Random Thoughts On Kentucky
Now, that was more like it. I’ll have to admit I was a little skeptical on how significant the changes were going to be for last night’s race. Count me among those that thought the changes might make things a little more exciting, but I honestly had no idea how significant the changes would be. A cynic might ask what took them so long to change it back, or why did they even change things in the first place. Of course, I’m no cynic.
Without any qualifying and very little practice, the race took on a different tome from the start. Cars were jockeying for position up front and in mid-pack. Ed Carpenter came out of nowhere after starting fourteenth and immediately made his presence known as he battled with Mario Moraes for fourth. Dixon and Briscoe were locked in a battle up front, while Tony Kanaan steadily marched up through the field after starting ninth.
Will Power came from twentieth to ninth before staying out during the only caution period of the evening to assume the lead. He would eventually settle for ninth. Sarah Fisher had a solid but quiet evening to move from a twenty-second starting spot to finish twelfth. I think Versus could have given Sarah and Dollar General a little more airtime for such a steady run in only her fourth start of the season.
Of course the star of the evening, besides race winner Ryan Briscoe, was the second place finisher Ed Carpenter. I like Briscoe, but I was pulling for Ed as he and Briscoe battled it out in the classic side-by-side and wheel-to-wheel fashion that made the IRL famous. I thought Carpenter had it as they came off of turn four, but Briscoe nipped Carpenter at the line in the seventh closest finish in series history.
But the biggest winners of the night? The fans. This is what we have wanted to see all season. In my opinion, this was the perfect race. There was exciting action from start to finish. There were no crashes, except for Moraes and Mike Conway getting tangled up in the pits. The racing was side-by-side almost all night interspersed with green flag pit stops. Plus, there were many different teams that had a chance to win at the end. Five different teams occupied the top six positions all separated by 1.7 seconds. This was the first time all season that I stood up in front of my television for the final twenty laps. When it was over, I was exhausted. That was the racing we had come to love with this series and why so many of us were so vocal when it was absent all season. This race offers hope for the future, which was looking a little dim.
TV Coverage: Again, Versus was pretty much on top of its game. Lindy Thaxton and Robbie Floyd have really gelled since the start of the season. Kevin Lee did another superb job filling in for Jack Arute. I know Kevin Lee does the Firestone Indy Lights races, which are shown taped delayed on Mondays – but Versus should find a permanent spot for Kevin. He is smooth, insightful and his line of questioning in interviews is better than most. As usual, the three in the booth gave another strong performance.
On the negative side, what was the deal with the lack of the“non-stop” box during commercials? When the race was about ten laps old, they broke away with Bob Jenkins telling us we wouldn’t miss a thing. We did. Instead we got a full screen of a fuzzy-headed Tony Kanaan telling us about Apex-Brasil. They had several other stints throughout the night with no “non-stop” window. I know we’ve gotten spoiled with this feature, but when we’re used to it – it’s kind of tough to not have it. There seemed to be more commercials than usual, probably due to the lack of yellows. But to cut away with twenty laps to go and with Briscoe almost touching wheels with Ed Carpenter, was almost criminal.
Sir Jackie: It was good to see Sir Jackie Stewart sitting in Roger Penske’s pit box. Bob Jenkins called him one of his childhood idols. I was lucky enough to witness one of Stewart’s two Indy 500 starts, in 1967 — and he was certainly one of the greats. He also looked great for having just turned seventy in June, although hearing he was now seventy sure made me feel old.
Schedule: The one negative for the weekend (other than the weepers) was the release of the 2010 schedule. Suffice it to say, I’m not happy. Seeing this outstanding oval race just re-emphasized how bad it is that there will be more road/street courses next year than ovals. I will examine this in much greater detail on Monday
Odds & Ends: The track PA announcer needed some counseling on how to pronounce “Botanical”. He introduced the Grand Marshall as coming from the Cincinnati Zoo & “Botnical” Gardens….Mike King brought up an interesting point during the practice that I hadn’t thought of. Mario Moraes drives a car sponsored by Azul Tequila, yet Moraes is only twenty years old which would make this illegal. He explained that the sponsor is technically sponsoring the entrant and not the driver. Hmmm. If that were the case, why did the #26 car have to give up Jim Beam as a sponsor when nineteen year-old Marco Andretti went into the car? We were told the age was the reason that Marco and Franchitti swapped sponsors in 2006.
Overall: It was an excellent race. By far, the best we have seen all season. There will be the doom and gloomers who will claim that this was artificial with the overtake assist button. Baloney! I don’t think the “push to pass” had near as much to do with restoring the racing as the removal of the half-inch wickerbills on the rear-wing end plates. Whatever bonehead came up with the idea of putting those on cars should be subjected to watching a tape of the Richmond race about six times in a row.
Anyway, it appears that the IRL has fixed their problem on ovals. Better late than never. Now, about that schedule….