Monday, September 2, 2013

Baltimore Notes: Chaos In The Charm City

-Yesterday, some time after the Grand Prix of Baltimore had ended, I just stared at the screen for a good while. There are races it's very easy to recap; Baltimore is not one of them. Everyone is angry at someone; nearly everyone was involved in an incident, and in some ways, Takuma Sato, who barely completed any laps, had the most stress-free day of anyone. Still, I'm going to try.

-On a day where it often seemed like a simple battle of survival and recovery, Simon Pagenaud avoided the worst Baltimore could throw at drivers to run away from Newgarden in the last few laps to win his second race of the year. But what a late charge by Newgarden, and spirited fight from Sebastien Bourdais to round out the podium. Great work, and a great fight from drivers from Marco Andretti to Simona de Silvestro to give us a wild Top 10.

-Drivers who seemed to get the snot knocked out of them countless times and still finished in the Top 10: Justin Wilson, Charlie Kimball, James Hinchcliffe, and Helio Castroneves.

-Speaking of Helio, that title lead is now 49 points with three races left. If he holds serve at Houston, he's looking just about home free in the championship. The last few weeks have proven he has the luck that has to accompany the skill a title run requires.

-I was thinking about current drivers who can win a title in the next few years, and is there any doubt Simon Pagenaud has to be towards the top of this list? If you throw out his mechanical issues at St. Pete in the opener, this could be a different title discussion we're having today--or at least a closer one!

Everyone who had this podium, say "Aye". (Crickets)
Courtesy IndyCar Media
-The last few laps of this race were as good as I've seen, and in between yellow flags, there was plenty of on-track passing. This was a messy, sloppy race, both in terms of on-track incidents and mechanical issues, but every now and then, there are (excuse the term) "brain fart" races. Chalk this one up to that. Despite it all, I still love watching Baltimore. It's brutal and challenging and merciless, while allowing for plenty of action. I think all of us would like less than 33% of the laps to be caution laps, of course.

-Scott Dixon and Beaux Barfield won't be exchanging Christmas Cards this year, needless to say. Dixon had extremely sharp--no, acidic--words for Barfield after the Ganassi team wasn't allowed to bring Dixon's car back to pit to be worked on. Honestly, I need to watch this race again at least once to see what all transpired (and I'll wait for any forthcoming Race Control explanations), but I am a bit puzzled why Dixon's #9 couldn't come to the pits with 17 laps remaining and ample yellows.

-I saw a few folks online (more than usual?) try to say Graham Rahal and Will Power each had some sort of malign intent in regards to their incidents with Scott Dixon. I don't believe that for a moment. Both incidents were unfortunate, but I don't see any purposeful actions to damage Dixie's car in either case. I know it's a heat of the moment thing, but man, let's have some perspective and rational thought.

-Speaking of Rahal, tough breaks this weekend. The team came back nicely, and I thought he was in line for a really good result. I don't think they'll struggle for much longer; sooner or later, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing will get it figured out.

-Happier News: The Firestone Indy Lights title fight is insane. Jack Hawksworth has rallied after looking defeated at the midway portion of the season, and now he's only 11 points back in the title hunt. Sage Karam had the drive he needed to jump ahead of Carlos Munoz for the points lead, but it's only a 2-point margin. Meanwhile, Gaby Chaves is only 4 points back of Karam. Any of these guys would be a fine Lights champion. Tough break for Carlos Munoz recording his second DNF of the season, but my goodness, this is just a tremendous battle playing itself out for us.

-Back to IndyCar: Hats off to Stefan Wilson, who recovered from an early incident on a day when veteran and champion IndyCar driver were dropping out by the scoopful, to finish P16. That had to be one of the wildest and weirdest debut races a driver has ever had, but I thought he handled himself well. Let's hope the wait to see him again isn't a terribly long one--hear that, Nirvana Tea?

-Fantastic work by Pippa Mann in the broadcasting booth this weekend. On the NBC team as a whole, good work, but I wish they hadn't waited until Tony Kanaan was in P2 towards the end of the race to mention his 212-race streak. If they mentioned it before that, I missed it.

-Now, we come to the Long Wait--the September break in the IndyCar schedule. A few of us might need a month to regulate our blood pressure after that race, but at least we know there's plenty to discuss while we await Houston's doubleheader. Let's hope that October sees an exciting finish, great racing, and less yellow!

-Happy Labor Day to one and all. Relax and enjoy.

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