Random Thoughts On Iowa
Sometimes, it’s tempting to claim that a mediocre race was fantastic – just to put a nice spin on things. Such was not the case with the 2010 edition of the Iowa Corn 250. This really was a great race. This race had it all. For those that get into crashes, you had a few of those. If you are into lots of pit action, you walked away satisfied. There was the mechanical gremlin that jumped out of nowhere to claim a leader. There were several close calls on the track, along with several lead changes among many different leaders. In the end, we were treated with a pass for the lead with ten laps to go – to see the oval string of the Penske/Ganassi cars broken by a guy who was extremely deserving of a hard-fought win.
It has been a while since I’ve stood in front of the television to watch the end of the race, but in the last thirty or so laps, that’s exactly what I was doing. I normally pull for Helio Castroneves over just about anyone on the track. But when Tony Kanaan passed Helio for the lead and ultimately for the win, I was behind Kanaan all the way. For someone who has been a loyal soldier and the ultimate team player like Kanaan has been – this was certainly well-deserved.
TV Coverage: For the most part, the Versus crew did its usual good job. I wouldn’t say that Bob Jenkins was completely on top of his game – he had a few minor gaffes along the way, but Bob is still solid and so easy to listen to. Robbie Buhl and Jon Beekhuis both shined in their respective analyst roles, as usual. Lindy Thackston and Robbie Floyd excelled as the pit reporters, but Jack Arute is just getting tiresome with his pit-road props. We’ve seen the cheese grater before, but pouring marbles everywhere was just a little much. There’s a fine line between being funny and simply drawing attention to yourself. I think the tanned one has crossed that line.
I was a little miffed that Versus chose to cut away from such a tight fight with less than twenty laps to go. At roughly eighteen seconds a lap, they were getting dangerously close to the end. One more Brazilian coffee commercial and we might have missed Kanaan’s pass for the lead on lap 240.
Milka’s Woes Continue: I’ve had some fun tweaking the nose of the local Nashville wannabe journalist who claims Milka is an excellent driver who just happens to be stuck in bad equipment. But Milka’s act is becoming anything but funny. She almost took out the leaders on lap twenty-one when Will Power apparently caught her completely off guard as he passed her down low. Her quick jerk of the wheel almost took out Marco Andretti as he was attempting to pass her on the high side. Nine laps later, the leaders were passing her again. She was mercifully parked soon afterwards. Again, the racing gods spared the other drivers of a Milka catastrophe – but how long will that luck hold out? It just seems that it is a matter of time before something disastrous occurs due to Milka Duno’s incompetence.
Enough is enough – Brian Barnhart needs to park her permanently. It’s a tough call, because such a move affects the entire Dale Coyne team. I’m sure some of the CITGO dollars are indirectly propping up Alex Lloyd and the Boy Scout car. I can’t imagine that a non-profit organization is able to supply the cash needed for a fully funded team, but is it worth risking the safety of twenty-four other drivers just to keep a sponsor happy?
She was completely oblivious to the fact that Power and Andretti were approaching from behind. Getting passed is not an unusual situation for her; she should be pretty used to cars approaching from behind by now. As I’ve said before, Milka Duno is a nice person and a wonderful ambassador for the IZOD IndyCar Series – she just has no business in these cars.
Where’s Marco?: How on earth did Marco Andretti go from being so racy in the early stages of the race to being a backmarker near the end? Marco started third, quickly moved into second and was challenging Will Power for the early lead when they both encountered Milka Duno. Even though Marco had to get out of the throttle and lost all sorts of momentum, he quickly regained his form and actually took the lead on lap thirty-four and led for eleven laps.
As we watched on the little “Non-stop” window while commercials played, Marco began dropping like a stone. As Versus went to a break, Marco was in the lead. When they resumed coverage, Marco was in fifth. By the end of the race, he was having trouble staying out of the leader’s way. He finished fifteenth and was six laps down at the end. I am no driver nor an engineer, but how does a car get that bad throughout the course of a race, when it started out so good? Marco might have more explaining to do besides forgetting to buy a father’s Day gift for Michael.
KV expenses continue: Although the first lap crash on Sunday was certainly not his fault, Mario Moraes has now crashed out of five of the first eight races of this season. His car has very little funding and the repairs bills have been mounting. Takuma Sato added to the tab by drifting into the turn four wall and tearing up the right side of his car. Fortunately, EJ Viso salvaged the day for KV Racing Technology by finishing a very respectable third.
I haven’t seen Kevin Kalkhoven’s bank statement, but surely he is tired of paying for wrecked equipment after every race. Unless his funds are virtually unlimited, he needs to either get a better sponsorship situation or drivers that are better at taking care of their equipment.
Ganassi woes: It was not a stellar weekend for Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Before the race even began, Scott Dixon’s day was in question. His crew discovered a faulty fuel pump that required removing the fuel cell before it could be fixed. His crew did a great job completing that task against a schedule that was moved up because of potential rain. Then Dixon’s car was bumped heavily by Helio Castroneves, leaving the pits. All in all, he should probably feel very fortunate to finish sixth.
The same can’t be said for his teammate, Dario Franchitti. Although he qualified an unspectacular fifth, Franchitti was near the front all day. Then, while leading, his gearbox stuck between fifth and sixth gear – and his chances of winning were done.
While some hate to see someone’s race end like that, this is what I was talking about a couple of weeks ago with engine failures. Running equipment on the ragged edge sometimes produces equipment failures. It’s a part of racing. It always has been and adds to the intrigue and excitement of the sport.
Penske Rebound: Team Penske had a day that was reminiscent of the great Rick Mears. Each car pretty well had the same pattern. They started at or near the front, then fell back early and toiled around mid-pack at the halfway point. They fiddled with the car, found the right combination and were back at or near the front at the end. Helio Castroneves was all but forgotten when he suddenly re-emerged at the front of the field and battled eventual race winner Tony Kanaan before finally settling for second. Ryan Briscoe was as far back as fifteenth at one point, before suddenly fighting for fourth. Will Power started on pole, fell way back, but came back to finish fifth.
Sarah’s future: It pains me to say this, but I’m wondering if we are seeing the end of Sarah Fisher’s driving career. Sarah doesn’t seem to be having fun behind the wheel anymore. When she was sitting on the pit box while Graham Rahal was driving the Dollar General car, she seemed to relish that role. I think she realizes she may serve her team better as a team owner more so than a driver. When she finishes her driving commitments this season, I wouldn’t be surprised if she hangs up her helmet for good. I’m just not sure that the future of her team lies with Jay Howard.
Vitor’s weekend: I was glad to see Lindy Thackston giving some recognition to Vitor Meira and the good drive that he had. Meira crashed the AJ Foyt/ABC Supply car in practice on Saturday, yet he still managed to qualify thirteenth. He had a good day on Sunday, stayed out of trouble and finished seventh.
The Foyt team has been competitive most of this season. If they can quicken the pace of their pit stops, they may actually be a factor in some of the upcoming road course.
All in all: I thought this was a great race. It had every element that makes racing exciting. If you didn’t like this race, you need to be checked for a pulse. Surely, the naysayers on Track Forum won’t be complaining about this race. If they do, nothing will satisfy them.
This is the sort of race that Randy Bernard and the IZOD IndyCar Series can build on. Although I like the Versus coverage, it’s a shame that the ratings will probably be abysmal, with a small outlet going against Father’s Day, the US Open and a NASCAR race. It’s unfortunate that there is another two-week break before the next race. With the race being on ABC on the Fourth of July weekend, there is lots of momentum. Some will be lost over that two-week stretch. Let’s hope that the next race is just as compelling and that the ABC coverage can be as good as Versus – only with more eyeballs.