WOW! WOW! WOW! I don’t even know where to start with the discussion on this race. I loved it, hated it and have total mixed emotions on the end. So I guess lets start at the beginning.
After a fun day with my boys we arrived home just in time to watch the race. I was a bit bummed that the race would not be at night. I like watching the race under the lights. I quickly changed my mind. Green flag waved and an amazing race began. Watching a three, even four wide start is awesome but nothing new to Indycar. Watching the cars stay three wide after more than a couple laps is something new. Watching after 30 laps? Seriously? Wow! The cars were so close and kept it all so clean. Edge of your seat racing for sure. For me, because the track at Fontana is wide enough to accommodate going five wide this did not feel like pack racing to me. Sure it was close but there was some room to maneuver if needed. I enjoyed watching and didn’t feel worried as I watched. They ran 136 laps without a caution. We seriously have the best drivers in the world.
When the yellow did come it was for an incident involving Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves. Briscoe would receive a drive through penalty and Helio would retire from the race. At lap 151 we go back to green racing. However, at Lap 159, Ed Carpenter crashes into Josef Newgarden and both are essentially done for the day. Newgarden will come back out but is too far down to really help.
Green again at Lap 168. Ok now it’s getting serious and does start to feel a bit more like pack racing. We’ve had two accidents and cars are so close you have to wonder who will be next. The next incident though is a mistake in the pits with Graham Rahal’s car. The fueler pulled the nozzle out and Graham’s car was released but for some reason the fueler put the nozzle back in. Graham pulled out and broke the nozzle, fuel spilled and the nozzle parts fell on the track causing a yellow flag to come out. I thought Graham’s day was over and he would receive a drive through penalty. However, as pointed out by Steve Wittich (@stevewittich) on Twitter, pit infractions have been post-race penalties all season long. I honestly hadn’t realized that and am still a bit surprised that breaking equipment and causing a yellow to come out do not bring out an immediate penalty. However, if Tristan Vautier didn’t receive a penalty for hitting his tire changer, which I don’t recall hearing that he did, then I suppose there is no call for Graham to be penalized during the race. That was good for Graham because he would go on to win the race.
There is another yellow when Takuma Sato and Sage Karam mix it up. Sato gets a lot of grief but this was just a racing incident. Sato was caught between two cars with no where to go and ping pinged between them. Unfortunate for him and Karam but that is racing.
We have a short red flag to try and finish the race under green but when we return to green Ryan Hunter-Reay and Ryan Briscoe make contact and sends Briscoe cartwheeling. Thankfully both drivers walk away from that accident. The race ends under yellow with Graham Rahal taking the checkered flag.
It’s been nearly twenty four hours and I can’t stop thinking about this race. Was it pack racing? Was it fair the way penalties went down?
Let’s start with the penalties. Again hearing what Steve Wittich had to say on Twitter changed my mind on the penalties but I do wish we had a better system and everyone knew what the rules were. I realize it’s racing and no incident is ever the same but sure wish we could have more defined rules. I love that Graham Rahal won so I’m sure that helps me see the other side.
Ok now the big one—PACK RACING.
Watching the Las Vegas race was absolutely horrible and I pray I never watch another driver die but this is racing and cars go fast. It’s dangerous. What we saw at Fontana appeared much safer to me and when the cars did make contact it was only two at a time with a possible third that was tapped. That was not pack racing. Pack racing means you have no where to go and a crash would involve multiple cars. Fontana was nice and wide and after each incident other cars had plenty of room to maneuver around and avoid the accident. The drivers had completely different thoughts, some liked it, some hated it. James Hinchcliffe tweeted- “Man I wish I was out there.” Ryan Briscoe tweeted- “I thought today’s IndyCar race was awesome. A few drivers need to show more respect out there, but the racing was fierce and exciting.” Ryan went out after the race to the crash site and laid down in the divot made by the race car in the grass. AJ Foyt stated that he enjoyed that type of racing during his career, ” it’s not that much fun watching, but I think it’s great racing. At least you can race.” Said A.J. After Sato’s crash.
On the other side Will Power thought the racing was crazy and Tony Kanaan was a bit harder to read but he also wasn’t a fan of the race telling others to try it before they criticize and said, ” we don’t need to risk our lives for the 5,000 people in the stands today.” Well Tony Kanaan is one tough driver so if he has some concerns it would be stupid to not listen. I’m sure there are ways to make the race safer and still keep the excitement high. But I also believe that racers are a rare breed and they race because they love the thrill and pushing the limits. Once that no longer becomes fun then it’s time to step out of the race car.
I’m not a driver and I have a lot of respect for the drivers (they know more than I do) but I’m not overly concerned that what we witnessed was true pack racing or that it was much more dangerous than racing at Indy. I don’t have great concerns about racing under similar conditions but I sure hope the drivers can come to an agreement on how to best move on and that IndyCar officials listen. I think the racing at Milwaukee will be completely different on such a small oval and I don’t anticipate the same style of racing to take place there.
There was also concern about the attendance. I have to tell you there is no way I would give up my air conditioned spot on my couch. I don’t blame fans for not attending. Fontana needs to be a night race later (or earlier) in the season to get a better attendance. Many on Twitter don’t like Robin Miller and how he states what he feels. Some think he comes off as an arrogant jerk. Well that is probably why I like him. And it doesn’t take a college degree to figure out that IndyCar has no business racing in Fontana in June. I’m all for listening to advice from a consulting group but taking the advice is a different thing. I agree with Robin. Football is not our competition. Ending the season early will not help ratings or momentum. Running at Fontana in June is stupid and most fans know and agree and that was reflected in the attendance. Thankfully there were a few diehards that braved the heat (which ended up not as bad as it could have been) and sun to attend.
So all in all I loved the race and I loved the result. Graham was long overdo for a win even if it came with some controversy. And I always love it when we can support our IndyCar sponsors and that is exactly what we did by having dinner at Steak n Shake. There was even a picture of Graham’s car on our coupons. So fun!
Oh and another fun part of the day. A. J. Foyt racing started following me on Twitter. How cool is that!