Random Thoughts On Kentucky

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You had to wonder, when the pairing of Ed Carpenter at Sarah Fisher Racing was announced, if this was one of those matches that looked good on paper but may be lacking something when reality hit. You knew they had to be pointing at Kentucky the minute they started talking. After all, Sarah Fisher still holds the track record she set at Kentucky in 2002 while Ed Carpenter had earned runner-up status for the past two years at the 1.5 mile oval just across the river from Cincinnati.

But sometimes things that sound great in theory don’t always work out. Just ask the Miami Heat last summer or the Philadelphia Eagles this morning. That’s why I was afraid that things might not work out for this popular driver and team. After a good showing for qualifying at Indianapolis, things had grown curiously quiet at Sarah Fisher Racing as they went through a very unremarkable summer.

Apparently they were gearing up for not only their best race of the season, but for their collective lives. It’s been quite an emotional three weeks for Sarah Fisher and her husband, Andy O’Gara. In that time, they experienced the birth of their daughter Zoey, they learned that their Dollar General sponsorship was going away and Sarah Fisher experienced her first win as a driver or owner in the IZOD IndyCar Series.

This had to be a popular win throughout the paddock. Everyone that has either been involved with this sport or followed it over the past few years had to be smiling. We all watched Sarah grow up from a fresh-faced nineteen year-old and went through all of her trials with her. We also saw Ed Carpenter go from the Infiniti Pro Series (now Firestone Indy Lights) to his early days with Red Bull Cheever Racing to the formation and ultimate closing of Vision Racing. Along the way, he showed great promise as an oval driver but his lack of experience showed on the road courses. But Sarah and Ed have both persevered through some pretty large obstacles in their respective careers in order to achieve what they did yesterday Good for them!

TV Coverage: The DVR is a wonderful invention. I have to admit that I set the DVR so that I could watch the Titans game live, then I started watching the recording about forty-five minutes into the actual race. I fast-forwarded though the pre-race and started watching at the green flag. I say this to let you know that I can’t comment on anything that was covered in the pre-race, since I didn’t watch it. However, I did think that Versus did a decent job with the race coverage. Bob Jenkins had a few gaffes, but in such a fast-paced sport – that’s forgivable.

I’ll say this realizing that this may have been covered in the pre-race I didn’t watch, but I was a little disappointed with the lack of coverage for rookie Pippa Mann. She has had quite a few obstacles herself lately, given the fact that she broke her back at New Hampshire before even taking the green flag. It looked as if she was headed for the same fate this weekend, when she spun and crashed at the beginning of her qualifying run. The car was heavily damaged and there was some concern that the team may not be able to repair the car in time for the race. But Pippa did start at the back of the field. She drove a quiet race and finished twenty-second, three laps down. But in two starts, Pippa has finished both races, stayed out of trouble and brought the car home in one piece. That’s about all anyone could hope for.

I think that a television partner’s role should be to help promote the stars of the league. Pippa is very fan-friendly and has the potential to be a star in this series. I think Versus could have given Pippa just a little more pub for her heads-up drive.

Oops! One driver whose star has taken a tumble this season is Ana Beatriz. She has had a forgettable season this far and directly affected the championship picture before crashing later in the race. It may not have been her fault, but whoever directed her to leave her pit as Will Power was clearly entering the one in front, has some serious explaining to do.

When she speared Will Power’s sidepod as he entered his pit, she potentially knocked a hole in Power’s championship. He began the race with a twelve-point lead over Dario Franchitti. He was leading the race when he pitted on Lap 51, and finished nineteenth after makeshift in-race repairs were unsuccessful. Power now trails Franchitti by eighteen points.

Power was kind and explained it away as a racing incident, but it is not a good thing when a careless crewmember of another team does something to derail another team’s championship.

The Pouter: It wouldn’t be an IZOD IndyCar Series race if there weren’t a shot of Graham Rahal pouting in the paddock. Sometimes, his rants are legitimate – as was yesterday’s – but it grows tiresome seeing Rahal sulk about the paddock with a look on his face like he is headed to a visit with the proctologist.

Although he tried to sound like he was taking the high road by not criticizing his team in an interview; he then proceeded to criticize his team anyway.

C’mon Graham – you’re better than that. Enjoy this time. It won’t last forever. You are getting to do for a living what all of us would do for free. Get a smile on your face.

Already Clinched? I don’t care for the way that the series crowns the A.J. Foyt Oval championship winner with one oval race to go. The Mario Andretti trophy was properly clinched at the last road course of the season, why not the oval trophy. With only seven ovals on the schedule, it’s pretty significant that one of them is left out of the calculation.

The reason given is not to distract from the overall championship. If you follow that logic, the Rookie of the Year should have been clinched this last weekend also.

All in all: Despite the popular outcome, it was not a race for the ages. Cars seemed to have a lot of trouble making passes. It resembled the last race at Richmond in 2009, when cars could catch each other only to lose all momentum as they tried to pass.

Once Power went out, it appeared Franchitti would drive away in a snoozer. But after the last yellow, Carpenter and Franchitti pulled away from the rest of the front pack. But as they raced side-by-side, that allowed the rest of the front-runners to catch up. The last ten laps were pure drama with Carpenter finally pulling off the victory that eluded him in 2009.

Now the championship is officially down to two drivers – Dario Franchitti and Will Power. I thought Power had all the momentum on his side going into the race, but the crew of Ana Beatriz took care of that. Unlike the last two seasons, Dario enters the last race of the season with the lead – making him the hunted, instead of the pursuer. The race at Las Vegas should be as big as all the hype we’ve heard leading up to it. Fortunately, it is on ABC to get a potentially bigger audience. And selfishly, I’m happy because the Titans are off that day so that I can watch it live.

George Phillips

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19 Responses to “Random Thoughts On Kentucky”

  1. It was the best of times and the worst of times. Sarah, Zoey, Ed and their crew won in a photo finish. How wonderful is that?!

    However, now Sarah has to find a new sponsor and……………………

    Five ovals in 2012??!! Unf’nbelievable:(

    • I had the exact same thought.

      Ed wins!Sarah Wins! and at one point in the closing laps there were 5 Americans in the top 7. (Ed, JR, RHR, Rahal, Andretti). When was the last time that happened?

      This is the end of an era. Not only for the 2003 Dallara. With 5 ovals left on the schedule, a tough economy, poor ratings, and the new cars coming, I have a bad feeling that the car counts are going to struggle to break 20 next year.

      • Dick Jones Says:

        People have short memories, there were only 16 full time irl rides in 2006, 20 to 25 full time next year would be pretty healthy for a new equipment cycle. The loss of ovals isn’t ideal but the market wants what it wants, no more family moneys to through around, so you go where you can make money.

  2. Poor Sarah’s first thought was on sponsership and not the win. Ownership seems like no fun.

    Rahal is still a kid remember. He wants it all now but of course it’s not that easy. We all know his time is coming. A couple years and he will be in the 10 car.

  3. Good for Ed. However. Is it the best idea for Sarah to run an oval specialist in a series that is headed for twisty-dominance? And–if only for marketing purposes–would SFR attract more sponsors if she ran a female driver? Maybe they should rethink the separate Andretti/Foyt trophies until such time as the two types of tracks are actually equal. Will Power has to be thinking he’s snake-bit. Rahal has had a very unlucky year. If I was a team owner or a sponsor who could tell an owner what to do–I’d sign Hinchcliffe right now. Is it true the future of ovals in Indycar is dependent on what happens in Las Vegas? I’m more convinced than ever that the season needs to start earlier and end by Labor Day.

  4. Sarah has validated my belief in her and that she knows what she is doing and, with her budget, too, it appears that her way is the right way, at least for SFR. As for a 2012 sponsor, I believe she will have one and that this one will fit my demo.

    By the way, Ed, too, has validated my belief in him. ;)

  5. carburetor Says:

    It is my sincere hope that the variety of engines next year will provide greater possibility of passing. That said, at least on ovals we actually got to see close racing for positions, including the lead. This was a great win for SFR and Ed Carpenter.

    I too, have long grown tired of Rahal’s whining after races–albeit he does seem to have a legitimate complaint about his team. Sometimes it seems like he, and Marco A, feel like they are leading the tortured life; perhaps they need to take their turn at the 8–5 routine for awhile….

    After Saturday’s fiasco, I suspect Pippa Mann’s IndyCar “career” is in serious jeopardy. Thankfully, she completed the race without further incident.

    Biggest surprise for me was learning that the sidepods of Castroneves’ car would not fit onto Power’s car. That is intriguing for many reasons….

    • Bent Wickerbill Says:

      I believe that is because each aero set is hand fitted to it’s individual chassis. In fact I also believe it is how well (or not) this fitting up task is accomplished initially, which can help determine either great aero performance or just mediocre…

      • carburetor Says:

        Thank you; I did not know that. I’m disappointed Wally and Jon did not know that–they too, were surprised that they couldn’t take a sidepod from Helio’s parked car and put it on Will’s. Granted, such a repair would have required way too much time…. I appreciate the insight!

    • Br!an McKay Says:

      I was astounded that Team Penske did not have a spare Verizon-labeled sidepod cover to place on Will’s championship-leading car. That’s not a third-tier team with a miniscule budget.

      • Or some aluminum sheet and heat shield mat to cut and fit internally on the pod to stop the hot airflow through the gash so the duct tape would stay longer…or the stuff they use on the Cup cars (bear-bond?) whenever they get bodywork damage. If hot air from the radiator was the culprit that was blowing through and detaching the duct tape
        Of course, when working on the cars in the early 90s (CART era) the internal surfaces were typically not “clean-finished” pieces, only the exterior, and it’s busy in there with ecu wiring and hoses, etc. Probably easier said by me than done there in the heat (no pun intended) of battle.
        Overall, pretty disappointed that Will may have been shot down in the effort to take the title this year. IMO, he was earning it all the way by his stepped up performances on the ovals and relative dominance on road/street courses. No doubt Dario is a great shoe, and he’s earning it too (Toronto aside). Still I’m tired of one guy winning the title repeatedly (see J. Johnson), but it’s not completely settled yet, so I’ll keep rootin’ for Will to pull it off in Vegas.

      • Bent Wickerbill Says:

        Yes, I would have thought that RPR would have been much better prepared for that sort of possibility. The Captain is generally known for well thought out contingency damage control…

  6. Bent Wickerbill Says:

    Great win for Ed and SFR… Could be any happier for both…

    Regarding passing, it is clear that by limiting revs. to 10,300 with the exception of push to pass, and the lack of variation in areo kits, it severely limits any opportunity to pass. Most especially if you have set the car up to handle best in traffic. (more downforce)…

    Still many bush league / bone headed moves by both drivers who should know better and team memebers…

    These occurances, cast an amateurish light overall on the league and do not help sell the case for additional series or individual car sponsoship…

  7. Chris Lukens Says:

    I’ll rate the race itself a 7.5, which is about as good as it gets with the current formula. I’ll rate the last 20 laps and the winner, on a 1 to 10 scale, about a 14.
    It was so good to see Sarah in the winner’s circle smiling and giggling, and congratulations to Ed for driving a smart race. This reminded me of Jim Guthrie’s win in Phoenix in ‘97.
    About Graham R. Why shouldn’t he complain, and loudly too. He got screwed in Baltimore and he got screwed in Kentucky. I’m not too sure, that both times, it was on orders from Mr. ( there is no I in team, but there is in Chip ) Ganassi.

  8. As far as pub for Pippa, 3 laps down in a Rahal prepared car is not worth talking about. That same car contended @ Indy, or did we forget about that.Everyone would have been “spittin up chicken” with that car in Victory Lane @ Indy.
    But it wasn’t feathers for Sarah & Ed, it came up chicken.Great win for that team.The paddock was extremely happy also with all the “thumbs up” as Ed drove down pit lane.
    A great win for a little team,and “David slew Goliath”.Let’s face it, America loves an underdog.I know I do.Let’s hope the miracle continues with Wheldon and some IndyCar fan become a little wealthier.Why not baby, it’s VEGAS!

  9. Went to Kentucky Speedway for the first time and greatly enjoyed the race. I was thrilled by the fact a bunch of drivers passed us on their scooters leaving the autograph session when we walked across the road and Dixon waved to me when I called his name. (What can I say I still think the guys and girls that drive those things, no matter how maligned the series, are superhuman, and I am no kid.) It was cool when the crowd stood on the last lap and screamed “Go Ed Go Ed” and he did. And it was cool it was an Indy car crowd and we made it out of the parking lot in 20 minutes and back to Indianapolis by 8. Good times, glad we went.

  10. Is there anyway fans can start a movement to convince some company to step up to the plate and provide the necessary sponsorship $ to keep this race on the schedule? It’s always a good race and IndyCar needs an oval.

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