Random Thoughts On Kentucky
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.