Monday, October 3, 2011

Kentucky Observations

-I am sunburnt, tired, and have almost completely lost my voice from cheering like a madman. Yet I could not be happier. I was at Kentucky Speedway on Sunday, and I witnessed one of the best race finishes I've ever seen. Let's jump right into the observations.

We have to start with Ed Carpenter. He dueled one of the IZOD IndyCar Series' best, in a car with more of a budget than his Sarah Fisher Racing team could ever dream of. And after 113 IndyCar starts, he got a victory--one that no one can say was not beautifully earned.

Worth The Wait.
(Courtesy IndyCar Media)

We talk a lot about drivers "deserving" a win or a particular outcome. A lot of times, we stretch the meaning of that, I think, but if anyone deserved a win at Kentucky Speedway, it was this driver, this team. It's the sort of story you just can't improve on much.

What a fight--what a duel over those last 15 laps! My section absolutely exploded with cheering when Ed nosed ahead at the line. I don't know what 2012 holds for Sarah Fisher Racing or if Dollar General will be back as a sponsor, but that was a heck of a way to wind down the season.

-The pit lane incidents were scary from the stands, especially when Simona de Silvestro hit EJ Viso's crew member. He flew through the air like a rag doll, it seemed. It's a reminder that this is an inherently dangerous sport, and that the unexpected can happen at any time.

-While Scott Dixon wrapped up the AJ Foyt Oval Trophy on Sunday, both the Series championship and Sunoco Rookie of the Year fight are still coming down to Vegas. I think spotting Dario Franchitti 18 points coming into Las Vegas makes the odds pretty poor Will Power pulls it off now, unless there's some carbon fiber carnage on track. The ROY battle is perhaps even better, with James Hinchcliffe negating Panther's oval advantage by jumping to a 6-point lead over JR Hildebrand. The rookie battle likely comes down to whoever makes the fewest mistakes at Las Vegas.

-If you're looking to divide other performances into Good, Bad, and Ugly, I can give an example of each:

Good: Wade Cunningham. Made some smart moves and finished a strong P7 in a challenging field. He looked exceedingly sharp.

Bad: Will Power and JR Hildebrand have to share this one. Both had pit incidents, both lost leads over their rivals, and both should have finished higher than they did if things had just gone a bit differently.

Ugly: Ana Beatriz. There was the incident in pit road that might have destroyed Will Power's championship hopes, then she later crashed out in a single-car incident. Not what we want to see from her this late in the game for her rookie season.

-If he doesn't have his incident with Alex Lloyd, I think we're talking about Marco Andretti as Kentucky race winner this morning. He looked strong before the mishap.

-It was a mixed weekend for Dan Wheldon. On one hand, he didn't qualify after his car failed tech inspection, so that's not a big help on Las Vegas pit selection. However, he did get some time back in the current Dallara, showed he could move through the field, and basically got a good warmup in for his big challenge in two weeks.

-Some drivers with quietly very good weekends that haven't been mentioned: Ryan Hunter-Reay, Oriol Servia, and Buddy Rice. Townsend Bell also finished P11, a +15 mover on the day.

I also had the chance to see Dan during a fan session at Macy's over the race weekend. He's an amazing, charismatic ambassador with fans. We're lucky to have him around in the Series. I'll be looking forward to him in a full-time ride next year.

-I thought Pippa Mann's outing Sunday was what she needed, no more, no less. It didn't look impressive in the box score, but after a qualifying crash leading up to the race and her earlier struggles at New Hampshire, it was important to show she could put together a clean race and improve over the course of it. Improving at Las Vegas is the next goal, of course.

-If I'm Dillon Battistini, having "Driver Fatigue" as my reason for dropping out in my first IndyCar start wouldn't be ideal (apparently, he'd been sick for a few days leading up to the race). Then again, I'm a chunky blogger who would wear himself out trying to fit in a Dallara, let alone drive one.

-Big congrats to Stefan Wilson on his second Firestone Indy Lights win of the season, and to Josef Newgarden for his winning the Lights title this year. Let's hope for bigger and better things in their own time for both of those guys.

-A huge Thank You to VERSUS' INDYCAR team. You guys show other networks how it should be done. You listen to fans, make improvements, and you can tell you genuinely care about this sport. Cheers, and I'm excited to see what changes the NBC Sports banner brings next year.

-It sounds like Kentucky Speedway might be on the chopping block for Series' 2012 plans if a $250k-500k title sponsor for the race isn't found. It isn't set in stone yet, so there's still time to play here. If you loved what you saw Sunday, let people know. Let Randy Bernard know, and send him your feedback. It would be wonderful to see the Series work with a manufacturer such as Chevy or Lotus to sponsor this race. Don't give up hope yet--push for what you want to happen. I'll tell you this, though--I do not want to lose this race.

-Yesterday, we saw a highlight of INDYCAR that we'll be seeing for years to come, I think. To those of you who attended or decided to watch, you know you saw something special. I'm not sure what the future will be for INDYCAR at Kentucky Speedway, but I'll never forget this year's race.


  1. Talk is cheap as the greasy Steak n Shake place mat that Robin Miller scribbles his mail bag on. Don't just TELL Randy, Send him a Jackson....

  2. Hey, if he hears enough of it, he can go to Chevy or Lotus and say, "check out all this interest". Or, perhaps he looks for another way to save the race.