Random Thoughts On Toronto
What was a clean race for the most part sure had an ugly ending to it. When Simon Pagenaud did a full-on block on Josef Newgarden, the resulting yellow caused the cars to bunch up and set up a wild finish. Before then, the race was moving along at such a fast clip, I’m sure Marty Reid was wondering how they were going to fill their allotted air time. The ensuing restart was a debacle and the race finished under caution with Ryan Hunter-Reay taking the checkered flag for the third race in a row and left Toronto with the points lead with only five races to go.
I liked this race, if not only for the fact that it gave me a small respite from unpacking and trying to dig out from under my move. I also thought it was going to give me a break from my new mother-in-law, whom I have moved in with because my new bride, Susan, is noble enough to take care of her mother who suffers from dementia and is also pretty well physically impaired. I’m not so noble, but then again – I’m lucky enough that my own mother turns eighty-eight next week and is in perfect health. Susan is not so lucky and I get to deal with the dementia part.
Anyway…back to racing. When Graham Rahal crashed on Lap 23, I found Scott Goodyear’s comments about Rahal possibly being unhappy with his situation with Ganassi very interesting. I knew that Graham whined a lot about his team and how he wasn’t sure they were getting the same focus as the two Target cars, but I didn’t know he might actually be contemplating leaving and possibly moving on to another team. Keep in mind, due to my move I have missed the last two episodes of Trackside, so I may be out of the loop on this. But if there is anything to this, it should be interesting to see what all unfolds in the not so busy months this summer.
I found this race to be entertaining for a street race. As I said on Friday, this is a race I want to attend at some point. Toronto is a great city and this is usually an entertaining race. There are worse places to be in July than north of the border and their moderate temperatures.
Many leaders fell out of contention early. Scott Dixon blew his Honda engine. Dario Franchitti botched a pit stop, James Hichcliffe had mechanical problems early, while Will Power tangled with Josef Newgarden.
You’ve also got to be prepared to hop on board the Ryan Hunter-Reay bandwagon, if you haven’t already. Hunter-Reay can sometimes be hard to like when things aren’t going well. When he was struggling through that miserable year with Vision Racing at Indianapolis, you had to feel for him but at the same time you felt that things couldn’t be as bad as he made them out to be. But now that he’s winning, he is a very likeable winner. He has a broad smile on his face and really seems to be savoring each moment. It’s also good to see his wife Becky in victory lane at these races. Susan and I had a nice chat with her just before the start of the Barber race in 2011. With her straight-up personality, it’s hard to not be a fan of Becky.
Ryan Hunter-Reay seems to be coming of age. If he can somehow hold on and win this year’s championship, I think he will be a very popular champion. Plus, it’ll be the first year since 2007 that the series champion has come from somewhere other than Chip Ganassi Racing. That’s welcome news in itself.
TV Coverage: Although there were no major gaffes, I still find Marty Reid difficult to listen to. I sometimes wonder if my whole perception of ABC/ESPN would change if he were not in the booth. Their coverage is usually decent and they normally don’t have any more production flubs than their counterparts at NBC Sports Network. But because we like all of the crew at NBCSN, we tend to give them a pass.
Unlike most, I have no problem with Scott Goodyear. I think his analysis is usually fairly spot-on, although his delivery can be a little dry. He seemed to work well with Paul Page, but since then has been stuck with Marty Reid and the insufferable Todd Harris. I think if Goodyear were paired with a great open-wheel broadcaster instead of a potential game show host, he would be a lot better.
I have to admit that I’m getting very tired of the IZOD commercials featuring Steve Young and Jerry Rice. Young always dressed like a bum in his playing days and I get a little tired of him calling everyone a “sclub”. Besides, I wear khakis to work a lot of times.
More tough luck for Newgarden: Once again, Rookie Josef Newgarden drove a great race and has poor results to show for it. This weekend was a great showcase for his talent, as he essentially had almost no practice time. Yet he charged through the field and was running as high as fourth, before tangling with Simon Pagenaud who blatantly blocked him and put him out of the race. Pagenaud was to have served a penalty, but he crashed ion the restart before the penalty could be served.
Although Will Power probably doesn’t think much of Newgarden’s driving style after they tangled causing Power to ultimately need a new front wing: Josef Newgarden continues to shine while driving for a small team that still has no sponsorship. Experience will hone his rough edges, but you’d rather have to hold a rookie back a little rather than keep nudging him forward. Mark my words – Josef Newgarden will one day be a star. I just hope that he is still in this series when he becomes a star.
Big improvement for Kimball: Count me as one of those who was wrong in writing off Charlie Kimball after a less-than-stellar rookie season in 2011. At the end of last season, I was convinced that Kimball had no business in this series and that the only reason Chip Ganassi may not fire him was because he needed the Novo-Nordisk sponsorship money.
Well, guess what? I was wrong. Kimball has shown vast improvement this season. In fact, he is twelfth in points – just one spot behind his much more celebrated teammate, Graham Rahal. It was good to see him celebrate his well-earned second-place finish yesterday.
Where’s Marco? I was chided at the first of the season for expecting too much from Marco Andretti. Granted, that last name is a burden to live up to, but Marco is having a terrible season, while the team he drives for is experiencing a lot of success. Teammate Hunter-Reay is leading the championship, while his other teammate, second-year driver James Hinchcliffe, was second in points a few weeks back before cooling off in the last couple of races. Still, Hinch is currently fifth in points while Marco is languishing in fifteenth place. Again, I’ll say it – if he weren’t driving for his father’s team, he’d be unemployed by now. Perhaps Marco could do himself (and his team) a favor and seek a ride elsewhere to see what it’s like to earn your keep. The trouble with that is – with his recent results, no one would hire him. Here’s hoping Marco can get it together and finish strong there last five races.
All in all: For a street race, I found this to be a very entertaining race. There was plenty of passing, there was some controversy and drama – and the fastest car won the race. The city of Toronto looked spectacular on television and it appeared to be a well-attended event. Ryan Hunter-Reay is turning heads and proving that he is no fluke. He is also proving that Andretti Autosport is back from the abyss. Good for both of them.