Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Indycar Spotlight on Milwaukee After Texas Fallout

Dario Franchitti

Best Viewed in Google Chrome!

Dario Franchitti won one battle at Texas Motor Speedway last Saturday night but hopes he didn't lose the war. After winning the first race in the Twin 275's at Texas, the made-for-TV draw for starting positions in the second race relegated him to 28th and even though he fought his way back to a 7th place finish, he still lost 14 points in the season championship to Will Power. Starting 3rd based on the draw, Power had a relatively easy cruise to a win in the second 275 and Dario was fit to be tied afterward. The likable and normally very cool Scotsman had plenty to say when the evening was over, and not all of it was fit to print. I can't say I blame him for being irate as the lottery draw played well with fans and drivers who got good starting spots, like Tony Kanaan, but Dario certainly has a point about its potential effect on the series championship point standings. Something must be done for next year to correct this inequity, as it now stands as the only race where drivers do not have to earn their starting spot. Having the fast guys run through the pack to the front was definitely exciting, but the series can do better than this.

If they stick with the Twin 275 format in 2012, many have suggested inverting the field for the second 275 based on results from the first race. At least then everyone is at the same relative disadvantage. Lots of variations on this theme are possible, such as inverting the top 8 or 10 finishers to at least reward them for good performances in the first race. I'd rather see them race their way to determine starting spots. Why not have two 50 lap dashes for no points to determine the main race lineup? Run it like a short track event where the field gets split based on qualifying times into two heats and then line them up for the main race based on how they finish in their heats. The main race could be longer as teams wouldn't end up running any more laps on the night than they would have under the Twin 275 format, and the fans would actually get to see more racing in the process.

While the Texas weekend results on track will likely be debated the rest of this season, the television numbers were up compared to 2010, so that is good. Those numbers are still woefully small but improvement remains a good thing, and this follows on the heels of a fairly solid TV showing for the Indy 500 just two weeks before Texas. Now the Indycar crews prepare for their first short oval of the season, at Milwaukee's State Fair Park this weekend, and while I should be preparing to shoot this race, another credential snafu unfortunately means I will be couch racing Sunday. I would expect that Dario will not have cooled down much by Sunday and his main therapy would consists of winning this race in dominating fashion. Power has finally gotten his first oval win, but the circumstances merit and asterisk. As much as I like Will, I still think Dario will be the man to beat this weekend. It burns me that I can't be there to get pictures of what should be a thoroughly entertaining short oval weekend.

Pippa Mann
On another note, it is great to see Pippa Mann earn some rewards for her smooth and steady May at Indianapolis. With the recently announced three race deal at Rahal Letterman Lanigan, Pippa will have a chance to show her oval track wares at New Hampshire, Kentucky and Las Vegas. I know she will do the team proud and, as Bertrand Baguette showed in this year's Indy 500, that team knows how to put a fast car on the track. Here's hoping that all the #hirepippa work her fans and friends have done on Twitter over the last year will result in a full season ride for her in 2012. Indycar has an awesome group of Lady Racers and Pippa deserves to be running with them on a full time basis in my opinion.

SunTrust Grand Am team during test at IMS September 2009

Finally, it looks like the 2009 Grand Am test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway may finally pay off in a road course race at Indy during the Brickyard 400 weekend next year. Something has to be done to shore up Brickyard attendance and s sports car enduro to kick off the weekend could be part of the package. Let's run 600k into the twilight on Friday night after all the stock car teams are done for the day! If they bring the Nationwide Series in for a Saturday race, the combination would do much for what has become a boring Sprint Cup parade with too little action on the track spread over three days to keep fans interested. SInce NASCAR owns Grand Am something will likely happen and the Speedway can't keep showing all the empty seats on television each year for the Sprint Cup race. If it does happen, you can bet a lot of Sprint Cup drivers will partner up with Grand Am teams to get more road racing experience and from my experience at the 2009 test date, it would be well received by fans in this area who turned out in droves to watch Grand Am find their way around IMS two years ago when nothing was at stake.

No comments: