Monday, June 10, 2013

Firestone 550 Notes

-Well, we knew it wouldn't last forever--Team Penske is back in the winner's circle, and it was a very ebullient Helio Castroneves that won the Firestone 550. I'm not sure anyone celebrates as joyously as Helio after he wins a race.

-In terms of the racing, it was a remarkably clean race, especially considering how many drivers mentioned how tough it was out there. There was also a majority of the field that was out of contention by the last fuel stint. Obviously, a strong victory by Castroneves isn't a last-lap thriller like Indianapolis, but IndyCar has had plenty of races over the years with less action, too. It was a quiet race by Texas standards, but I have a feeling the tire formula gets tweaked a bit for next year. Seeing most of the cars fall off so drastically late in their run was pretty severe.

-I suppose we have to address the TV coverage, don't we? I'm very grateful we have network coverage, but the camerawork and production decisions remain questionable with the ABC/ESPN crew. There was one point, about halfway through the race, where they blurrily zoomed in on a light for what seemed like 10 seconds. They showed Sebastian Saavedra rolling into the pits, even after he was well after contention, each and every time, while cutting to pit stops late. Folks dropped in/moved up of the Top 10, without any apparent explanation. I really would have been happy if Scott Dixon or Pippa Mann joined them in the booth, as well--insight is important. ABC doesn't "need" to do anything, if they don't want, I suppose, but in order to have a more attractive broadcast product, they need to step it up.

-Look at it like this: When you're broadcasting a race, you're telling a story that's unfolding in front of you. Not explaining what's going on with the plot, dedicating massive amounts of airtime to marginally important characters, and breaking into irrelevant footnotes as events move towards the climax wouldn't make for a fluid or engaging story, would it? The same sort of pitfalls can be extrapolated to evaluating the quality of a TV broadcast.

-What a bummer for Pippa Mann and Dale Coyne Racing. There's nothing you can do about a blown engine, and the fact that it happened almost immediately seems particularly unfair, since it appeared as if she was getting things sorted out on track rather nicely. I certainly hope she gets another crack at an oval this year. Social media is always lively when she's in the race, after all!

-While Helio Castroneves definitely made a strong statement with his first win of the year, he's still got some tough competition in terms of that ever-elusive first season title. Marco Andretti is still only 22 points behind, while Ryan Hunter-Reay and Tony Kanaan lurk just behind them. Takuma Sato, Simon Pagenaud, and Scott Dixon could all still make some noise, too, but they likely need at least 2 of the next 3 races to be really good ones to get back up in contention going into the last third of the season.

-Speaking of title contenders, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Tony Kanaan were extremely sharp. I don't think either driver is necessarily done winning this year. RHR in particular is reinforcing why he remains a title threat--he's upped his game on the big ovals so much, and that makes him so much more of a threat.

-It's certainly an odd mix at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing right now. Graham Rahal struggled mightily with his car all evening, while James Jakes was a late stop away from a seriously good finish. I thought Jakes looked pretty sharp out there. Meanwhile, a rough season gets a bit rougher for Graham Rahal. Nothing to be done but head to Milwaukee, and hope for better.

-I know that's not a weekend that went to plan for Marco Andretti, but another Top 5 certainly minimizes the damage from Helio's victory in regards to points differential. He's only finished worse than P7 once this year, and not even Castroneves or Hunter-Reay can make that boast. Now, he just needs to keep it up and see if Milwaukee or Iowa get him his first win on the year. He's really, really close.

-Other Notes: Oriol Servia's save on his spin was tremendous. You don't often see a driver on an oval course waving for the safety team to get him underway again...Given the issues his team had on the night (the glove getting stuck on his car was classic), Ed Carpenter had a really nice race...Dario Franchitti has slowly been creeping up the standings in the last two weeks. Both his finish (P6) and Josef Newgarden's (P8) were relatively under the radar, but very impressive on a night when so many drivers from teams big and small encountered difficulties...speaking of Newgarden, he's developing a pattern of a Top in every even-numbered race this season (Alabama, Sao Paulo, Detroit 1...). That doesn't signify anything in particular, but he's certainly showing plenty of progress in his sophomore year...


  1. A couple of comments on the TV coverage.

    1) The director seemed to have no idea about covering a race. Goes to commercial (with the better-than-nothing side-by-side) right when you would expect the leaders to make their last pit stop. Then deja vu, goes to commercial when you know Helio is going to be climbing the fence. Just prior to that, we are treated to a shot of the wall and the stands while we expect that Helio is crossing the finish line taking the checkered flag. Piss poor.

    2) Mid race when the second round of pit stops is beginning, the announcers made several comments about Helio staying out. Great, but not once did I hear them take the obvious next step of doing the math and realizing that Helio was only going to need to make one more stop. As you said, it's their job to tell the story, not just fill the air with the sound of their voices.

  2. "I really would have been happy if Scott Dixon or Pippa Mann joined them in the booth, as well--insight is important."

    Bingo! I'm pretty sure that Pippa would have been delighted with this opportunity, too.

    1. It certainly could have changed things up, for sure.