Qualifying And Such From Barber

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Qualifying has been complete for a couple of hours, now. I met up with my friend, Bruce Yarbro, who drove here from Memphis this morning with his son. Bruce is important because he is the one who convinced me to start this site four years ago. Many will want to curse him because he is the one who set up the white type on a black background. He and I grew up together and were college roommates. Susan will be hearing lots of old college stories this weekend. I will give a special thanks to our friends who helped fix them up with garage and pit passes this weekend.

We sat in the stands for the qualifying session. Normally when we come here, we drive down on Friday, then drive back and do the same for Sunday. Consequently, we’ve never been here for qualifying. I usually follow qualifying online and/or watch the qualifying show on NBCSN. I had never attended road course fast-six qualifying live until today. I was always curious how it played out for the local fans.

It wasn’t pretty. Even though the IZOD IndyCar Series has taken steps to minimize this, there were still many dead periods during qualifying that there were no cars on the track at all. Just about every session had a stretch near the four minute mark, where there had been only three to four cars on the track and a couple of minutes where all the cars would be in the pits. I knew what was going on, but you could tell that a vast majority of the fans in the stands did not.

What confirmed this was in the last session with the “Fast Six”. With four minutes to go, only three of the six cars had taken the track and none were currently on-track. As if on cue, fans suddenly started getting up and leaving. I heard some say “I guess it’s over”. I’m an IndyCar advocate, but not so much that I’m going to throw my body down as a barricade to keep people from leaving. I don’t know if they ever figured it out or not.

That seemed to be the underlying problem – no one in the stands seemed to know what was going on. We hard-core fans understand the intricacies of “Fast-Six” qualifying, but the locals and casual fans that come out to see qualifying do not. I’m not sure whose responsibility it is to let the fans know what to expect, but clearly they did not have a clue. I don’t pick up fan guides because I already know the paint schemes, drivers, etc. It’s just something to carry around. Consequently, I have no idea if it is explained in the fan guides or not. Mike King and the IMS Radio Network is piped through the PA. Is it their job to educate the crowd while the hard-cores listen online? I don’t know the answer, but I know a lot of fans left qualifying with no idea what they had just witnessed.

To someone who knew what was going on, I found it very enjoyable…and interesting. The “Fast Six” consisted of three Hondas and three Chevy’s. That was even after Takuma Sato was excluded from the Fast Six for blocking. Tristan Vautier’s team thrashed his car together after partially dismantling it thinking he had missed out on the final round of qualifying. Vautier went from thinking he would start seventh to starting third on the grid for tomorrow’s race.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, the lone Andretti Autosport representative in the Fast Six, won the pole. His teammates didn’t fare as well. Marco Andretti will start seventh, but EJ Viso will roll off in sixteenth while the most recent winner, James Hinchcliffe will start twentieth.

Team Penske had a better day, Will Power shares the front row with Hunter-Reay and Helio Castroneves starts sixth. The surprise of the weekend, AJ Allmendinger, will start tenth. Allmendinger has been relatively quick all weekend – especially considering how frustrated he was in the test here a few weeks ago.

After qualifying was over, we went to the IndyCar Fan Zone. It seems bigger than ever and was packed with people. Whatever the promoters do here at Barber Motorsports Park, some tracks might do well to duplicate it. Though the fans seemed a bit confused at qualifying, they all seemed to be having a blast in the Fan Zone.

We’re now going to meet up with some friends. Plus, I plan to meet up with longtime commenter “Billy The Skink”. He is here and we’ve never met, so we’re going to get together for a bit..

Susan will be writing a post from her viewpoint later this afternoon. In the meantime, here are a few pics from today….

George Phillips

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helio qual

power qual

sato qual

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4 Responses to “Qualifying And Such From Barber”

  1. Steve K Says:

    I know NASCAR tracks have a seperate PA person from the radio call but I cannot for the life of me remember what they do at Mid-Ohio, Long Beach, or Belle Isle (the other tracks I have attended). I always bring a headset for the lady and I. That being said, I would agree with George that would be a good idea. Stoked for the race tomorrow. Props to RHR.

  2. billytheskink Says:

    George, it was a real pleasure meeting you and Susan at the track today. I’m glad we were able to meet up.

    A friend of mine back home who watched the qualifying broadcast was in vehement disagreement with the Sato penalty. From what I heard at the track, being impeded was a common complaint during the first two rounds of qualifying.

  3. GP, it’s really interesting that you mentioned the down time that seems excessive when watching qualifying in person. I expressed those exact same sentiments in my Saturday wrap up story from St. Pete just a couple weeks ago. The time between sessions seemed like an eternity and when only one cars comes out, it takes away a lot of the dramatic effect. Add to that that I was in a position without any monitors, it really lost all effect of excitement. More needs to be done to enhance the at-track experience of road and street qualifying.

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