Random Thoughts On Road America

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For a series that needed a shot in the arm in the worst way after staging a two-day non-race in Texas, the Verizon IndyCar Series came up with a timely home-run. If you kept up with this site throughout the weekend, you’ve undoubtedly seen me gush about Road America. I had been wanting to go to a race there for thirty years or so. Now that I’ve finally done it, I want more.

On the surface, it appears that this was not much of a contest. Will Power started on the pole and led all but four laps. At different points in the race, it appeared he had checked out. But Tony Kanaan reeled him in and at times looked as if he would pass him for the lead. But going into the last lap, Kanaan had only one push-to-pass, while Power still had three. Kanaan would later say that he knew it would take a miracle to overtake Power. It didn’t happen.

But Kanaan would finish second to Power, and Graham Rahal would take the last step on the podium.

TV Coverage:  We did watch some of yesterday’s broadcast last night online. We didn’t hear or see much of it, but what we heard was good. It was good to have Leigh Diffey back in the booth, and Paul Tracy continued to impress me as possibly being the best current IndyCar analyst in the business. We’ll watch the DVR of the race when we get back home.

Good weekend for ECR:  Not only does Josef Newgarden deserve a great deal of credit for racing just two weeks after a horrifying crash in which he suffered a fractured bone in his hand with a broken clavicle; but he was able to move up from his starting position on the back row and finish eighth. That was not a result of pit strategy or fuel mileage. It was because of hard driving.

Another shout out should go to his teammate Spencer Pigot, who finished ninth after starting seventeenth.

You have to feel for JR Hildebrand. Less than two weeks ago, he was excited to learn that he had been tabbed to fill in for Newgarden for however long he would be out. He probably thought he was assured of at least driving at Road America, and probably at Iowa. Instead, he made the trip to Elkhart Lake to be a spectator. I’m happy that Newgarden was able to drive and not miss a start, but you’ve got to feel sorry for Hildebrand.

Montoya woes continue:  Once again, Juan Montoya had a poor qualifying effort and did not produce in the race. He started fourteenth yesterday and was probably lucky to finish seventh. I don’t think he made a lot of friends in the paddock after bumping into several of them on Sunday.

After winning the season opener, Montoya is sitting in a forgettable ninth place in points.

Same for Marco:  For most of the day Marco Andretti was languishing in and around nineteenth place, after starting twenty-first. The good news is that he moved up nine positions from his starting point. The bad news is that once again, Marco found himself in a hole by starting in the back.

All in all:  I would come across as very repetitive if I carried on anymore about how much I enjoyed attending the race at Road America. I was not alone. The CEO of Road America said afterwards that the attendance for yesterday’s was probably the largest in the track’s history; which dates back to 1955.

I was so impressed with the track as well as the fans. The fans at Road America have to be the most well-behaved fans I’ve ever seen. They are polite, sober and respectful. Best of all, they know what they came to see and they appreciate it

After watching how this race came off with such a large attendance, you wonder why other tracks can’t do it like this. IndyCar came out of this weekend smelling like a rose.

George Phillips

Please Note:  Today, Susan and I are taking a little vacation time and will be travelling over to Michigan. Therefore, I will take a vacation away from this site. After today, there will be no more posts here until I return Wednesday July 6th. – GP

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15 Responses to “Random Thoughts On Road America”

  1. madtad1 Says:

    Overall I thought the NBC coverage was very good. They showed drivers passing throughout the field and made the race very exciting. As a sign of this, not once did they say, “OK, let’s take you through the field.” 😄

    Kudos to JoNew for an awesome performance under tough circumstances, his driving was impressive, and he was one of the biggest movers in the field. He was very classy and entertaining during interviews and certainly ran hard during the race.

    JPM, OTH, continues to act and look like a petulant child who is used to getting his way and is now finding the others won’t let him. Frankly, his on camera demeanor is close to an embarrassment for The Captain, ,and I’m surprised he hasn’t had his leash yanked.

    Marco has improved a lot on camera and no longer throws his team under the bus. He does accept blame for himself when he screws up.

    Speaking of screwing up, let’s talk Race Control. 😜 Whiskey Tango Foxtrot wasn’t Graham given a penalty for almost causing a wreck with TK on his pit out?! Especially after the drivers were told not to do that in the drivers meeting.

    This was one area where NBC fell down; they would casually mention some penalties, miss others, or say there should be one, but then never follow up with either Race Control or the viewers as to what was going on. I found out about most of the penalties from social media, not NBC sports. I was very disappointed with that, it was ABC-like.

    Overall, tho, it was a fantastic race at a “gorgeous” facility.

  2. Ron Ford Says:

    I did not get to the track until 10:30 due to a car problem. (Having a breakdown at 6:30 AM on a Sunday surrounded by corn is a challenge). Anyway, when I got there cars were still backed up on Hwy 67 for 2-3 miles. The crowd was the largest I have ever seen at RA. Cars were being parked any place that didn’t have a tree on it. Never-the-less, the RA staff did a wonderful job dealing with the crowd everywhere IMO. I and many others stopped Derrick Walker to thank him for his role in getting IndyCar back at RA. Letting kids 16 and under get in free was a great idea that will pay dividends in the future. IMO George Bruggenthies is one of the best promoters in the business. The kettle morraine bowl surrounding turn 5 was jammed with spectators. The food?: Hell, I would drive there just for the food. If the tow truck driver had not dropped Daly’s car, TK might have caught Power. I am happy that our well-traveled blogger and bloggerette enjoyed their experience at RA. We’ll keep the light on for ya.

  3. Couldn’t agree more, George. the RA lovefest will continue in my post up later today. Enjoy your vacation.

  4. The long straights and wider turns were a major positive, and I am excited that Road America plans on being a long term part of the Indycar schedule. The Penske and Ganassi domination was a pretty big letdown, however. Rahal clung to 3rd and at least made up points. I really think a non-injured Newgarden would have been able to fight Power and TK for the win, but a top ten is not a bad result for a guy most people thought would be racing this weekend. I was happy for Simon’s problems as it makes the championship more interesting, especially with Rahal and Newgarden finishing well.

  5. decent race from second back. disappointed in the winner. whines to much. great runs for newgarden, pigot and tony kanaan.
    glad to see a great crowd. tv was top flite as always.

  6. John Callanan Says:

    JPM drove a better race than you state here. Had a qualifying issue, sure, but the race was pretty solid.

  7. The more I think about it the more I think that Newgarden will replace Montoya next year at Penske.

  8. A great facility, it always has been, wonderful to see it back on the sched. a great race as well… Penske as always has a superb race team, it is unfortunate that at least half of them at any given time appear to need to have their diapers changed.

  9. Ron Ford Says:

    Checking in again to express what a treat it was for me to see so many young kids enjoying the sights, sounds-and smells-of Road America. Letting kids 16yo and under get in free was a great idea that will result in many new fans IMO. However, that will not show up in the TV ratings. I have long held that most new fans are created by a at-the-track experience and not by what they might see on TV.

    • I agree with you, Ron, that offering free admission to kids 16 and under is a fabulous marketing tool. Hope they come back next year and bring a friend. Sounds like you too had a great time this weekend.

  10. billytheskink Says:

    This was the kind of weekend Indycar needed after the weather killed the buzz at Texas. I was happy to see that so many drivers, and especially fans, had fun.

  11. Edgar Emmitt Says:

    If Indy Car could take a hint and get back to real road courses and not those silly street races.Thank goodness Boston pulled out.We have another great road couse to watch.

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