Random Thoughts On Sonoma

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There are some questions in this life that defy all explanation. Why was Citizen Kane voted the Number One film of all time? Why did I see Christmas decorations in a store this weekend? Why did only a smattering of people attend an exciting race in New Hampshire, while a much larger gathering attended a high-speed parade in northern California? None of these things make any sense.

To say that yesterday’s race was boring is being kind. The Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma has a reputation for being a yawner, but this exceeded all expectations. I know that the IZOD IndyCar Series expects a few clunkers along the way each season. It’s inevitable. But you know you’ve got a dud on your hands when the Versus booth is getting excited about a battle for eighteenth late in the race.

I wish I had paid more attention during qualifying on Saturday. That was pretty well what decided the finishing order. With Will Power winning, followed by Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe; Target drivers Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon rounded out the top-five. That was the same order in which they qualified. Except for pit stop shuffles, there was no movement throughout the top-five all day long. None. James Hinchcliffe started sixth and wound up seventh. That pretty well summed up the drama for the afternoon.

OK, I’ll admit that that assessment is being a little unfair to Giorgio Pantano who drove an excellent race for Dreyer & Reinbold while subbing for the injured Justin Wilson. Pantano started eleventh and finished sixth. However, he was guilty of blocking Sebastien Bourdais on the last lap and officially ended up seventeenth. That’s quite a penalty. Welcome to IndyCar Mr. Pantano.

Simon Pagenaud also gave a good run while driving for the stranded Simona de Silvestro, although his results won’t show it. He was given a drive-through penalty late in the race that dropped him to sixteenth after starting the race in the twenty-second starting spot. Simona had spent some time in her native Switzerland before trying to return last Wednesday. There were “issues” at customs and she was refused entry into the US and sent back to Switzerland where she awaits things to be sorted out.

In the meantime, Pagenaud became a last-minute substitute for the second time in three races. He has performed well this season and most fully expect to see him in a Sam Schmidt entry next season.

About the only thing that justified losing two hours of my life I’ll never get back while watching yesterday’s race was watching the points battle tighten up. Will Power is only twenty-six points away from Dario Franchitti. To think that halfway through the New Hampshire race, Franchitti was projected to hold more than a ninety-point lead over Will Power after leaving Loudon, NH.

That was before Lap 118 at New hampshire when Franchitti got too anxious and crossed into Takuma Sato. If Franchitti loses this championship, he doesn’t need to look at the starting order of the second twin race in Texas for an excuse. He needn’t look past New Hampshire if he’s trying to find where the season turned against him.

TV Coverage: You know things were dull when the best part of the day was the pre-race show. When Kevin Lee interviewed Randy Bernard and Robin Miller about the future of Brian Barnhart, I figured it would be good and I wasn’t disappointed. My only complaint was the segment seemed to be cut off too short. As they wrapped up and went to break, Robin Miller had a dumbfounded look on his face like he had just gotten started. To me, that conversation could have gone another ten minutes.

The guys in the booth seemed about as engaged as I was. Bob Jenkins had a few fumbles but nothing serious – just a few misidentified cars. Jan Beekhuis and Wally Dallenbach, Jr. did their best to make the race exciting, but one can only do so much.

The jinx continues: It seems that I am usually good to pick at least three or four race winners each season. With four races remaining, I have gone winless this season. In fact, my jinx of inflicting a curse on whomever I pick has flourished. Tony Kanaan finished dead last in yesterday’s race, after starting a miserable twenty-first. Who was my pick to win? Tony Kanaan.

Fellow IndyCar blogger shout-out: For the first time since I started this site, I had the company of a fellow IndyCar blogger at my house (the Oilpressure chamber? – I think not) for Saturday’s qualifying show. The Speedgeek and his family of geeks was in town on family business. He came over to watch qualifying and share an adult beverage (or two). It was good to have him here.

All in all: There’s no two ways around it. This race was boring. That’s enough said about that. Being an unabashed Penske fan, I was glad to see their 1-2-3 finish. By the way, if I am an unabashed Penske fan, what is an abashed Penske fan?

As far as street races go, I’m looking forward to next week’s inaugural race at Baltimore. I’ve been to the Inner Harbor, where the race is to take place, and it is a beautiful thriving area. Unlike yesterday’s race –even if the racing is no good, at least it will be in a picturesque setting. But unlike yesterday’s race, I have a sneaking suspicion it may be a pretty good race. Here’s hoping so.

George Phillips

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24 Responses to “Random Thoughts On Sonoma”

  1. Mike silver Says:

    Pretty sad when theF 1 race had more passing in the first 3 corners than we saw at Sonoma all day.

  2. Maybe it’s all on purpose. Sonoma is so awful, that by comparison, every other venue looks great. After that fiasco, I’m actually looking forward to a street race. I usually wonder why more people don’t watch Indycar–after that parade I’m wondering why I watch it. Next year it would be great if they weren’t there next year.

    They should’ve had a ten minute race then let Robin Miller interview RBernard for 2 hours.

  3. Well, I am up early today to read Oily George’s take on Sonoma. Easy to do since I got lots of sleep yesterday beginning with the start of the race. The whole thing left me abashed.

    And how is it that IndyCar can’t afford to get Milwaukee restarted, but they can afford to go to China?!

    Can we get Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter to go to Switzerland and bring back Simona in time for Baltimore?

  4. Gurney Eagle Says:

    The highlight for me was Tony Kanaan’s stint in the booth. I learned more from him in the last few laps than I did from the others all day.

  5. Leigh O'Gorman Says:

    I figured it said a lot when the guys in the booth started talking about the “Senna” movie (which is fantastic by the way) rather than the on track action.

    As for Pantano, he got screwed plain and simple, by a ridiculous rule.
    …and once again, the talk of Twitter post-race was of Race Control – that is never a good sign.

    • I think Pantano broke rule 2.5 subsection B which stipulates “no actual racing.”

      But the other 27 or so drivers–assisted by a ridiculous track– made Race Control proud.

  6. Snorenoma GP, Infiniyawn Raceway at Sears Pointless. This marks like nine Sonomas in a row that were putridly boring. You gotta ask yourself, if you let a man with a hammer hit you in the foot with it once, that’s on him, twice — six times — that’s on you. When DRIVERS are saying how boring it was and apologizing for the Festival of R.E.M sleep, you KNOW it was bad. Unless I see amazing improvement from The New Car, on which the hopes of a generation seem to hang, No Thanks to Sonoma and Mid-O next year. Life is too short.

  7. Maybe IndyCar can steal Uncle Bernie’s idea and randomly turn sprinklers on to make the track wet in the middle of the race. That would at least create some action.

    Honestly, I blame the tires. They need to be much more different. I should be able to see a difference, not be told about it. This is why I wanted Firestone to leave. Give me Pirellis.

  8. carburetor Says:

    After following Indy cars for more than 40 years, I never thought I would ever catch myself actually changing channels to watch the F1 race over an Indy car race, but it was a no-brainer. The F1 race was much more exciting. If you are trying to build a following for your series, you need to seriously ask yourself if this race is in your best interests. Here’s hoping that the new engines (hopefully there will be competition) will give somebody enough juice to actually do some racing. You know it is bad when you are repeatedly shown images in super slow-motion in order for it to look like cars are actually racing.

  9. Savage Henry Says:

    Watching the F1 race at the world’s best road course and then watching the Indycars lockstep around a motorcycle track was depressing. Infineon just isn’t capable of producing good racing and should not be on the schedule.

    I’m looking forward to the Baltimore race, too. I’m taking my family down on Friday for Indycar practice and ALMS qualifying. It looks like they have a lot of family-friendly things to do on the grounds and it should be a great atmosphere. It should be cool watching those cars get close to 200 mph down Pratt Street. The course looks like its got some pretty good passing zones so there should be some decent racing.

  10. And it’s on to Baltimore!!

  11. Here’s a link to the Sonoma highlights… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGEnKh0ocb0

  12. Chris Lukens Says:

    The road race guys must be wearing me down, I actually watched the whole thing and didn’t fall asleep. I, too, think Pantano got screwed. He should have been penalized for that move, but to go to the end of the order was a bit severe, maybe he should have just given the spot back. As far as Simona, I don’t understand why she didn’t fly into TiJuana and simply walk over the border. After all, she is merely doing a job that no American will do (as evidenced by who took her place) .

    • Leigh O'Gorman Says:

      I disagree.
      Pantano got screwed by a rule that should never have been written in the first place – a rule that goes against the very fabric of racing and written by a guy who’s never raced a car in any division in his entire life.

  13. billytheskink Says:

    - Tremendous(ly unexciting) race
    – Pantano got hosed
    – Pantano and Rahal made on-track passes, alert the media
    – The caution for Ho-Pin Tung’s off-track excursion was amazingly long
    – It is nice to have a championship fight again
    – RC Cola has gone and sponsored an Andretti, and now I’m going to have to root for one
    – …and some would say Brian Barnhart is an abashed Penske fan.

  14. “fellow IndyCar blogger”? How charitable of you, George. Don’t I have to post more than once per year to qualify as an “Official IndyCar Blogger”?

    Anyway, I figured of all the races all year, if I had to miss one, this would be it. Sounds like I was right. My time was much better spent looking for a tool shed somewhere that I can move my family into while I busy myself during the day taking Dario’s dry cleaning into town and looking for the correct heirloom carnauba waxes for his F40 and Carrera GT. I’ll take the YouTube highlights, thanks.

    Oh, and many thanks for the beverages. FYI, those Dos Perros Ales that are now in your fridge are tasty. Help youself, but I’ll definitely be back to reclaim one of those later in the season, for sure.

  15. Thank you DVR technology!!!!! It allows me to watch Sonoma and Mid-Ohio in 15 minutes or less. Certainly helps make these torturous events a little less painful!!!

  16. I think our best hope is to wait for the engine competition next year. Everyone running the same de-tuned Hondas on a decade old chasis is the greatest contributing factor to these three hour parades through the hills. Real competition should return next year.

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