Edmonton will always be associated with a certain scene. Unlike these other references, this one took place after the race. Whenever I think of Edmonton, the first visual picture that comes to mind is that of a five-foot something Helio Castroneves grabbing the collar of what must be a seven-foot something Charles Burns.
Long after the debate over whether or not Helio was blocking his teammate Will Power, that scene remains burned into my memory. I had to stop and think about it to remember that Scott Dixon actually won the race. All I can think of is Helio going ballistic and trying to look fearsome up against the mountainous INDYCAR Head of Security, as Burns had to compose himself to keep from busting out laughing.
This weekend: Helio, Power, Dixon, Charles Burns and the rest of the IZOD IndyCar Series returns to the scene of the crime. There is a twist, though – the course has been reconfigured. From what I hear, everyone is very pleased with the new 13-turn layout.
This year’s race almost never happened. The event has been plagued by local politics. This time, it was over who was to pay for repaving part of the airport runway where the new course was to be located. Finally, the race was re-scheduled for this weekend.
Last year’s race was not the first to feature a lot of craziness. In 2008, three of the four Andretti-Green drivers failed to play like teammates. Marco Andretti ended up punting Danica Patrick, only after they both refused to move over while being a lap down; so that their teammate, Tony Kanaan, could get by. Michael Andretti could be heard shouting from inside the trailer clear across the paddock.
I’m not a big fan of street races – but I really like races at airports. Although St. Petersburg is only partially run on a runway, Edmonton is run entirely on the runways and taxiways of Edmonton City Centre Airport. Still, the best of these circuits is Cleveland’s Burke Lakefront Airport. Hopefully, the IZOD IndyCar Series can return there someday.
This event actually began life as a Champ Car race in 2005. The three races under the Champ Car banner were won by Sébastien Bourdais (twice in 2005 and 2007) and Justin Wilson in 2006. It was one of three Champ Car races added to the 2008 IndyCar schedule after the reunification of open-wheel racing; along with Long Beach and Toronto. Since reunification, the race has been won by Scott Dixon in 2008 and 2010, and Will Power in 2009 – his first IndyCar win.
There is still a lot of bad blood spilling over from the last race in Toronto two weeks ago. Most of it focuses on the top two in points – Dario Franchitti and Will Power, after their famous shunt in Turn Three at Toronto. But there are other feuds still bubbling from Eastern Canada. Scott Dixon and Graham Rahal don’t appear to have made up – even though they are teammates (depending on who’s being asked). Ryan Briscoe and Tony Kanaan are probably still at odds after Briscoe ended TK’s day on Lap Two. Then there is still the matter of Paul Tracy and Randy Bernard. Based on Monday’s poll question, I’m in the vast minority that thinks Paul Tracy is innocent. I’ll be curious to see if this matter clears up before this weekend.
Given the fact that tempers are still simmering from two weeks ago and the fireworks that erupted a year ago – I expect a very interesting race. Throw in the double-file re-starts and it will be a very interesting race to watch. Oh yeah – my prediction? Since I haven’t been right once this season, I’ll go for broke and predict that the winner will be the nice guy of the IZOD IndyCar Series – Justin Wilson. If he does, that should leave a lasting image as well. Enjoy the race!