Random Thoughts On Chicago
That’s not really a word that I use very often. But that’s what kept going through my mind on Saturday night after watching the Peak Antifreeze 300 from Chicagoland Speedway. After a streak of five road/street courses that all had varying degrees of excitement, the IZOD IndyCar Series returned to the first of four ovals that will close out the 2010 season. They certainly did it in grand style, with Dario Franchitti winning on a gamble on tire strategy.
While not purposely trying to re-ignite the oval vs roadcourse debate; does Saturday night’s race leave any doubt as to why most Americans prefer ovals? I appreciate road courses and want several to remain on the schedule. I also understand the economic importance of street courses in large metropolitan areas and understand why a few of them must exist. I also appreciate the diversity of tracks that the IZOD IndyCar Series offers. But Saturday reiterated to me why ovals need to make up the majority of the IndyCar schedule.
In all honesty, I was exhausted after Saturday night’s race. I called my brother about a third of the way through the race and told him I had a bad feeling that something bad was going to happen. The way Marco Andretti and several others were darting around so violently, made me afraid we were going to see a repeat of Ryan Briscoe’s crash at the same track in 2005. I stood in front of the television for most of the race gasping every time it looked like wheels were about to touch, which was several times each lap. This was in contrast to when I actually fell asleep during the Mid-Ohio race.
Last night’s race was actually bitter-sweet. As good as the racing was, it was always in the back of my mind that this was probably the last IZOD IndyCar Series race at Chicago. When it was announced that Chicagoland Speedway would be the site of one of the ten NASCAR “chase” races next fall, it spelled doom for any chances of the IndyCar race to return. Even though it pretty well completes the divorce from ISC-owned tracks – I’ll miss watching races at Chicago.
Tighter points battle: Curt Cavin’s Q&A last week had an astute comment by Curt saying that if either Will Power or Dario Franchitti stumbled at Chicago; it would be either game on or game over. Well, it looks like Game On!
When Alex Lloyd spun to bring out the last caution, Will Power was leading. It looked as if Power was on his way to winning his first oval race and further distancing himself from second-place Dario Franchitti, who was running in ninth. Franchitti gambled and chose not to take tires, in order to leave the pits early for better track position. Franchitti came out in the lead, just ahead of Power. Then we learned that Power had a fueling problem on the same stop, did not take on a full load of fuel and couldn’t make it to the end. Oops!
The result was that Franchitti won the race while cutting Power’s lead from a hefty fifty-nine points going into the race, down to a much more manageable twenty-three points with three more ovals to go. Although Power claimed he had a lot of fun last night, he didn’t look near as comfortable on the ovals as on road courses. Yes, he was leading some – but his moves seemed very forced and unnatural to him. I still don’t think he will win an oval this season.
If Will Power wins no more races this season, he suddenly finds himself very vulnerable to a driver (Franchitti) that has won two out of the last three races and certainly seems to have momentum on his side. It would be ironic if another Penske driver threw away, what seemed like a championship in the bag, in the final races for the second year in a row. But I definitely think that Will Power has to be feeling some pressure after Saturday night.
TV coverage: I thought Versus redeemed themselves after a sub-par effort at Sonoma. Of course, it’s a lot easier to overlook gaffes when a race has you on the edge of your seat. Bob Jenkins had a few flubs, but nothing major. Jack Arute had another tiresome segment with props – this time with fans doing battle with each other.
Lindy Thackston did a good job with the pre-race show, that featured a good segment on Ryan Briscoe at home. Versus and the series need to develop more spots like these. It helps to humanize the driver more, to those fans that have never been to the track and never met any drivers.
Carey’s Hope: On a very serious note, Sarah Fisher had a decal on her rear wing for “Carey’s Hope”. This was in honor and support of Fisher’s longtime fuel man, Carey Hall, who was to retire after Saturday night’s race. Carey is forty years old and has been afflicted with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). The fatal condition has worsened and Carey can no longer perform to the level needed.
This is a horrible disease, for which there is no cure. The average lifespan after diagnosis is 2-5 years. I have personally known two people who endured agonizing deaths due to ALS. Just recently, a forty-year old mother of two that lives two houses down from me was diagnosed with the condition. Longtime radio voice of the Indianapolis 500, Sid Collins, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Rather than suffer through a certain grueling and undignified end, Collins chose to take his own life on May 2, 1977.
Please keep Carey Hall, his family and Sarah Fisher Racing in your thoughts and prayers as he faces this difficult situation.
All in all: If this was indeed the last race at Chicago for the IZOD IndyCar Series, they certainly went out on a high note. To me, this is what makes the series so special. Sometimes, while watching races, I’ll fool myself into thinking that I could do that. Saturday night, I remember thinking that there is no way I could do that. It speaks well for the drivers and the series that they drove wheel-to-wheel for 200 laps almost incident-free. My heart was still pounding two hours later from watching it in the comfort of my living room. You can just imagine what it was like to be in the middle of the pack for two hours. Now we get to do it all over again next week at Kentucky. I will have recovered by then.
*Note – Since the race was on Saturday night, there will be no post on Monday Aug 30. I’ll return on Wednesday Sep 1.