Random Thoughts On NOLA
After having a little time to think about the weekend we had in New Orleans and NOLA Motorsports Park – it was really a strange weekend. Like everyone else, I’m curious how the event would have come off had the weather not been a factor.
So we now have to go a year to find out how things might have been. There were a lot of things that were done well at the event, that the things that needed improving sound insignificant. But one is the parking situation. I don’t know how else they could have done things better, but that seemed to be the number one complaint that I heard. The merchandising booths seemed like an afterthought and even though they had the Taste of Louisiana section – the concessions seemed to be lacking. What few there were had so many people lined up, I decided to pass.
But I still think this event has a tremendous future, if they can get better weather. As I said earlier this past weekend; I’ve been to New Orleans many times. I’ve never seen it rain anything close to what it did this weekend. I’ve never been here in April before. Maybe that’s the difference. If this is their rainy season, perhaps they should look at moving the date. But then you get into unbearable heat and humidity. But this event can’t deal with many more weekends like this weather-wise. No one will go to it – including me.
The Race: We had an idea that if they even got to race at all that it would be very disjointed. It was. Surprisingly, the first fifteen laps were caution-free. But when Gabby Chaves stalled in Turn Four on Lap Sixteen, the melee started. From that point, they were lucky to string two laps of green-flag racing together.
It looked as though the only real chassis casualty was going to belong to Jack Hawksworth, after he tried to avoid the spinning James Jakes. Hawksworth instead found the tire barriers and his day was done.
But on Lap Forty-Seven, the most dramatic looking crash of the short season took place when Ryan Hunter-Reay, Simon Pagenaud and Sébastien Bourdais got together. Fortunately, no one was hurt – but that didn’t stop the tempers from flaring. In all honesty, I have yet to see a great replay, other than what I saw on the video boards at the track, so I’ll withhold judgment on who was at fault until I get a better look at it.
It was only fitting that this race ended under yellow, since twenty-six of the forty-seven laps were run under caution. These are long laps at NOLA (2.74 miles). Some of these yellows seemed extremely long. After two races, there has been a pattern established of yellows running way longer than it seems they should. As far as races go – with all of the yellows, it was hard to watch in person. I’m sure it was even worse on television. We’ll find out when we get home tonight.
But I was happy for James Hinchcliffe for finally picking up victory No.4, after scoring three in 2013. He’s a good guy and his personality is great for the series. He’s someone that needs to be front-and-center as much as possible.
Andretti Woes Continue: Throughout the open test at Barber, then at St. Petersburg; Andretti Autosport has struggled to find speed. That’s odd because they were the team doing most of the off-season testing for the aero kits. Since they had been doing a lot of testing at NOLA, I was expecting them to be the class of the Honda teams. But while Sam Schmidt’s Honda drivers were taking two of the spots on the podium, Michael Andretti’s three full-time drivers were placing twelfth, thirteenth and nineteenth respectively.
The only Andretti driver to have a good race was their part-time driver, Simona de Silvestro, who finished fourth.
To be fair, Hunter-Reay was having a good race until he got caught up in that three-car pileup at the end. But still, why are they not setting the pace for Honda? Graham Rahal and the two Schmidt cars both outpaced most of the Andretti cars throughout the race.
This could be a case of the whole being much less than the sum of its parts.
Good Crowd: All things considered, it was not a bad crowd yesterday. The fans in New Orleans are resilient. They lived through decades of futility with the Saints before they finally became good. They certainly won’t let a little rain spoil their good time. If they can come out like this after this kind of weather, imagine what they may do with a sunny weekend.
Where Is Ganassi? After two races, Tony Kanaan seems to be the only bright spot this season for Chip Ganassi Racing – and he didn’t have a great day yesterday. Although he finished sixth, he went off once and almost was collected by one of the Coyne cars.
But Scott Dixon and Charlie Kimball seem to be missing in action after two races. Dixon finished a silent eleventh yesterday, while Kimball had a forgettable fourteenth place finish.
And then there is Sage Karam. His ninth place finish in the Indianapolis 500 last year seems like a lifetime away. After a bad race at St. Petersburg, he was even worse at NOLA. It seemed he was off course as much as he was on. Two of the yellow flags were brought out by Karam. He needs a good race just to get back on course and get his confidence back. He’s a good driver and a real likeable kid, with kid being the operative word. He needs to learn from these mistakes.
Based on what the Ganassi teams have shown so far this season, I don’t think I’d like to have been in the Ganassi trailer after yesterday’s race.
Social Media: I realize that some don’t give a flip about social media. Like it or not, it is the future for promoting and advertising. Those that are adept at it have a distinct advantage over those that only think they are.
Whoever was running the @GPofNOLA Twitter site was very adept. In fact, I would classify that as a case study in how to run social media. More than a week prior to the race, they were engaging anyone that tweeted that they were going to the event. Not that I am the most hip individual on such things, but this was the best social media campaign I’ve been exposed to.
Race MVP: Normally, no one names an MVP for a race. Usually the driver that wins deserves most of the recognition. But for his brave and tireless efforts yesterday, I will name the IndyCar flagman as the MVP for yesterday’s race. He was probably more worn out than anyone, afterwards.
Self-Indulgent Section: If you are repulsed by the site of a fifty-six year-old mugging for the camera like an adolescent, you might want to skip this part. But Susan and I had fun, so we thought we’d share a few shots from at the track and out on the town in New Orleans (well, one of Susan eating oysters).
As bloggers, we are not to get our pictures taken with drivers. But that doesn’t cover their wives. Yesterday, we came across one of the truly nicest people involved in IndyCar – Lauren Kanaan. Here Susan snapped a shot of me looking like a creepy old man getting a hug, but Lauren was a good sport about it.
The rest of the photos are fairly random and self-explanatory…
All in all: We had a good time, but it’s hard to go to New Orleans and be miserable. In all honesty, the race was not good, but that was strictly a function of the weather. In dry conditions, I think this would be a very racy track.
I think this would be a great race to come to as a fan. A seat in the grandstand along the main straightaway gives a magnificent view of the long straightaway, and down into Turn One. You then get a great view of the passing along the winding backstretch as the cars come back into view.
It’s a shame the weather played out as it did – but it did. Now we must wait to see when it appears on next year’s schedule, before deciding if we’ll return. But I’d certainly like to – so long as it’s dry.