Saturday, July 21, 2012

Zack's Edmonton Indy Adventure: Saturday AM

Good morning from Edmonton Indy, where I'm currently enjoying coffee while watching some Mazda Road to Indy action. That's a pretty good description of contentment, isn't it?

I suppose I should start with my Friday. After flying into Edmonton yesterday, I had hoped to make it over to the course in time for the last IZOD IndyCar Series practice of the day. Unfortunately, by the time I got to the hotel, it was too late for that. So, I set out to sample some of the touristy elements Edmonton had to offer.

The West Edmonton Mall is the biggest mall in North America, and it boasts not only a plethora of stores, but also an amusement park, a mini golf course, and a full replica of one of Columbus' ships. If you have a significant other who enjoys shopping, they'd likely be enraptured with that little slice of Edmonton.

My hotel for this visit, Sutton Place, is connected to the City Centre Mall and is extremely nice. The concierge has been exceedingly helpful, and they definitely know how to make a body feel welcome. It helped that the welcome bag in my room (courtesy Edmonton Tourism) included a couple of lagers from local brewer Amber's. That's hospitality, right there.

This morning, I made my way to the track not long after it opened, around 7:20 local time. First off, there is a LOT of security here, of all shapes and sizes. Military, police, rent-a-cops, volunteers...comparing it to a race like Milwaukee, it's definitely more than I'm used to. It doesn't feel too restrictive or tough to get around, though.

First up this morning was Firestone Indy Lights qualifying. As the track was still drying, times confined to drop as the session progressed. It was immensely competitive, with Carlos Munoz, Peter Dempsey, Sebastian Saavedra, and Esteban Guerrieri among those wanting a piece of the action. Ultimately, Munoz trumped Dempsey for the pole by a mere .03 seconds. The Indy Lights car count is down, but those guys are still working their tails off. We'll see which driver this afternoon is smartest in saving their equipment over the entirety of the race.

Even with Lights, you gain an immediate appreciation for just how FAST these airport straights are.

An hour of IndyCar practice followed, and the moisture in the turns continued to be a factor. Josef Newgarden went off-course going to Turn 11, and you could really see how much dicier the newer asphalt was in the turns.

The practice ended with Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon at the top, but Will Power, Alex Tagliani, and Takuma Sato also had great goes at it. With rain a possibility, things could get mixed up in a hurry.

One more thing: later, I'll want to talk about the Edmonton community and just how hard they are working to make this an event destination. It shows all the way around the city, but more on that later.

I'll back in a bit with plenty more from Edmonton.

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