Saturday, July 21, 2012

Zack's Edmonton Indy Adventure: Saturday PM

We'll pick up with the Star Mazda Series practice, where Jack Hawksworth was beat out late by Zach Veach and eventual polesitter Sage Karam. Stefan Rzadzinski in a very competitive field.

With that complete and the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series going out to play, I took a stroll around the paddock. With the relatively clean early session, it seemed as if there weren't too many furious fixes or tweaks underway.

You know what always strikes me in the paddock (besides Helio on his Scooter)? You can look at some teams and just tell the attention to detail is there. In the Penske area, there's simply not a hair out of place.

One item I do believe needs addressed for Edmonton Indy is the lack of the Fan Zone here. I understand Canadian and American sponsors don't always overlap, but if you want to build a fan base for the event, you need that extra display, that extra push. You have to hope IndyCar can see the sense in that, and figure out a way to make that needed support happen.

IndyCar quals began under increasingly stormy clouds, and by our round of 12, rain was indeed falling. It soon slackened, but still meant rain tires needed to be run.

Takuma Sato didn't waste any time starting the session, and it was pretty lively right away. Scott Dixon got into the grass in that treacherous Turn 11 (notice a pattern?), but kept it fired.

Then the rain came. It wasn't much, but enough to cause rain tires for Round 2. Amazingly, Will Power did not advance, and looked like he was fighting the car on a couple of occasions.

If you're reading this, there's a very good chance you know how quals ended--with Ryan Hunter-Reay on pole (he'll start P11 because of an engine change penalty). If you had seen Takuma Sato on wet tires, though, you'd have to think he would have been on pole if the track stayed wet.

Let's talk about how amazing it is that Andretti Autosport swept the poles in Star Mazda, Lights, and IndyCar. People will argue all day about whether or not Andretti is "back", but any team that can do that is doing something right, in my book.

After that, it was time for the Star Mazda Race. My goodness. It began to pour, and to make a long story short, series leader Jack Hawksworth and several other drivers did NOT come in for rain tires. On the restart with five minutes to go, chaos ensued. Camilo Schmidt somehow made his way through the chaos to notch his first series win. Sage Karam looked upset to finish P2 after a dominant race, and Gabby Chaves just looked amazed he finished P3. It was soggy, ugly, and at one point it seemed as if half the field had crashed on the last restart. Funnily enough, Connor De Phillippi had to put twice for car issues, and still finished P5. Don't ask me to explain...

The big race of the day was the 40-lap Firestone Indy Lights race. Carlos Munoz capped a dominant performance with a commanding win, with Sebastian Saavedra holding off a late charge by Esteban Guerrieri for P2. Ollie Webb had a nice run for P4. Peter Dempsey came back from a horrid start and a wild spin for P5. Jorge Goncalvez waited far too long to switch to dry tires as the sun came out, and dropped like a stone through the field.

I also want to talk about Edmonton itself here for a moment. Everywhere you go downtown, there are checkered flags, IndyCar displays, and even employees in crew shirts. They've done an amazing job of really getting the city outside the race involved with this.

For all it has, Edmonton isn't a massive metropolis; it's roughly the size of Indy. But in speaking with the organizers, there's an unmistakable note of pride in what they've put together, and a sense that they can pull off the big events. By God, if we in Indianapolis don't know something about that...

With that, I am beat. Time to take a break for a bit, but more updates this weekend will be forthcoming.

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