Sunday, July 25, 2010

Jamie McMurray Takes Brickyard - Completes Ganassi Trifecta

Jamie McMurray took the lead on the final restart at the 2010 Brickyard 400 and never looked back, completing the Ganassi Racing sweep of the Daytona 500, Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400. Kevin Harvick held off Greg Biffle for second place. McMurray's teammate Juan Pablo Montoya crashed out late after having the dominant car for most of the race. Mark Martin ran strong early and Tony Stewart made a late charge but it was a day for the Ganassi boys to show their stuff. It was also a day for track position as whoever got in front usually stayed there. The surprise of the day was the poor showing for Hendrick teammates Jimmy Johnson and Jeff Gordon who both ran into trouble and were never serious contenders for the win.

The following slideshow captures some of the action from my Turn 3 vantage point, where the cars seemed to bounce through the corner, often running below the white line near the grass. It was really a shame that Montoya found the Turn 4 wall but he found himself back in the pack after his last pit stop when others, including McMurray, took only two tires while his team elected to go with four. That was pretty much the race, as Juan caromed off the wall and collected Dale Earnhardt Jr to thoroughly ruin the day for the Hendrick team. It was not nearly as hot and steamy today in Indy as the first two days of the Brickyard weekend, and the crwod was nowhere near what it had been for prior events here. For at least the second year in a row, the Indy 500 crowd was substantially larger than the Brickyard crowd. I would think that would concern NASCAR perhaps moreso than IMS. For the 17th year running on the world's most famous racetrack, NASCAR still put on a show for the diehards who braved the weather and stuck it out to the finish.

Brickyard 400 - It's Race Day in Indianapolis!

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is open for business and the 17th running of the Brickyard 400 is just hours away. Early morning rain showers have moved through and given way to a beautiful Indiana Sunday morning as race fans began filing into the Speedway after the 7 a.m. bomb went off. I got in just before 6 and have set up in the IMS media center for what promises to be a very interesting and exciting day. I have not mapped out my race day strategy entirely as yet and am waiting to see if there will be any new information revealed at the scheduled 10 a.m. photo meeting. This is the first year in all the years I've been covering the Brickyard that I was unable to attend any of the practice or qualifying sessions. With Juan Pablo Montoya on pole and Jimmy Johnson alongside in the front row, I see no reason at this point to vary from my pre-race predictions. I would add a darkhorse pick of Ryan Newman who starts fifth today.

I would like to congratulate former Indy 500 and F1 champ Jacques Villeneuve for making the race and kudos to Max Papis and JJ Yeley as well. of the 43 starters, I count 13 with major open wheel experience so if the track gets greasy in the heat today, these are guys who likely will be able to manage their tires and make progress to the front. I was especially happy to see Michael McDowell make the show as I continue to follow him after having done some work for him during his ARCA career a few years ago. I'm heading to the garage area now to see what's going on and will have more later.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Will Power Survives Toronto Indycar Fight: Hatfields & McCoys Come to Indy This Weekend

There's an old saying in racing that there are drivers who have hit the wall and drivers who are going to hit the wall. No one is immune from crashing, and this past weekend's Indycar race in Toronto say the wrecking in almost epidemic proportions, from Helio Castroneves running over Vitor Meira to Ryan Hunter-Reay's hip-check of Scott Dixon. Usually we expect the bottom half of the field to find concrete but lately in the Indycars, it seems to be just about everyone. Even the Tour de France seems to have been infected with crash-itis as lots of riders have gone done in all sorts of circumstances - even Lance Armstrong hit the pavement, and not just once, but three times in one stage. So now NASCAR comes to Indy for the Brickyard 400 and short track events at O'Reilly Raceway Park. What sort of weekend can we expect with this wrecking influenza sweeping up racers left and right?

More of the same would be my guess. From the post race fallout after Toronto, someone will probably have to knock Will Power out of the way as he will be the man to beat in Edmonton this weekend. He's leading the Indycar road race championship with three more road courses remaining on the schedule. In NASCAR, feuds aplenty exist with Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards going at it again this past weekend. The "have at it" attitude which has prevailed in NASCAR is likely to play out at Indy in the corners where the track has historically only offered one groove and passes will be hard to come by. As depicted in my lead photo, Kurt Busch and Jimmy Spencer found that out the hard way in Turn 3 a few years ago and plenty of other examples exist from the Brickyard. The Bodine brothers spinning each other out in the first Brickyard. Robbie Gordon and Greg Biffle doing a synchronized spin in Turn 1 a couple of years ago. Busch and Kevin Harvick going to the wall together in Turn 2 more recently. With Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and a number of other high profile drivers on long losing streaks, something will have to give and I would expect some desperate moves once the final pit stops have been made. Can you say "Green, white, checker" three times? How about "checkers or wreckers?" Someone will keep the fenders on and win Sunday but you know there will be controversy. Hopefully not like the tire debacle of two years ago and I'd really hate to see a pit lane "violation" take out a sure race winner like Juan Pablo Montoya last year.

It's hard not to be on alert for something highly unusual for the Brickyard however. There was lots of talk about a "fix" being in for Little E in the recent Daytona Nationwide race when he ran his daddy's Wrangler paint scheme and the #3. Junior's fans will be out in droves to see him kiss the bricks Sunday, but Hoosiers Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart will be highly motivated and have legions of their own fans hoping they can take another victory at Indy. Jimmy Johnson has to be the favorite again this weekend; even though he hasn't been running great lately, he knows how to get to the front at the Speedway. I'd like to see Montoya run with the red mist this year and take back what was taken from him last year. His style is perfect for Indy and it's about time he won an oval race.

Let the feudin', fussin' and fightin' begin. Gentlemen, start those tow trucks. Better have the flatbed hauler ready just in case.