Random Thoughts On Road America

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Greetings from 39,000 feet, somewhere over between Milwaukee and Nashville, as I type. I’ve now had about twenty-four hours to digest what I saw Sunday at Road America. But this will still be an abbreviated post-race article compared to others.

Please keep in mind, I have not seen the NBCSN broadcast of the race. It will probably be mid-week before I have a chance to see it. But I was there and was able to see video boards, even though we moved around throughout the race. We saw the start from Turn One and then moved to Turn Three for a little bit. We then moved to the Carousel portion of the track before doing the path along Kettle Bottoms and down to Canada Corner – stopping for a little bit at several places along the way. We finally rested just inside Turn Fourteen, the last turn as the cars head onto the main straightaway and make the long climb up to the start-finish line.

That was a good spot because it was not crowded at all and there was a large video board right there. It also put us very close to the cars as they veered off to the right to go into the pits. We spent most of the second half of the race in that spot.

From what I saw with my own eyes, the video boards and little snippets I saw online afterwards – it looked like there was a lot of good racing going on. If you look at the score sheet and see that Josef Newgarden led fifty-three of fifty-five laps, you would conclude that it was a parade. It wasn’t.

But that didn’t stop many from whining on social media that there was no action and it was a terrible race. There were no crashes in this race and no passes for the lead. Is that what people insist on seeing before they can declare a race a success? I’ve always said that the best race is where there are no crashes, but a lot of compelling action on track. That’s what I saw on Sunday.

I saw a clip on Facebook on Monday that showed a three-way battle between Alexander Rossi, Robert Wickens and Takuma Sato. Sato made a daring move on the outside of Rossi going into Turn Five. Going up the hill toward the Corvette bridge, Rossi got even with Sato and had the line going into the left-handed Turn Six. They seemed to touch wheels and Sato went off into the grass and fell behind Rossi and Wickens. It seems odd that whenever fans complain that there is no action, it’s always Alexander Rossi that can find a way to pass when no one else can. Is that just a coincidence?

I saw some other clips, one involving Graham Rahal, who again moved up and finished sixth. But there were others. So if you’re judging a race by how many on-track passes for the lead there were, you’re going to be a frustrated race fan more often that not.

TV Coverage: Again, I have not seen any of the race coverage; but I’ll offer this as a follow up to my last paragraph. Near the end of their run. ABC/ESPN forged a well-earned reputation for focusing primarily on the leader, while ignoring some great battles for position. NBCSN, on the other hand, has done a much better job of finding the best battles on the track, while keeping tabs on the leader. I am assuming they did the same on Sunday.

But I am anxious to sit down in front of the television and watch the race on my DVR. Unfortunately, it will probably be Wednesday or Thursday before I can complete watching it.

Points Shake-Up: At the beginning of the season, Will Power couldn’t buy a break. He was tenth heading into the Month of May. But then he became the first driver to sweep the IndyCar Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500, putting him in first place at the end of May. He had decent results at Belle Isle, but cashed at Texas. Then Sunday, something obviously went very wrong with his Chevy engine at the start and Power dropped from his front row start to about seventh coming out of Turn One. He limped around and made it to the pits and that was about it. Power left Elkhart Lake a distant fifth in points, and fifteen points behind his fourth place teammate Josef Newgarden.

Does Power have another surge in him to pick up another two or three victories, or is he into another slump of the season. Most likely, his title aspirations are out the window but he can still realistically salvage a Top-Three in points.

With Alexander Rossi having his own issues, Ryan Hunter-Reay was able to jump from fourth to tied for second with Rossi. That’s quite an accomplishment because before Detroit, Hunter-Reay’s season had been going the way Power’s had. But by finishing second on Sunday, Hunter-Reay is now a legitimate title contender and will probably be right there heading into Sonoma.

But by producing another podium finish, Scott Dixon has extended his points lead to forty-five over Hunter-Reay. When you look back at the early part of the season when Scott Dixon was having disastrous qualifying efforts, but was still able to produce decent finishes – you knew that if he could figure out qualifying that he would become a force to be reckoned with. He has.

I think this is going to be a very entertaining second half of the season. It seems that few drivers are able to put together a consistent run. Just when you think someone is on a roll and untouchable, they have a bad weekend and let their competitors back in the chase. This is going to be fun.

All in all: There was an IndyCar race at one of the most iconic race tracks in the world and some people seem to be complaining about it. From what I saw, I thought it was a good race. But to be honest, the racing was almost an afterthought.

For the third year in a row, I was at a place I’ve quickly fallen in love with, just in case you haven’t been able to tell from what I’ve posted over the past several days. I was with my wife, who probably loves Road America more than I do. Even counting the Month of May, this has become Susan’s favorite race weekend. We also got a reprieve from the hot humid weather in Nashville – after dealing with highs in the sixties and seventies for a few days, it was 92° when we landed in Nashville last night at 6:15. There was also the fabulous food we experienced at the track during the day and away from the track each night.

We got to experience three full days of race cars on track at a storied venue, topped off with the Verizon IndyCar Series race on Sunday, which I thought happened to be a very good race – what could be better?. All in all, we had a phenomenal time and we can’t wait to go back next year – which is now confirmed, with IndyCar and Road America announcing a three-year extension this weekend. If you’re thinking about going but you’re a little unsure, e-mail me at geophillips14@gmail.com and I’ll be glad to answer any questions – and I’ll try t be truthful, even though I’m just slightly biased.

George Phillips

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9 Responses to “Random Thoughts On Road America”

  1. S0CSeven Says:

    OK, I have to say it.

    Rossi is a butt-hole who learned his racecraft in European racing.
    If he wants to pass you (Sato) the solution is to run you off the track.
    If you are being passed (Wickens) the solution is to run you off the track.

    Why did Rossi finish where he did?………. well it’s impossible with bravery and skill to get past him.

    PT and the stewards seemed to agree with the outcome but I’ll tell you this…… If running your competitors off the track so NO passing for the upper positions is possible …….. then why bother watching.

    And the most annoying part? Rossi acting all smug and smiley face saying that if he got away with it once he might as well do it again.

    …………… “click”……………..

    • BrandonWright77 Says:

      I politely disagree. Rossi was fully alongside both of them at the turn-in point and the IndyCar rules state that if you are fully alongside you have a valid claim to the corner and you also won’t be penalized for “avoidable contact” (see St. Pete). This was good, hard racing, plain and simple, Rossi got his elbows out and raced hard but fair which is what I thought we all wanted. Both Sato and Wickens knew they had lost the corner and had plenty of opportunity to back out of it and mount an attack into turn 1 but chose not to, if there’s any blame to be placed (there’s not in my opinion) it would fall more on their shoulders. (Note: I’m a big fan of all three of these drivers so no favoritism here)

      If Mario or A.J. or P.T. or Dale Sr. or Senna or any of the greats from the past had made a move like that everyone would be talking about what a badass they were, but in today’s world people complain about it and think it needs penalized. I really don’t get the double-standard there. I do not want to see racing where drivers pussyfoot around doing their best to avoid every little contact and not hurt anyone’s feelings, that’s not racing but that seems to be where we’re headed with everyone calling for the head of anyone who actually tries to “race”.

      Just my opinion, mine is neither more right or wrong than yours and I say all this with the mind that we’re racing fans talking racing over a friendly pint and not the typical internet “IF YOU DISAGREE WITH MY YOU’RE WRONG AND EVIL” attitude so please don’t take it as such. But personally I do not want to see a world of racing where these types of moves are discouraged or penalized because that will discourage drivers from ever taking a chance or trying to make a move, and that would no longer be racing.

      Cheers. 🙂

      • S0CSeven Says:

        I hear you Brandon, but I want to see the reaction when someone runs Dixie or Joenew off the track or into the wall …. because they have ‘the line’. If it’s good for one driver, it’s good for them all.

        And btw, although I have deleted the recording, It seems to me that Sato had made the pass and Rossi was coming back on him.

  2. Ron Ford Says:

    What he said.

  3. BrandonWright77 Says:

    Regardless of right or wrong, IndyCar needs a villain and Rossi is shaping up to be that guy. Even though I’ve been a fan for years I’m totally ok with him being the villain and bringing back some friendly rivalry that we’ve been missing for awhile now.

  4. I really enjoyed the race and NBCSN’s coverage on Sunday. I also went back today to re-watch some of the highlights. Still wondering why there was not a penalty for what I thought was an unsafe release of Wickens from his pitbox. Next year in Wisconsin for me, at least I hope so.

  5. I don’t think that crashes and passing appease everyone, though passing is nice. As I argue with my NASCAR people, I think the real issue is the fact that racing is not a sport of attrition anymore. The drivers are so juiced up on supplements and the cars are virtually indestructible from part failures . At least back in the old days if a guy you didn’t like was leading all the laps you could have hope he might fatigue or the car have issues. There is no suspense any longer. The race weekend starts with 37 hours of practice so the cars are dialed in 100% by qualifying, the best cars start up front and end up front.

    • BrandonWright77 Says:

      Totally agree with this. Some often say “Yeah, but 20 years ago the two leaders would have the rest of the field multiple laps down” but back then there was always the specter of mechanical failure hanging over them so no lead was every comfortable and the race could get turned on its head in an instant. The other thing is that the track didn’t get littered with tire marbles nearly as bad as they do today so there was often a second groove available which lead to……..overtaking!

      I go back and watch some of those races on the YouTube and even the races where the leader has lapped most/all of the field are generally more entertaining than most of the modern races where random attrition is a rarity and there’s 20 cars on the lead lap driving around single file. To me it’s not the lack of overtaking that makes some of these races a bit boring, it’s the the predicability lack of randomness.

  6. andrew/brandon…thanks.
    y’all said it better than i could.

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