This past weekend, we saw the venerable Dallara turned a wheel for the IZOD IndyCar Series on a road course. The race itself at Motegi wasn't a nail-biter, though a late restart certainly jumbled up the field. In the end, Scott Dixon ran away with this one, riding that new dad (well, new dad again) karma to the checkered flag.
Here are a couple of thoughts on the race:
-The later the evening got, the more punch-drunk the studio announcers sounded. I was pretty wiped as well, so I can get that, but it definitely wasn't a Peabody Award outing.
-Marco Andretti is the most infuriating fantasy driver in terms of results. Seriously, I had him pegged as a "drop" this weekend, and he grabs a podium. Ridiculous.
-A less generous man would note Helio did, in fact, drive like a Brazilian--past Danica, sometime around Lap 31. However, Danica did finish in front of TK--in fact, she finished in front of all the Brazilian driver. What does this mean? Not much. Two more races of Danica making waves every time she's interviewed, I suppose.
-Remaining with Helio for a moment, his comments after his penalty back to P22 are probably going to land him in some hot water. Further, we're to the point of the season where every penalty, non-penalty, or black flag is going to spark a mini-riot online. I'm not saying that Race Control hasn't had its issues this year, but that doesn't make every single incident a hallmark of injustice. Passing on a local yellow after being warned not to would seem to be pretty cut-and-dry.
-The first time I saw Sébastien Bourdais' incident with Ryan Hunter-Reay, I thought for sure it should have been a penalty. Seeing it again, it was just a racing incident, with Bourdais simply not having enough room from RHR for it not to happen.
-James Jakes had another blah finish, but for a while, it looked like he was about to vastly improve his TEAM standings. It's a shame about the stall in the pits, but that's how it goes. I'd like to think he can keep it up at Kentucky, but ovals might be a different story. We'll see.
-I know he's 13 points down to Will Power, but I still like Dario Franchitti's chances over these next two races. I think there's a good chance we're close to dead even going into Las Vegas.
-Speaking of Dario, I didn't really get into the entire penalty hubbub, but moving Dario to the back of the field, on top of his pit and positions already lost, seemed pretty consistent to me. If the driver doesn't lose considerable positions and pit, then we see a drive-thru. If they do lose position/pit, then no drive-thru.
-There weren't too many changes to the TEAM standings after Japan. HVM's #78 is now a point ahead of KV Racing's #59, but with two ovals finishing things out, I think Simona de Silvestro and company will be hard-pressed to deliver good results. I hope I'm wrong.
-I still like Conquest Racing's move to put J.P. de Oliveira in the car this weekend. It didn't work out, but they still showed some speed before their issues ended their day. With Dillon Battistini taking his rookie oval test for the team, we'll just have to wait and see how things come together for Kentucky. Battisitini isn't a poor driver, but a rookie on a pretty competitive oval is a tough scenario.
-Congrats to Will Power for winning the Mario Andretti Road Course Trophy. It seems pretty clear he's going to be racking up a couple more of those suckers.
-It wasn't an A+ race, but it wasn't Sonoma, either. For good or for ill, the current Dallara is done with road and street courses. I'm happy the series went to Japan, and I'm pretty sure 60k+ hardcore Japanese IndyCar fans are as well. We move on to the last two ovals, and the sunset for 2011.