First A Rant, Then A Look At The Twins
You have no idea how good it is to be back here. Taking a week off from blogging can be therapeutic. As tough as it was to let go of this year’s Indianapolis 500, I found it quite easy once I pushed away from racing for a few days. I actually realized that I had been living in a racing bubble since before the Barber race in April. Suddenly I found all of the undone projects around my house, paid some bills and started watching news on TV that didn’t involve racing at all.
Well – after a week, I’ve had all the reality that I can stand. I’m ready to get back to talking racing. Heading into the newly created Twin-275 format is a good place to do it. Before I get into the Texas race, I want to clear up some old business from last week.
A week ago today, it was announced that the IZOD IndyCar Series would honor their commitment to race at Twin Ring Motegi in September. The only change is that they will now race on the road course instead of the 1.5 mile oval. On Twitter that morning, I lamented the fact that the series was losing another oval and picking up another road course, furthering the imbalance between road courses and ovals. This seemed like a cut and dried comment on Twitter – at least it did to me.
Throughout the day, I saw tweets mentioning me (@Oilpressureblog) that accused me of being anti-Japan, anti-earthquake victim and pretty much anti-anything decent. One person accused me of wanting to punish Japan for having an earthquake. Another said they couldn’t believe my sentiments as to be so uncaring. Then another said that the people of Japan should be let in for free, and if I disagreed, then I was obviously selfish and was unable to see the big picture. Finally there was the one that felt the need to remind me that this was not about racing, but doing what’s right for mankind.
By mid-afternoon, I got the bright idea to post a tweet essentially telling everyone to lighten up and stop painting me as the anti-Christ. I thought this would certainly diffuse the matter. Silly me. It simply inflamed things. I ultimately chose to let it drop.
But a week later, it’s still bugging me. So let me set the record straight. No, I don’t want to penalize Japan for having an earthquake. No, I’m not anti-Japan. Yes, I understand the big picture. Yes, I’m all in favor of doing the right thing – up to a point.
My comment was straightforward. I don’t like it that we’re now down to seven ovals and up to ten road courses. I understand that Honda wants this and this may be good for the people of Japan – but does that mean that I have to like being down to seven ovals? No.
And what about the participants? Curt Cavin reported earlier this week that several drivers have privately admitted to having great concerns about going to an area where radiation levels are high, but they haven’t voiced their concerns publicly – not yet, anyway. Last night on Trackside, Kevin Lee was quite clear that he had serious concerns about going. He said he thought the best thing to do would be to race elsewhere and give the proceeds to the Japanese relief efforts or simply stay home that weekend.
My comment on Twitter was not meant to give a social forum for all those who wish to show the world how compassionate they are. Unlike those who say this isn’t about the racing, that’s exactly what my tweet was about – racing. If you want to argue with me about the virtues of road courses versus ovals, I’ll gladly have that conversation all day. But please don’t portray me or anyone else that wasn’t crazy about this decision as heartless and uncaring. I’ve lived long enough to recognize that if you feel the need to constantly show everyone how caring you are, you probably really aren’t.
Now that I’ve gotten that rant out of my system – let’s talk about Texas. I’m unsure what is the best scenario for the IZOD IndyCar Series. Is it best to go race the very next weekend following the Indianapolis 500 and capitalize on the momentum or is it better to have a weekend off? While I would have loved to have a race last weekend, I also liked being able to catch my breath before focusing on another race. It’s an age-old debate.
I always look forward to Texas. It’s probably my second-favorite oval. This year has a twist. I wasn’t overly thrilled when they announced the Twin-275 format; but now that it’s here, I’m looking forward to it. The only thing I would have tweaked is making the available points for each race the same as other races. Instead, each race pays only half of what a normal race does. Apparently, winning one of the twin races does not carry the prestige (or points) that winning at other tracks. I say let each one count the same as a race elsewhere. You could see some very interesting shifts in the point standings. As it is, why would a driver hang it out on the edge to win a race paying a maximum of twenty-five points?
Regardless, they can work on that next year. In the meantime, there are thirty cars on the entry list. One of the many interesting storylines is Davey Hamilton’s return to Texas after his devastating crash ten years ago. Recall that Hamilton was to race at Texas last year, but his Luczo-Dragon Racing team had two of their three cars torn up at Indianapolis, so he had to forgo his return to the track that almost ended his driving career until this year – this year driving for Dreyer & Reinbold.
Of course, the biggest storyline centers around Indianapolis 500 runner-up J.R. Hildebrand. Many have written him off saying he’ll never get over it. Personally, I think he is the man to beat at Texas. He has handled his situation beautifully, thus far. He has said all the right things and has tried to laugh it off. But when he straps into his car on Saturday night, I think he will be on a mission to show the world that his performance two weeks earlier was no fluke. There was a reason he was leading the biggest race in the world on the last lap. It didn’t quite turn out the way he wanted it, but I think we are going to be hearing from Hildebrand for a long time. His performance and his demeanor afterwards has made him a new hero to a lot of fans that knew little about him two weeks ago.
Other storylines include yet another revamping at Andretti Autosport. Alex Tagliani’s engineer, Allen McDonald has left Sam Schmidt Motorsports to return to Andretti Autosport. Personally, I think this is going to hurt Sam Schmidt’s team more than it will help Michael Andretti’s. Andretti had already parted ways with one of the best in the business, when they made Tom Anderson a scapegoat in the wake of Ryan Hunter-Reay and Mike Conway failing to qualify at Indianapolis. Now, they’ll throw more stuff against the wall to see if it sticks. I think the problems at AA run deeper than their engineering staff. In the meantime, Sam Schmidt is scrambling to find an engineer of McDonald’s caliber.
I miss the Month of May. There is nothing like it. I miss coming home every night and listening to Trackside and then Donald Davidson and The Talk Of Gasoline Alley for a total of two hours every night for a month. But now that it’s over, I’m finally ready to turn it loose and focus on the remainder of the season. With four different teams winning the first five races, this is shaping up to be a most unusual season.
With nine years of data on these same cars, we all thought this would be another year of watching Penske and Ganassi wage their own private battle. This year has been quite a pleasant surprise. With two races coming up tomorrow night, it’ll be curious to see if the trend of new winners continues, or if the upstart teams of the spring will begin to wilt in the summer heat. Tomorrow night may give us a good indication of what the rest of the summer will hold.