Sunday, August 3, 2008

Brickyard Redux - Kentucky Indycars Next

A few final thoughts on the 2008 Brickyard to consider:

Does NASCAR need to look at repositioning the exhaust from its current location? Judging from this photo of Sam Hornish lifting to negotiate Turn 1 at Indy during qualifying, I'm wondering if this wasn't a contributing factor for the right rear tire problems. Certainly looks like it could have been, knowing how much everyone had to lift off the gas to make it through the corners.

Not a bad day for the open wheel guys after all. Nothing torn up except for Juan Pablo's tire failure early in the day. Yeley, Newman, Hornish, McDowell , Allmendinger et al managed to get to the finish which is more than can be said for some of the stock car regulars. And anyone that knows me knows I pull for the open wheel guys first and foremost. Awful day for Stewart though, and I'm glad he left before talking to the media. His radio show comments the next day seemed out of character, but then he had just had a run-in with USAC officials at ORP during the weekend, so maybe he was feeling gracious. Or just being sarcastic, more likely.

I was especially pleased to see Michael McDowell get to the end with his MWR Toyota in one piece.

Saturday morning I had been walking around the team haulers in the garage area annex and got the chance to shake his hand and talk to him briefly to wish him well. After doing some photo work for him last year during his ARCA season, I have a special appreciation for what he is dealing with and always hope he does well. His Texas crash earlier this year was unbelievable and the guy manning the MWR souvenir trailer told me that Mikey almost broke Dale Jarrett's arm punching him while watching the whole thing unfold from the top of their hauler that day. Funny the stories you hear at the race track sometimes. Now I've got a McDowell t-shirt to go with the ARCA stuff from last year so I hope he puts on a charge the rest of this season as he gets back to some tracks he's already run on once.

But enough about NASCAR. The following slide show will let you see some other things I saw.

Now I'm focusing my sights on going to Kentucky Speedway this coming weekend to shoot the Indy Racing League and Firestone Indy Lights races for American Motor Journal. Kentucky is a fun track to shoot and I've been fortunate to get there several times over the last couple of years. I went to the very first IRL race they held at Kentucky several years ago and the access is much improved since then. That race was where I first discovered Sam Hornish Jr. and immediately became a fan as he drove the wheels off an underfunded (as usual) PDM entry and battled Jacques Lazier wheel to wheel for about 30 laps. Kentucky also means there are only four more points races for the IRL season title and anything can happen, even though Dixon would clearly have to be labeled the favorite with 2 ovals and 2 road courses left. I will get to go to Chicagoland in September for the points finale again this year. If the points chase is half as exciting as last year at the Joliet track, IRL fans are in for a real treat once again. Some people don't like the 1.5 mile tracks but they are great for showcasing wheel to wheel racing at its best, especially now that Michigan is no longer on the schedule.

Speaking of schedules, the 2009 IRL schedule is out already. Rumors about the demise of Nashville have proven true, being replaced by the street race in Toronto. No big surprise there, since Andretti is the promoter and Toronto has always been well attended. Other race dates have been shuffled for next season and I still expect Surfer Paradise to slot in between Motegi and Homestead as a points race next year which would give Indycars 19 races, 9 of which would be on road or street courses. I hate to see ovals drop from the schedule, especially ones which have supported the IRL from the early days, but Nashville is essentially a one groove track, and the teams have never really been able to come to terms with the concrete surface to get a second lane worked in for better racing. I will miss the road trip and I sure feel badly for the folks in Tennessee who have supported this event and their home track. But there's more money to be made elsewhere and unification will bring other pressures on the schedule in the future.

Now if the IRL can get a season sponsor and a better TV deal, maybe some of that pressure goes away. It will be interesting to follow over the coming months. It is hard to believe the season is almost over already, as this summer has flown past. It won't be long before I ask "Is It May Yet" and we'll do it all over again in 2009. But Kentucky is next, so Sparta here I come!

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