Monday, August 29, 2011

Sonoma Observations

Here's a couple of observations from this past weekend's Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma:

-We again have a legitimate championship fight on our hands. Will Power looked like he was almost out of this fight just a few races ago, but after winning at Sonoma, he's only 26 points back. Remember, though, the last two events of the season are ovals, which would seem to work in Dario's favor. Power needs to hope for very good weekends at both Baltimore and Motegi--or Dario to have an uncharacteristic mistake or two.

-Speaking of championships, Will Power is now only 7 points behind Dario for the Mario Andretti Road Course Trophy. It would seem like he's going to have a pretty good shot at it--first one to blink on a twisty between he and Dario will probably lose that one.

-Penske Racing hasn't gone 1-2-3 since 1994. It doesn't seem like that'd be the case, but it really has been that long. It was a great day for the Penske team, which looked very much back in prime form.

-I thought Helio might push Will Power at the end, but a) He only had 3 Push To Pass uses left to Will's 12, b) he wasn't about to wreck his teammate after his lessons earlier in the year, and c) he just didn't have the car, especially on that dirty of a track. It's not the victory he wanted, but a podium can't seem too bad right now.

-The Rookie of the Year battle couldn't be much closer right now. With another Top 10, James Hinchcliffe moves to only 3 points behind JR Hildebrand. Assuming Hinch goes to Japan, this one's definitely looking like it's going down to the wire.

-On the topic of rookies, Martin Plowman gets my votes for the Firestone Tire-riffic move of the race. Plowey did a good job all day, and his P12 represented some good on-track battling in a race that didn't have too much of it. He (along with Sam Schmidt Motorsports, Kingdom Racing, and Snowball Express) should be proud of the effort.
Plowey and his car's livery both stood out Sunday.
(Courtesy IndyCar Media)

-I felt really bummed for Giorgio Pantano getting penalized all the way back to P17 from P6. I think a less harsh penalty could have been applied for the infraction, but there's no doubting Pantano's got real talent.

-Watching Ho-Pin Tung's racing earlier in the event, I grimly predicted he would be the first one out--his driving style just didn't seem geared towards preservation. It took until Lap 63, but Tung gave us our only yellow on the day.

-Having Simona de Silvestro stranded overseas with immigration problems has to fall directly into the "how can it get any worse?" line of querying for their season. I can't add much there, except a) I hope she's back for Baltimore, and b) it makes you hate bureaucracy just a little bit more.

-It was a rough day for Andretti Autosport, with Ryan Hunter-Reay their only driver in the Top 10. Conway faded in the second half, finishing P16, and Marco Andretti finished P24 after needing a wing replaced. Danica Patrick finished P21, and appears to be getting short-timer's with IndyCar, if her interviews and commentary are any indication.

-On a positive note, it's great to hear Marco will be rockin' the RC Cola livery in 2012. That still leaves the question of which driver will be in the GoDaddy car...and yes, Dan Wheldon's name does keep popping up.

-Overall, I think even the most die-hard fan had to admit Sonoma had a lack of on-track passing for the most part, which didn't do too much for the overall excitement level. Still, this is a race that helped tighten up the championship and Rookie of the Year battles, so there are some positive things to take away as well. Not every race is going to be non-stop thrills, but Sonoma could definitely do with a bit more in the way of passing and the like if the series returns there.

-On the plus side, I heard nothing but good things about race attendance, and Infineon remains big for schmoozing sponsors. I'm not sure if the race will be back yet next year (I personally think it's about 50/50), but let's hope the new cars, engines, and perhaps a couple of tweaks to the track make the race as appealing as the Sonoma weather and landscape.

-Oh, and Pippa Mann took the time to give my daughter a shoutout on Twitter for the 7th birthday. That was pretty special, and the sort of thing fans don't forget.

So, with only four races left, the series gets ready for an all-new course for the Baltimore Grand Prix. We'll see what news we hear in the lead-up to that this weekend!

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