Monday, April 22, 2013

Long Beach Notes; Or, Satooooooooo!

Several items may or may not have transpired in my household immediately following the checkered flag falling on the 2013 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach:

-I may or may not have engaged in a number of wildly exaggerated fist pumps.

-I may or may not have yelled "IN YOUR FACE" in the general direction of my (hopefully) understanding and tolerant wife.

-I may or may not have performed an impromptu, remarkably uncoordinated victory dance.

To say I have been waiting for a Takuma Sato victory for a long time would be a massive understatement. Oh, he's been close before--such as the final of lap of last year's Indy 500, which needs no painful recollection here. We know Taku is fast, but it was always that elusive bit of actually finish a racing, and putting the entire package together.

Well, it's a different world this morning. We Taku fans, who hung in there through some frankly absurd and cringe-inducing moments, finally have our holiday. The nation of Japan, home to some truly wonderful IndyCar fans, finally gets a winner. AJ Foyt Enterprises gets back in Victory Circle after a decade away, and the IndyCar landscape seems as jumbled and gloriously chaotic as it ever has.

At last.
(Courtesy IndyCar Media)
Here are some other notes from an absolutely wild IndyCar weekend:

-Graham Rahal finally got his good finish on the season, and hopefully that's a confidence builder. He seemed really aggressive, and you get the idea that the rough start to the year was messing with him a bit. With Sato grabbing his victory, is Rahal next?

-Justin Wilson kept the Honda dominance going on the weekend, and starting from the back didn't seem to bug him much. Really, a lot of the Hondas starting in the back--Tristan Vautier, Wilson, Simon Pagenaud--showed a really nice ability to move through the field. I think Long Beach bodes well for engine competition for the rest of the season--when your top four finishers are all Honda, that's a really good sign.

-What a weekend to forget for Andretti Autosport--incidents for James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and EJ Viso made this one a prime candidate to be swept under the rug for that team. Still, Marco Andretti managed a P7 finish, which is remarkable, considering I think every time we heard about him it was in regards to either damage or some sort of issue he was having. Marco might not be content with seventh place, but it 's much better than it could have been, especially considering he started P25. He just needs to keep up the good results from week to week, and he'll get that next win. He's also still very much in the title hunt right now--ahead of all his teammates, in fact.

-It wasn't just Andretti having woes--let's not kid ourselves, this was a messy race. Just about every title contender had to wince today, and from Tony Kanaan to Sebastian Saavedra, there was carbon fiber flying aplenty. You're going to have those weeks, and we were probably due after how clean Barber was. Some races are just about swapping out that front wing, getting back out there, and salvaging what you can. For a good chunk of the field, that's exactly what this weekend represented.

-Dario Franchitti got the good finish and points he needed this week, but just as importantly, just about everyone else had a really lousy day. Yes, Helio Castroneves still leads in points (by just 6 over Sato!), but Dario moves from dead last to P20 in points, with the capability of jumping even further with a decent result at Sao Paolo. He's not out of this just yet--only within 17 points of the Top 10, for example.

-If you look at the Long Beach result (revised after Oriol Servia's penalty was rescinded Sunday evening), Dario isn't the only one who got a much-needed outcome. Scott Dixon managed to come back from probably one of his least favorite race weekends to improbably salvage a P11 and stay on course in the title battle. Rahal managed to grab a podium and make a nice points jump. JR Hildebrand also got on track, and is close on points with Simon Pagenaud and Orio Servia--two other guys making a good show of it Sunday. On the other hand, Will Power's title chances took a bit of a hit, with some ovals coming up after Brazil. James Hinchcliffe fell all the way back to P10 in points. 

-The Firestone Indy Lights was extremely messy, with half the field involved in contact of some sort. Carlos Munoz won, which was another bright spot for Andretti, and Gabby Chaves was a clear P2. Sage Karam jumped from the back of the field to finish on the podium. You had to feel for Peter Dempsey, who probably had a car that could have challenged up front, but was collected early. Props as well to Matthew Di Leo, who recovered from a spin and started laying down some nice lap times enroute to finishing P5--the last car running, but running nonetheless. Sunday, that was an accomplishment all by itself.

-We've had three races now, and each of them has featured fierce competition, great on-track action and passing, and suspense until the very end. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say IndyCar has been absolutely great for the fans so far this season. It's simply the best racing going right now.

-Other Notes: Until the incident with Will Power in the pits, I would have bet on at least a Top 5 for Tristan Vautier. Gotta blame his wheelman for that one...There were entirely too many commercial breaks over the last 30 minutes of the race broadcast. If they have to do them, side-by-side is better than nothing, but it felt like we'd have 15 seconds of race time before jumping back to Terry Bradshaw hawking diet programs...For the love of Pete, just sing the National Anthem normally. We don't need different words, we don't need a phantom "h" thrown in front of words ("the bombs bursting in HAIR"). Just belt it out...Simona de Silvestro had a quiet but quality drive to record another Top 10 on the year...Sad to see Mike Conway's day end with electrical issues. He's so much fun to watch at Long Beach...Here's hoping for the best in regards to Tony Kanaan's right hand, hurt in the late accident Sunday. Still waiting to hear extent of the injuries...

No comments:

Post a Comment