Monday, September 5, 2011

Baltimore Observations

About midway through the Baltimore race, I sighed as my Twitter blew up. In fact, here's a recounting of the prevailing fan mood on Twitter and generally online throughout the weekend.

9:38 AM Friday: Track not finished. Delayed. INDYCAR IS FINISHED. THIS EVENT IS A JOKE ON A CATASTROPHIC SCALE. Optimism Meter: 2 (out of 10)

5:00 PM Friday: Large crowds reported. IndyCars on track after delay. Signs of hope, but THE CHICANES WILL RUIN EVERYTHING. THIS EVENT IS A JOKE.
Optimism Meter: A cautious 5.5

Optimism Meter: 8

2:50 PM Sunday: Cars make it through Turn 1 without a major incident. Everyone is relieved, and immensely surprised.
Optimism Meter: 8.5

3:40 PM Sunday: Traffic jam. Chaos reigns. It takes a while to get sorted out. People are moved further back than is the prevailing wisdom. MASS DEFECTIONS TO NASCAR, F1, AND POSSIBLY COMMUNIST CHINA.
Optimism Meter: -77

...And so on.

We are a mercurial bunch, aren't we, IndyCar fans? We live in an age of instant gratification and communication, which means it's very easy to immediately react to whatever's going on. As it was, I thought things worked out pretty well overall. Despite the logjam in the middle of the race, it seems like the event was well-received, had some decent passing, and a lot of different strategies at play. Let's hope the Baltimore Grand Prix irons out some of the wrinkles that a first-time event is bound to have. And hopefully, we can be a little patient in waiting for that diagnosis.

Here's a few additional observations on the Baltimore Grand Prix:

-We definitely can't get in a much closer championship points battle than we have with three races remaining. Will Power dominated the last half of this race, and was rewarded by closing within 5 points of Dario Franchitti for the series championship. A lot can happen in the next two race, but it would seem it's going to again come down to Vegas. For the Rookie of the Year battle, James Hinchcliffe and JR Hildebrand remain only 3 points apart, with Hinch confirmed for Japan.

-Reports from Baltimore overall seemed very good, despite the early delays on track construction. Hopefully the considerable crowds return in Year 2. I do believe the chicanes will be gone next year, much to the relief of apparently the entire internet. The train tracks seemed to be a non-factor, which was nice.

-Tony Kanaan was awesome. You can pencil him in for Firestone Tire-riffic Move of the race (which is almost unfair to Oriol Servia, considering how much butt he kicked as well). He went from one of the scariest moments this season (flying over Helio's car when his brakes went out) to a podium finish. I don't know how many more wins TK has left in his future (I'd suspect a few), but few drivers have provided as much drama over the years.
You deserve that drink, fellas.
(Courtesy IndyCar Media)

-Martin Plowman finished just outside the Top 10 as the highest-finishing rookie. Plowey wrapped up his three races in IndyCar this year, and I personally think he did a fine job. He stayed out of trouble, made some good passes, and even collected a Firestone Tire-riffic Move award along the way. Hopefully, he's in a car when we start the 2012 season.

-I'm still not sure what all happened in the extended full course yellow of the mid-race traffic jam, but it was exacerbated by Marco Andretti's car spilling oil all over pit lane. I don't think the extension of the yellow did much for the fans' mood online, especially since the restart order was such a headache.

-Seriously, aside from the giant mess in the middle, this was almost an amazingly clean race, especially after the incidents in warm-up. Just when we think we have IndyCar figured out...

-It was great to see Simona de Silvestro back. The fans have definitely taken a liking to the Iron Maiden, and hopefully she can be just as competitive at Motegi in two weeks.

-Vitor Meira and Foyt Racing had a quiet but good weekend. There's never much hoopla around Vitor, but he goes out there and scraps every race. Cheers, sir.

-James Jakes and S├ębastien Bourdais deserved better this weekend. This team has come a long way, and mechanical failure/bad luck ruined what was shaping up to be a great race for both drivers.

-You could tell the race was simply an exhausting one. Power seemed completely wiped out in victory lane, and he wasn't the only driver showing extreme fatigue.

-Meanwhile, Josef Newgarden basically clinched the Firestone Indy Lights championship Sunday, and you have to think he's got a bright future in the IZOD IndyCar Series. Meanwhile, the USF2000 season ended with a Spencer Pigot victory (Petri Suvanto is series champ), and Tristan Vautier extended his lead with a win in the Star Mazda Series--he just needs to start the final race of the season to win the series title over Connor de Phillippi.

Enjoy your Labor Day, get some rest, and go IndyCar!


  1. I think that the delay in getting the course ready is excusable. We had a hurricane come through here less than a week before practice on Friday. I live in the Philadelphia area and have a lot of friends and family that live in the Baltimore area. A lot of people were without power for 4-5 days and there was significant flooding after the storm. I'm sure that they lost a few days of preparations as a result. That considered, its actually pretty impressive that they only lost about 5 hours of practice time on Friday. I'm sure they had a lot of contingencies built into the schedule but a hurricane probably wasn't one of them.

    They had huge crowds throughout the weekend. There was a festival atmosphere and I'm sure everyone had a great time. They need to eliminate the chicane and some other issues with the track but all in all I'd call the event a success.

  2. Yeah, the delay wasn't a big worry to me. It's a first-time street course coming off a hurricane threat. I think we can be generous. :)