Random Thoughts On Toronto

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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.

George Phillips

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26 Responses to “Random Thoughts On Toronto”

  1. Steve K Says:

    Ganassi was out to lunch Sunday. Who would have guessed Charlie Kimball would save the day.

    I haven’t heard anything on Rahal being unhappy at Ganassi either. Is Goodyear breaking news now or just speculating. I am guessing the latter.

    Robin Miller mentioned on Wind Tunnel Newgarden could be going to a big team next year. A 4th Penske or AA car? Replacing Nascar bound Marco? Replacing the underperforming Briscoe? Enlighten us Mr. Miller.

    Bourdais still has it on the track and with a microphone in his face. The series is better with him in a car.

  2. Jim Gallo Says:

    I agree with the Marco assessment as well. If his last name was not Andretti, I doubt he would be in any race car today.

    Josef Newgarden should be at the top of the list for any team, big or small, looking for the next star. Hopefully SFHR can score a big sponsor and keep this talent where it is now.

    Good job Charlie Kimball. Nice to see him on that podium too.

  3. Ron Ford Says:

    Here’s hoping George can get it together and find someone else to criticize than Marco (there’s always that old standby Marty Reid) Using your line of reasoning should everyone mired around 15th in the standings (check the standings) or below do their teams a favor and seek another ride? Give it a rest.

    • The Lapper Says:

      Why do you declare Marco is NOT a candidate for George’s ire?

    • I think George is completely justified to come down on Marco. He’s pathetic. There’s always an Andretti apologist out there to take up for him. Now that Danica is gone, that team has gelled and has moved to the top but somebody forgot to tell Marco.

      I guess anyone who still thinks Marco is great would surely be a fan of Marty Reid. How else would you explain these comments?

    • billytheskink Says:

      I have to cheer for Marco because he drives the RC Cola car… but he’s been especially weak on street courses for the last 3 years or so. It’s very curious.

  4. Carburetor Says:

    Hmm, while I am a huge SFH Racing fan and like Newgarden, I thought he was way too impatient and it cost him big time. I didn’t see it as a blatant Pagenaud block, but would need to see the replay to be sure. I was disappointed in Newgarden because he had driven such a great race and obviously was going to overtake Pagenaud and keep climbing.

    Couldn’t agree more with your assessment of Marco. He seems to have been passed by a number of his contemporaries in development. He also doesn’t seem to enjoy his profession much–guess that is what happens when you are constantly in the back of the pack….

    • billytheskink Says:

      Pagenaud’s move was significant, and it came after Josef had taken the low line. Simon may not have seen it as reactive, but the replay meets the definition of reactive to the observer outside of the car.
      I thought Newgarden had the line to make about as clean and low-risk a pass as you can make in Toronto before Simon moved over on him. I struggle to find any fault in that.

      And to Josef’s credit, he could have taken Simon out but had the time, skill, and respect to avoid doing so.

  5. I very much enjoyed seeing RHR win again (he was my pick last week ;)). I think that Hinch is on a streak of some awful luck, however next race will be bounceback time.

    By the way, I have had a jaundice eye towards Marco ever since he said that he was scared to drive his car at Homestead a few years back. I can’t help it.

  6. Others see it differently, but I think Joe Newgarden would’ve have had a sure podium if he’d just followed behind and finished. Maybe that goes against racing instincts, but it would’ve been a huge victory for that struggling team.

    I wanted to comment on how well the DW chassis seems to be performing. There’s a lot of negatives coming from the owners regarding pricey replacement parts, but big picture it has to be seen as a success, right? And the engines (in spite of Lotus lagging and some “blown up, sirs” (p-dog) are doing what we’d hoped–making them push the limits and providing unexpected drama and the element of the unknown to these races.

    • bent wickerbill Says:

      “Blown up sir”, is actually a line from the movie Stripes… It is spoken by Bill Murray when he is being questioned by the general on the parade grounds about who trained his
      unit and what had become of their drill sergent…

  7. billytheskink Says:

    I was happy to see the typical Toronto return. Guys making risky moves and getting into “racing incidents” is better than last year’s mess of utterly dirty driving.

    I’m pretty sure Goodyear was totally spitballing with his comments about Rahal, but I don’t think it was an unreasonable assumption. Rahal seemed to have a lot more fun when he was driving for Newman-Haas.

    George, if that Van Huesen anti-khaki ad is the only IndyCar broadcast staple you are tired of then you are a better man than I. I’ve got that one in the “Please! Make it stop!” category, plus:
    - IZOD’s man leaps from water like dolphin in collared shirt
    - Verizon’s “If you were a race car driver”
    - 5 Hour Energy’s Clint Bowyer walking (why do I see this more often on IndyCar broadcasts than I do on NASCAR?)
    - practically every Honda ad (Crazy Train, panther-morphing minivan, Hoodie Ninja, ahhhhhh)

    Bridgestone’s “The wheel goes ’round” ads from the ChampCar broadcasts are the all-time worst in this category, though. None of the above come close to those.

    • Clint Bowyer ad = all time classic. He moves more like Frankenstein than Jagger.

    • John S. Says:

      Thanks, I wondered who that guy was. I figured he had to be a NASCAR driver, and I kept wondering why he was in so many commercials on an IndrCar telecast.

      Am I the only one who thinks ABC does a terrible, terrible job? Commercial after commercial after commercial, then two minutes of racing, followed by more comercials. I know the series supposedly needs them for the additional exposure, but man, it’s had to watch.

      What really got me was the end of the race, 10 or so laps to go, and instead of showing the action, they flashback to Hunter-Reay’s wins of the last two races. And Marty Reid? Please, make him go away.

  8. madtad1 Says:

    George, I have to take issue with your comments about the broadcast. I have seen the whole thing, but they were in commercial for 1 of the restarts for sure, and possibly a 2nd one. Also, how about their decision to go to *FULL SCREEN* commercials with **FIVE** laps to go in the race?!

    I was listening to race control and it took ABC almost 4 minutes to report about Scott Dixon being in the runoff. They missed TK punting the tire in the pits, even tho they were showing his pit stop. On the other hands, kudos for them allowing us lip readers to “hear” what Sarah Fisher was “saying”. Lol

  9. John S. Says:

    George, I have to give you credit. If it were me, I think I’d have waited to get married. It’s gonna be rough……

  10. By the way, did anyone see the Daytona “Firecracker 400″ broadcast on TNT and how they ran the commercials? That was pretty cool except they had a lot of them. Probably a two for one deal.

    • billytheskink Says:

      I thought that was very cool as well. Though the ads were frequent, I didn’t think they were particularly intrusive. This kind of thing requires some serious broadcast sponsors willing to make it worth TNT’s while, no doubt.

      As far as that broadcast went, I did find it weird that Coca-Cola debuted an entire Coke Zero ad campaign featuring Danica Patrick at a race that she was not racing in.

  11. Don’t forget that Toronto in it’s CART days was a well attended event, and Toronto always showed well then too.

  12. Simon Garfunkel Says:

    You are soooo right about Marco. Why would anyone take issue with you telling the truth? It’s a fact. He has regressed and is getting worse. He didn’t perform when they were going through tough times, but now that the team is doing well he’s doing worse. And to the comment about him being scared at Homestead…I’ll NEVER forget that. I almost fell out of my seat.

  13. Chris Lukens Says:

    I thought the ABC coverage was terrible. Scott”is this a golf match” Goodyear just drives me up a wall. Sometimes he is so determined to do his color commentary that he misses or just talks over the live action occurring on track right in front of him. Since this was the first race of the year with push to pass, I thought it was interesting that neither of the booth guys mentioned it once. Maybe they didn’t know about it .

  14. JHall14 Says:

    How Scott Goodyear could not see Conway hit Kimball in the RR is beyond me.They must have showed that replay 4 times, not once wasn it mentioned that Conway had hit Kimball. Hopefully Bourdais sees this with his stinging comments about the drivers on the podium.

    • billytheskink Says:

      Goodyear did mention that Conway punched Kimball into Bourdais, he just waited until right after Bourdais took potshots at Charlie in his interview. Why he waited, I don’t know.

  15. I hope no one takes offense to George’s comments about my mother. My mother is and always will be a character. She was a “gas passer” (anesthetist–trained at Johns Hopkins) and for many years in the labor and delivery rooms, she was a favorite of the doctors for her bawdy sense of humor. When she was a student nurse, legendary Jim Thorpe was one of her patients. Some of the things she still comes up with are pretty hilarious. She does not share my love of racing, unfortunately, and does have a tendency to stand in front of the TV when we are watching things she does not really get into (the look on her face is priceless). It is hard to see a parent become elderly and start losing their grip on I guess the only word is “reality.” I am fortunate that I have George to help out, we have to laugh sometimes, I am not ready for her to leave her home and little dog–we take the good with the bad. Personally, I think she has a mom-crush on George.

  16. “There are worse places to be in July than north of the border and their moderate temperatures.”

    bwahahahahaha! it was hotter in Toronto last weekend than it was at Indy this year. Crazy stuff man.

    I would be honoured to show you around my fair city should you and Susan toss T.O. on your schedule in the future ;-)

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