Random Thoughts On Sonoma
There are some questions in this life that defy all explanation. Why was Citizen Kane voted the Number One film of all time? Why did I see Christmas decorations in a store this weekend? Why did only a smattering of people attend an exciting race in New Hampshire, while a much larger gathering attended a high-speed parade in northern California? None of these things make any sense.
To say that yesterday’s race was boring is being kind. The Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma has a reputation for being a yawner, but this exceeded all expectations. I know that the IZOD IndyCar Series expects a few clunkers along the way each season. It’s inevitable. But you know you’ve got a dud on your hands when the Versus booth is getting excited about a battle for eighteenth late in the race.
I wish I had paid more attention during qualifying on Saturday. That was pretty well what decided the finishing order. With Will Power winning, followed by Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe; Target drivers Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon rounded out the top-five. That was the same order in which they qualified. Except for pit stop shuffles, there was no movement throughout the top-five all day long. None. James Hinchcliffe started sixth and wound up seventh. That pretty well summed up the drama for the afternoon.
OK, I’ll admit that that assessment is being a little unfair to Giorgio Pantano who drove an excellent race for Dreyer & Reinbold while subbing for the injured Justin Wilson. Pantano started eleventh and finished sixth. However, he was guilty of blocking Sebastien Bourdais on the last lap and officially ended up seventeenth. That’s quite a penalty. Welcome to IndyCar Mr. Pantano.
Simon Pagenaud also gave a good run while driving for the stranded Simona de Silvestro, although his results won’t show it. He was given a drive-through penalty late in the race that dropped him to sixteenth after starting the race in the twenty-second starting spot. Simona had spent some time in her native Switzerland before trying to return last Wednesday. There were “issues” at customs and she was refused entry into the US and sent back to Switzerland where she awaits things to be sorted out.
In the meantime, Pagenaud became a last-minute substitute for the second time in three races. He has performed well this season and most fully expect to see him in a Sam Schmidt entry next season.
About the only thing that justified losing two hours of my life I’ll never get back while watching yesterday’s race was watching the points battle tighten up. Will Power is only twenty-six points away from Dario Franchitti. To think that halfway through the New Hampshire race, Franchitti was projected to hold more than a ninety-point lead over Will Power after leaving Loudon, NH.
That was before Lap 118 at New hampshire when Franchitti got too anxious and crossed into Takuma Sato. If Franchitti loses this championship, he doesn’t need to look at the starting order of the second twin race in Texas for an excuse. He needn’t look past New Hampshire if he’s trying to find where the season turned against him.
TV Coverage: You know things were dull when the best part of the day was the pre-race show. When Kevin Lee interviewed Randy Bernard and Robin Miller about the future of Brian Barnhart, I figured it would be good and I wasn’t disappointed. My only complaint was the segment seemed to be cut off too short. As they wrapped up and went to break, Robin Miller had a dumbfounded look on his face like he had just gotten started. To me, that conversation could have gone another ten minutes.
The guys in the booth seemed about as engaged as I was. Bob Jenkins had a few fumbles but nothing serious – just a few misidentified cars. Jan Beekhuis and Wally Dallenbach, Jr. did their best to make the race exciting, but one can only do so much.
The jinx continues: It seems that I am usually good to pick at least three or four race winners each season. With four races remaining, I have gone winless this season. In fact, my jinx of inflicting a curse on whomever I pick has flourished. Tony Kanaan finished dead last in yesterday’s race, after starting a miserable twenty-first. Who was my pick to win? Tony Kanaan.
Fellow IndyCar blogger shout-out: For the first time since I started this site, I had the company of a fellow IndyCar blogger at my house (the Oilpressure chamber? – I think not) for Saturday’s qualifying show. The Speedgeek and his family of geeks was in town on family business. He came over to watch qualifying and share an adult beverage (or two). It was good to have him here.
All in all: There’s no two ways around it. This race was boring. That’s enough said about that. Being an unabashed Penske fan, I was glad to see their 1-2-3 finish. By the way, if I am an unabashed Penske fan, what is an abashed Penske fan?
As far as street races go, I’m looking forward to next week’s inaugural race at Baltimore. I’ve been to the Inner Harbor, where the race is to take place, and it is a beautiful thriving area. Unlike yesterday’s race –even if the racing is no good, at least it will be in a picturesque setting. But unlike yesterday’s race, I have a sneaking suspicion it may be a pretty good race. Here’s hoping so.