Random Thoughts On Mid-Ohio
After watching the Honda 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Sunday, the racing purists will all exclaim that Sunday’s race was an outstanding race. They will look down their noses as they tell you that if you were bored, you just don’t understand what real road racing is all about, so you must be either very low-brow or a NASCAR fan at heart.
Well, I think I know a thing or two about racing and quite frankly – I was bored to death. Yes, I understand that there were some good battles going on mid-pack; but for the only pass for the lead to take place in the pits, tells me that this race lacked for excitement.
When Scott Dixon’s fueler did a better job of getting his fuel hose in than Will Power’s did on their final pit stop – that ended up being the pivotal moment in the race, as Dixon then cruised to victory. It really shouldn’t be this way, but it is a team sport and this is Mid-Ohio we are talking about. While I was beaming Friday about what a historic track this is, did I mention that most of the recent open-wheel races have been single-file processionals? Yesterday was no exception. Anyway, a job well-done for Dixon’s fuel man.
Most of the drama took place in the earlier part of the weekend. Helio Castroneves came to Mid-Ohio second in points, and left happy to be in third. He took a ten-spot penalty in order to get a new engine this weekend. Then he collided with Mike Conway on Saturday morning. He had feared a broken hand, but x-rays turned out negative. Although he swore that the hand was not a factor in his weekend, Helio was not a factor either. He started twenty-third and finished sixteenth. Although he dropped to third in the championship standings, Helio only fell three points further behind the leader.
Of course, the points leader changed this weekend. The most compelling story of the race was points leader Ryan Hunter-Reay, dropping out of the race with three laps to go. He finished twenty-fourth and is now five points back of new points leader Will Power. And congratulations to Scott Dixon, who re-inserted himself into the points battle.
TV Coverage: Another indication that this race was a snoozer was the “Through the Field” segment. I once heard Kevin Lee say on Trackside, that if they go fairly deep into the field on “Through the Field”, you know it’s a boring race. On Sunday, I think they got up to around eighteenth place. The only reason they stopped short of going through the entire twenty-five car field, was because it was time for a commercial break.
Other than that, it wasn’t as strange as I thought it would be to see the NBC Sports Network crew doing the race over on ABC. I’m sure the pit guys were happy to ditch the hot firesuits for a race in order to don red ESPN polo’s. Why can’t they do that for every race? Besides that, I never gave it much thought that one network was covering a race for another network.
They didn’t do a great job, but there were no gaffes either. It was just there – sort of like the race. If I had to pick on something, it would be for the pit reporters to come up with another way to say a driver has plenty of fuel other than saying (repeatedly): “they’re good to go”. Please.
Let the silly season begin: We learned late last week that Graham Rahal was now considered a free-agent and is more than likely moving on from his spot on the satellite team of Chip Ganassi. Supposedly, many teams have contacted him including his fathers. Stay tuned.
It was also discussed on the broadcast that Josef Newgarden is on the short list for a lot of teams even though he is under contract to Sarah Fisher for another year. This could become interesting. By the time the series reconvenes in Sonoma in three weeks, it’ll be interesting to see who else’s name arises.
Staying out of trouble: For the second race in a row, there were no caution flags flown. That’s the first time that has happened in open-wheel racing since the final two races of the 1987 season.
Credit the drivers for keeping their noses clean for two straight races. While it made for some interesting strategy, it wore some drivers out to have no caution periods so they could breathe.
All in all: It was a very dull race, in my opinion. Still, for the second week in a row, I picked the eventual winner – Scott Dixon. With the history of little or no passing along with the fact that the track is extremely narrow, it was pretty much as I suspected. After a three week sabbatical, the IZOD IndyCar Series will invade Sonoma – at one of my least favorite tracks. That race always bores me to death. I may be wishing for the excitement of Mid-Ohio by then. But then, the racing snobs will tell us how great it was again.