Saturday, August 29, 2009
My personal favorite Indy Lights driver is Ana Beatriz, who I saw win her first race at Nashville in 2008, and who had a wicked crash at Indy near me in May. I got this shot as practice wound down and the team was doing lots of work trying to tweak her shocks for qualifying. She ended up fourth quick in the practice session and should be a leading contender in the race today. I hope she can graduate to IRL next season!
Back with more later. Indy Lights qualifying is next followed by the Lights race and then IRL under the lights. Both should be entertaining. Ryan Briscoe is on pole for the IRL feature and I'm still not ready to make my pick yet...
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
The other big news heading into the home stretch of the IRL season is that Danica won't be waving goodbye to the Indycar series as she is reported to be close to signing a deal with Andretti Green Racing, and next year Michal Andretti will be the sole owner, as his partners in AGR are going to focus their efforts on the Andretti Green Promotions company that promotes IRL events in Toronto and elsewhere. I was wrong a month or so ago when I guessed that Danica might jump to Penske but regardless, having her stay in the IRL is an essential element for the series to grow in popularity as far as I am concerned. Just judging from the number of people at the tracks (men, women, little girls - it doesn't matter) wearing Danica gear, it is obvious that when speaking of the IRL, they know about Danica. We really can't afford to lose her, and especially not to NASCAR. While AGR hasn't done much for her on the track this year, the team seems to be getting its act together, so maybe she can repeat in Japan or steal a win at Chicago or Homestead.
Scott Dixon, on the other hand, is almost too cool for his own good sometimes, but man does he know how to peddle it and save fuel on the ovals. Third in the standings doesn't mean he is out of contention by any means, and I'm hoping this weekend has a similar fantastic finish as they had at Chicagoland in 2007 when the race wasn't decided until the last turn of the last lap. And it was fuel that made the difference that time, with Dixon sputtering and Dario flashing by to take the win and the season title. After getting punted by Marco Andretti on the last lap at Sonoma this past weekend, I'm sure Scotty D will have something up his sleeve for everyone this weekend. Dixon apparently took a look at jumping to Gil de Ferran's new team for 2010 but that was probably just for bargaining leverage. Lord knows with the success he has had at Target Ganassi, that would be awfully hard to match with a new team. He's in the best seat in the house right now and he's still the man to beat for the season title. I know he won't go down without a fight.
And the fight could come from inside the Target team, as Dario has done a fantastic job this year after his NASCAR "vacation" and he clearly knows how to win races and season titles. He has looked really relaxed all season long and seems to be enjoying his return to open wheel. Certainly his results warrant the show of confidence that Ganassi provided by bringing him back to the IRL when the taxicab money went poof. His Chicagoland win of 2007 was the capper to an awesome season for Dario and the new long, curly locks contrast sharply with the high & tight look he had that year. No one should doubt Dario's willingness to take chances to win these last three races and he appears to be as fearless as ever, despite the aerial shows he put on at Michigan and Nashville in 2007 during his championship season. We'll have none of that this weekend, if you please. I've always liked Dario and I just wish they would leave Mrs. Franchitti out of the broadcasts as I really think she'd much rather just let Dario have the spotlight. Why else would she wear the same floppy hat every race?
Which finally brings me to the man everyone is chasing: Ryan Briscoe. He's been strong all season and he has certainly resurrected his career with his results at Penske Racing. Most IRL fans will remember the awesome wreck he was in at Chicagoland a few years back driving for (guess who?) Chip Ganassi, during the season of crashes for the team when he and Dixon wadded up a number of underpowered Toyota-engined Target cars trying to stay with the leaders. And after his tangle with Danica at the Indy 500 in 2008 followed some early season struggles, a win at Milwaukee last year sure righted his ship and Captain Penske has been unwavering in his support of Ryan. That's good news for the team but bad news for anyone not driving a red and white car this weekend, I'm afraid, as he snookered Ed Carpenter at Texas in June in the closest finish of the year and he will surely be part of any photo finish this weekend at Chicagoland.
This track has a history of many of the closest IRL finishes ever, so I am really looking forward to getting back there for my fourth IRL race in a row at the track. The Indy Lights are also on the agenda Saturday, following ARCA and the Camping World Truck series Friday night which I will probably miss due to other commitments. I expect to be posting from the media center at various times Saturday and I will save my prediction for the IRL race winner until I've had a few whiffs of ethanol exhaust. Stop by again soon, or come find me at the track if you make it out. I'll be accompanied by my able assistant this weekend so it should be a blast!
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Saturday, August 8, 2009
It was a busy day at Mid Ohio with cars on the track shortly after 8 a.m. past 6:45 p.m. when I left. The Indy Lights series made their first appearance on the track early in the day and it rained during the last 20 minutes of the IRL practice session which follwed the Lights. That meant the ALMS cars had a wet track for their final warm-up session and the Lights had a drying track to contend with, so tire changes and dropping lap times marked the Lights qualifying. By the time the IRL qualifying began, the track was fully dry, and it was fun to watch the knockout qualifying as teams went from the "blacks" to the "reds" optional tires to set faster and faster times as the session went on. Ryan Briscoe took pole from the vastly improved Dale Coyne Racing team and its driver Justin Wilson who will start second. Briscoe's IRL pole time was about two mph quicker than the ALMS P1 pole it has been extremely interesting to see how each series attacks this undulating road course.
Sunday should be a lot of fun as there are still two races to cover with the Lights going off first in the morning and the Indycars following in the early afternoon. I've walked at least five miles today trying to hit all the angles I could think of, so tomorrow will likely involve more of the same. Passing will be difficult for the IRL cars, even with the push-to-pass feature in play, so it may come down to pit work and track position at the front. If Wilson can get the jump on Briscoe at the start, that could set the tone for the race.
Friday, August 7, 2009
The Indycars didn't get on track until late in the afternoon and you really needed a program today to keep everything straight. Robert Doornbos bailed out of Newman Haas Lanigan this week and is a teammate to EJ Viso at HVM this weekend. Oriol Servia jumped right into "Bobby D's" former seat and spent the afternoon session getting comfortable in the 06 car, not having been in an Indycar since May at the Indy 500. And who was in the 5 car normally piloted by Mario Moraes but Paul Tracy? I thought the helmet style with the Monster energy drink logos looked odd! The IRL and Lights qualifying sessions are tomorrow for Sunday races so it should be an interesting day. It is supposed to be close to 90 degrees the rest of the weekend so that will surely test everyone's stamina.I covered about two-thirds of the track today and tried to go where the light was best. One of the great things about shooting road racing, especially at a track like Mid Ohio, is the variety of cars and angles to photograph. Now I'm sitting in a Super 8 and watching the Rolex cars at Watkins Glen on Speed TV, so it doesn't get much better than this. If only the photo meeting weren't so darn early tomorrow!
Saturday, August 1, 2009
I'm in the media center writing this now so I hope to have a further update before I leave the track tonight. Someone just came in and said it is raining. I drove through rain near Madison on the Kentucky side of the river on my way here this morning so nothing would surprise the reigenmeister, although this year my luck has been pretty good so far. I hope Versus will stay with the race tonight, although my recorder is set for the slated time, so we'll see what happens.