Road America Saturday Wrap-Up
Day Two at Road America wound up just like Day One – quickly. To have no set plans for today, the day sure got away from us. For those that were looking for Susan’s post this afternoon – quite honestly, we never came into the media center where she could write it. We were having too much fun. It will be up here first thing tomorrow morning. After some more discussion of Road America, I do get into some racing talk – so bear with me.
This morning, we set out to find the best place to watch the race on Sunday. I’m not sure, but Turn Five sure seems like a good place to start. The cars rush down the Moraine Sweep, then go into Turn Five under heavy braking before heading uphill before disappearing just past the Corvette Bridge.
One good thing is that there seems to be no reserved seating. There are stands along the Road America Straight as well as Turn One, Turn Five and the random rows of seats they have built into the natural hillsides throughout the circuit, like these that overlook Hurry Downs with one of many great concession stands right in the center f everything.
From what people tell me, anyone is allowed to sit anywhere. That sort of goes along with the fan-friendly environment that permeates this entire facility.
Speaking of concession stands, they are not standard. They are run by different organizations and offer different items. One called The Gear Box probably had the best brat I‘ve had so far, mainly because they offered one with grilled peppers and onions. It was mouthwatering and delicious!
Another stand that I liked was SBJ, which benefits St. John the Baptist Catholic Church. Their brats were good, but they had a wide array of ice cream offerings including homemade old-fashioned milk shakes made to order with a shake-maker.
We went to the autograph session. As “members of the media” we are not allowed to abuse our privileges and ask for autographs or pose for pictures with drivers. Susan had given her son a die-cast of the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500, and she wanted to get Alexander Rossi to sign it. So we got in line one hour before the session started. It’s a good thing. Never have I seen such a line that formed behind us. There were two separate lines so we only got to see half of the drivers. There were probably thirty-to forty people in front of us. By the time the session started, I could not see the end of our line. This photo shows how far the other line stretched.
The fans we talked to in line were all very knowledgeable race fans. In fact, everyone I’ve come across here have been very intelligent racing fans. The folks around here know and appreciate their racing. Everyone has made it clear how much they appreciate the fact that the Verizon IndyCar Series has returned. The size of today’s crowd is a good indication of that.
Qualifying took place at 3:00. We stood in the Rahal pit throughout most of the session, mostly because they had a monitor behind their pit as well as a cell phone charging station. I was also engaged in a conversation with a friend behind the Charlie Kimball pit. They were jubilant as Kimball advanced through Round One, but their mood turned somber as Kimball finished eleventh in the Round Two session of the Top Twelve.
It was then that I moved back to the Rahal pit. I watched their demeanor and liked what saw. They weren’t overjoyed that Rahal made it out of Round Two, it seemed expected. Nor were they distraught that Rahal finished sixth in the Fast Six.
As it turns out, Rahal was the only one that went out on black Firestones, while everyone else were on used reds – except for Will Power, who went out on a brand new set of red Firestones. It paid off. Power grabbed his forty-forth career pole, which puts him fifth on the all-time list .
Starting beside Power on the front row will be Scott Dixon. Tony Kanaan starts third, while Simon Pagenaud will sit forth on the grid in his day-glow yellow Menards livery. Helio Castroneves will roll of fifth, with Rahal alongside.
Some of those disappointed with their qualifying results are James Hinchcliffe, Alexander Rossi and Juan Montoya. Hinchcliffe was dealing with gearbox issues and slowed up Rossi and Montoya as the three headed into Canada Corner. Hinchcliffe was penalized by losing his two quickest laps. As a result, Hinchcliffe will start at the back of the field. Montoya and Rossi will start fourteenth and sixteenth respectively.
Josef Newgarden spun in the Kink, just after the Carousel. He, too, was penalized and will start next to Hinchcliffe in the last row.
Conor Daly did a good job to advance to Round Two and will roll off on the inside of Row Five. Max Chilton also did a good job in his qualifying session and will start seventh.
For those that like stats, the Fast Six was comprised of five Chevy’s and the lone Honda of Graham Rahal. Three cars were from Team Penske and two were from Chip Ganassi Racing, along with the one from Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. It’s also worth noting that every driver in the Fast Six had driven here before in CART/Champ Car. Experience counts at this track.
Cynics would say that it’s the usual cast of characters, but I don’t see it that way. I think Chilton and Daly could both shine here tomorrow, as this track closely resembles some that they had raced at in Europe. If he is in the right frame of mind, Juan Montoya could make things interesting as he charges up from mid-pack. I was a little surprised in Rossi’s qualifying results. He looked good in every practice session and I think he will be a factor tomorrow.
But I still feel confident in my pick of Graham Rahal to win this race. I think Honda will surprise the bow-tie brigade from Chevy and Rahal can start another mid-season charge like he did last season.