Random Thoughts On Richmond
In all the years I have been following IndyCar racing, I never thought I would utter the words I am about to say (type); I’m glad we’re going back to the road courses. It has gotten that bad. At least, road courses have the potential to throw a curve to all of the predictability we have seen thus far, this season.
Like Iowa, the race at Richmond showed some promise at first. Hideki Mutoh and Danica Patrick chose not to pit when Ryan Briscoe crashed on lap 26, which gave them the top two spots respectively. It looked as if it might have paid off, as everyone seemed to be cycling back into the pits under green. Everyone that is, except for Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti and Graham Rahal. When Mike Conway crashed on lap 136, it allowed those three the luxury of pitting under the yellow. That effectively ended any suspense for the evening.
From that point on, it was the all too familiar single-file oval parade that we have seen way too much of this season. It was pretty much the same song, sixth verse for the ovals in 2009. I’m not sure that I even saw any slower traffic get lapped on the racetrack. The only time cars were lapped was when they were in the pits. I won’t belabor the point that has been made many times now, since they are at least going to try and fix this problem before Kentucky. Let’s hope that they do.
So much for my predictions — I said that Danica would not do well and she did. I also said that a red car would not win at Richmond and they did. The two Ganassi cars finished one-two, as Scott Dixon got out of the pits quicker than his teammate, Dario Franchitti. For the second-half of the race, the positions pretty well remained static (read: stagnant). Franchitti pretty well summed it up when he apologized to the fans that had come out or tuned in expecting a good race.
Good night for Versus: Despite having a boring race to televise, Versus rebounded nicely from what I thought was a sub-par performance at Texas. All three in the booth brought their A-game and were very engaging. Jan Beekhuis is exceptionally good at explaining some very technical aspects of racing, in terms that even I can understand.
The two new pit reporters, Lindy Thaxton and Robbie Floyd seem to be getting more comfortable in their roles and are starting to develop their own personalities. While I thought Jack Arute’s “In Color” segments (why are they in black & white???) were a little over the top at Indy, he did an admirable job interviewing Tony Kanaan.
The post-race salute to the Versus cameraman that lost his wife was tasteful and a nice touch.
Points shuffle: Both Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves did serious damage to their championship hopes, by both crashing out of the race…especially Castroneves. Briscoe entered the weekend with a three-point lead in the championship standings. By the beginning of the race, it was down to two by way of Dario Franchitti winning the pole. By the time the race was over, he had slid to third place – twenty-six points behind Franchitti, the new points leader. Dixon moved to second, trailing Franchitti by a single point. Castroneves remained in fourth, but is now fifty-four points from the lead. Graham Rahal, who finished third, remained in ninth place but actually lost ground to the leaders and is now ninety-nine points back.
AGR rebounds: After a disappointing race at Iowa and a disastrous qualifying session at Richmond, Andretti-Green had a surprisingly good night at the track with all four cars placing in the top seven. Danica had her best finish ever at Richmond, by placing fifth. Marco Andretti was very impressive at the start moving from sixteenth to eleventh on the first lap. Kanaan had a much needed sixth place finish to stay reasonably close in the points chase.
Hideki Mutoh had his second consecutive strong run. He finished fourth at Richmond after placing third at Iowa. He also led seventy-four laps at Richmond, albeit by pitting out of sequence. Still he held off Dario Franchitti all that time, while Franchitti had fresher tires. Had Conway not crashed before Dixon, Franchitti and Rahal pitted; there’s no telling where Mutoh would have finished.
Mutoh may be driving for his professional life. It is heavily rumored that the Formula Dream sponsorship may move to Gil de Ferran’s new team with former Formula One driver Takuma Sato. If that happens, it will be a shame. Mutoh has been, by far, the best Japanese driver to ever drive an IndyCar. That’s not saying a whole lot given the Hiro Matsushita’s, Tora Takagi’s and Kosuke Matsuura’s that we have seen. Still, he has been steady, yet unspectacular; and has been in position to win a few races. Personally, I hope he can continue in the series.
Danica commercial: I’ve got to admit that the new Danica commercial where she autographs the guy’s “rack” is so bad, that it’s funny. These new Motorola Boost commercials at least let Danica show a humorous side, rather than the supposed glamour shots for Go-Daddy and Peak Antifreeze.
Overall: All things considered, it was a dull race, especially in the second half – as has been the case for most of the ovals this season. The second half of races have been yawners. I was glad Bob Jenkins and the crew acknowledged that the racing has been a little below expectations. I don’t expect him to trash the product that they are trying to build, but Jenkins knows to be honest with the viewers. He did a good job explaining that the league recognizes the problem and will hopefully have things better by the next oval at Kentucky. Hopefully, the race at Watkins Glen will offer the same amount of unexpected twists as last year, when Ryan Hunter-Reay battled Darren Manning for the win.