Random Thoughts On Motegi

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Well, the people of Japan showed up in droves for the final IZOD IndyCar Series race at Twin Ring Motegi. After the race, they seemed happy with the event that saw Scott Dixon dominate en route to an easy victory. That’s good, because those of us that either stayed awake or watched on Sunday on their DVR weren’t exactly thrilled with what we saw.

I was one of those that went the DVR route as I had conflicting plans on Saturday night. Plus, I went to the Ravens-Titans game yesterday, so I watched it quickly. At least I was able to fast-forward through the commercials. I have to say that at first glance, it may have been one of the dullest races I have ever seen.

After a confusing and ragged start, Scott Dixon pretty much checked out. Will Power seemed to be the only one that could possibly challenge Dixon, but he could only settle for second.

Dario Franchitti qualified ninth but was eventually bumped up to eighth after Helio Castroneves was moved from seventh to twenty-second for passing under a local yellow. Another meltdown by Helio ensued that may cost the Brazilian a fine or possibly more. Franchitti had managed to move up a few starts before taking out Ryan Briscoe on a Lap 25 re-start. In the process, he also ruined promising runs by his Ganassi teammates; Graham Rahal and Charlie Kimball. Franchitti was penalized for his poor judgment and sounded somewhat remorseful after the race. Chip Ganassi also said he was going to have a talk with his two-time defending champion, who is obviously fading in the past few races.

In fact, the points battle was about the only real reason to keep watching this race. By the time it was said and done, Will Power had reassumed the lead in the championship fight. Power now leads Franchitti by eleven points, after trailing by as many as sixty-two just a few races ago. Scott Dixon trails Power by fifty-nine points and is still mathematically alive, but needs bad luck to befall Power and his own teammate in the next two races to have a real shot.

Will Power clinched the Mario Andretti Trophy for his performances on road-courses. There are two races remaining in the season and they are both ovals. Although Power has an eleven-point lead, the sentiment from the so-called experts seems to still favor Franchitti based on his better track record on ovals. Normally I would agree, but Franchitti seems to have picked the wrong time of the year to go into a slump. I’m not sure if Dario is going to be able to pull himself out.

TV Coverage: I’m not sure how critical you can be when the guys in the booth are literally half a world away from the track. The only on-air talent from Versus to actually make the trip was Kevin Lee, who continues to earn his title as the hardest working person in sports.

The booth guys did a good job, considering the circumstances. I really like Robin Miller in the booth and would like to hear more from him next season.

The only comment regarding the telecast probably has to do more with the Japanese feed. For whatever reason, the engines almost sounded muted. Either the Japanese don’t see the need to hear engines, or Versus didn’t crank up the volume. Whatever the case, it was a little strange to not hear the engines that much.

All in all: As a stateside fan, I’ve never enjoyed the race at Motegi. I realize that many of the participants enjoy going over there and have expressed disappointment that this will be the last trip – at least for a while. But as a fan, I won’t miss it.

The road course at Twin Ring Motegi provided a race that was even more boring than its oval. It was good to see that the Japanese people turned out for this race. Quite honestly, it was a much better turnout than I expected. They seemed to enjoy the event and that was good. I guess it did what it was designed to do and provide the Japanese with a well-deserved distraction from the devastation that has engulfed their country.

Turning the page, we can look ahead and turn our attention toward Kentucky and then Las Vegas. One mistake at either of those venues could have significant ramifications on the points battle. Kentucky has a history of close dramatic finishes. After the snoozer from Saturday night/Sunday morning, we could use a little drama.

George Phillips

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13 Responses to “Random Thoughts On Motegi”

  1. I’m getting tired of having to look for reasons a race may have been good. I want them to actually be good.

    And–contrary to popular opinion–I don’t think it’s all that difficult to fix the rulebook and enforce it fairly. Just do this–1. If you speed on pit row you get a drive-thru penalty. 2. If you spear someone from behind with your nose, you get a drive-thru penalty. 3. If you blatently move your race car to chop block a car trying to pass you, you get a drive-thru penalty. That’s all. Three rules. Otherwise, race any line you want and try to keep the other cars behind you while passing others at a high rate of speed.

    • I wholeheartedly agree! Sometimes I think race control just makes stuff up; even the Versus gang cannot believe their rulings anymore…..

  2. If it wasn’t for Franchitti’s screw up there would have been no action at all.

  3. Agreed, it was a snoozefest. Glad we’re not going back, hope we never do.

  4. I can accept a little inconsistency in calling penalties. In ever sport, there will always be human error, and some judgment calls that need to be made.

    What I can’t accept is the inconsistency in the penalty itself. One time it’s a drive through, the next time they send the offender to the back of the line, the next time nothing. Can you imagine the NFL doing something similar, and flagging offsides for 5 yards one time, then 15 yards the next based solely on referee “discretion”? Ridiculous.

  5. Bent Wickerbill Says:

    A snoozer for certain, but I still believe that the cars are so closely matched that it has less to do with the drivers or the track layout per se than the cars. Clearly Dario and Helio were able to make some great passes at least until they got to the mid field point, but after that the limits of horse power, ability to late brake and grip come into play, especially whilst dealing with more experienced drivers.
    Regarding the rule book. Dario should have been given a drive through under green, not a slap on the hand and sent to the back of the line (which is where he already was)…

  6. I just think that it’s crazy that the phrase “at the discretion of the race steward” can be used in cases like “oops, we restarted the race when we shouldn’t have, so we’re going to totally manipulate the finishing order”, when it apparently can’t in the case of a driver spearing another, ruining several others’ races and basically getting off scott free (pardon the pun). So, at Hew Hampshire, it’s “we can do whatever we want”, but at Motegi (and Long Beach and other places this year), it’s “we have to stick to the letter of the rulebook, even if the punishment does not fit the crime”? Please. How’s about using that discretion a little more evenly and consistently?

  7. Hi George,

    When I logged on to this site today, along with the usual comments from the usual suspects, there is this somewhat odd add for a “Stardoll” with various items of dress-up clothing. Now, I suppose what you do in the privacy of your own home is your business, but still, what’s up with that? Do you blogsters have to bring your own sponsor money these days?

    Just curious

    • Now it is gone. Very strange.

      • Ron:

        Unfortunately, I have no control over these ads. I use WordPress to host the site and they do it for free. They place the ads there and they get the revenue – not me. So far I’ve never spent a dime on this site, but the downside to that is that I’ve never made a dime off of it either.

        I use Safari for Windows as my browser and the ads don’t show up with Safari – but I know they do with Internet Explorer. I’ve had people say that I should move the site and take control of it and sell ads myself. Sorry, I don’t have the time to fool with it. But I do apologize about the Stardoll or any other merchandise or service that some may deem offensive. How’s that for a disclaimer? – GP

    • Maybe a Stardoll would have made Motegi more interesting….

  8. Sick about the Franchitti thing, pretty bad when everyone including the announcers are judging the piss poor officiating. Franchitti is being gifted a title and it’s BS!

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