Detroit- The Good, Bad and Ugly

IndyCar fans have a bad reputation for being complainers. I’ve always prided myself on not being a complainer, I’m usually very optimistic and see the good in IndyCar. There was a lot of good this past weekend but it had its fair share of bad too. Let’s dive in and discuss the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good

This weekend provided some great racing. Detroit isn’t know for its great races but I was thoroughly entertained. I felt the racing had plenty of drama and passes. That might not have been as true for Sunday’s race but since I only watched the last third of the race (more on that later) I will say the weekend was entertaining. Here we go.

  • Qualifying- I was very grateful for a more traditional qualifying set up for both races. I was fine with shortening the format and taking away the fast six. It still allowed the fastest cars to start up front. Pato O’Ward won the pole for race one and Josef Newgarden won for race two.
  • Seven races, seven winners. So fun watching Marcus Ericsson get his first win in IndyCar.
  • AMR Safety Team. We have the very best looking after the drivers. So grateful for all their hard work.
  • First repeat winner. Pato O’Ward became the first second time winner this season and the new championship leader.
  • The young drivers are the ones to watch. Colton Herta, Pato O’Ward, Alex Palou, Rinus VeeKay, Oliver Askew (filling in for Felix Rosenqvist) and many others are making a name for themselves and providing some entertaining racing.
  • Romain Grosjean is becoming increasingly popular with the fans. Watching him jump from his flaming car at first had me thinking he was scared, and rightfully so but instead he gets a fire extinguisher and attempts to put out the fire while waiting on the safety team. I love this guy!
  • Oliver Askew was at the track and filled in for Felix Rosenqvist in Sunday’s race. Askew had his helmet and the Arrow team had his seat and all measurements but were missing shoes and fire suit. Oliver wore Juan Pablo Montoya’s fire suit and borrowed shoes from Alex Palou. How cool is that? Oliver also did a very respectable job for never having driven at Belle isle. I hope he gets more chances in the future.

The Bad

  • Red flags- While the first red flag was necessary, I was quite surprised by the second one. There had been some talk of the race not completing all the laps and of course there was concern about the tv coverage and if we would have to switch channels but then instead a red flag is flown and we all wait again. This one was extremely detrimental to Will Power as we will discuss later. I think the race could have ended under yellow. And honestly, I believe they could have taken care of Romain Grosjean’s accident and still had a lap or two of green. Perhaps damage to the wall needed fixing but then we could have ended under yellow. It’s okay to have a yellow checkered finish.
  • NBC coverage- don’t misunderstand I love the NBC talent and the call of the race was just fine. I’m talking about turning on my DVR and finding I’m taping Lacrosse on Saturday and tennis on Sunday. Ugh, I always try to watch live but sometimes you just can’t. This weekend was one of those times. My problem isn’t that lacrosse ran long, that happens but that the race was not available to watch elsewhere and of course even if it was I was watching delayed so I couldn’t switch over. Sunday was far worse as we will discuss later.
  • Felix Rosenqvist’s accident- so thankful it falls in this category and not the next. Rosenqvist appeared to have a stuck throttle and drove straight into the tire and concrete barrier. As soon as the camera showed his face I said it looks like he is crying and in awful pain. Miraculous no bones are broken and Felix was released from the hospital and I believe cleared to drive. It was not stated if he will drive next week at Road America but I believe there is a good possibility. That is amazing.
  • Team Penske- they were set to win both days. It’s actually unbelievable that it wasn’t a Penske sweep. Power had a great race until he didn’t on Saturday and Josef dominated on Sunday until the last three laps. What a heartbreak for the entire team. Who would have guessed Penske would be going into race 9 of the season winless?

The Ugly

Let’s start by saying that while Felix’s accident was extremely “ugly” I am not putting it in this category because the car did what is was supposed to do and the AMR safety team took control of the situation and Felix is going to be fine. For those reasons, I’m grateful to not be listing the accident here. The “ugly” came down to two things.

  • Will Power losing the win. The first red flag and strategy might have had a big part in getting Will Power to the front but the way things unfolded during the second red flag were very unfortunate. When Power pulled into the pit lane for the red flag and immediately began calling for fans and water I assumed he was exhausted and needed some help. I’ve seen Will after hot races. He struggles in the heat physically and has been on the brink of exhaustion so I assumed he was searching for relief. In reality he was calling for fans to keep his car cool. His team was there ready to assist but had to stand aside and wait until all cars were in the pit lane. Of course the cars in the back still had air running over them as they filed in. Another factor may have been Power’s black matte car which of course attracts the sunlight and heat. Regardless, I would have found it very hard to be the crew member holding the relief needed and not being able to go to Will’s car until officials gave the okay. Honestly, in hindsight they should have gone to him and dealt with consequences later but who knew Power’s car would fail to start when racing resumed. Power is desperate for his next win and it should have come on Saturday. That was an extremely unfortunate circumstance and I hope IndyCar changes that rule in the future. As excited as I was for Marcus Ericsson, that was completely unfair for Will Power. That is racing but those cars aren’t made to sit, asking the leader to sit and wait is completely unfair. Fans could have been moved out to him immediately, then if the problem still happened at least no one would be to blame.
  • Tennis. How in the world does tennis run over by more than an hour? Okay, fine, whatever, things happen. How does NBC not announce that coverage of the race will be on CNBC? Unless you checked social media you had no clue. Those of us that taped it on our DVR were also screwed. Seriously, with all the technology we have no one can figure out that if I’m taping IndyCar and channels are switched then the DVR should also switch. Seems like an easy fix to me. Also in a situation like that couldn’t streaming on Peacock be available. I looked today and it appears Saturday’s race is still not available for replay on Peacock. Honestly, I started watching around lap 45 because as much as I was willing to watch delayed by a few hours I did not want to wait days to find out what happened. How come the replay isn’t available shortly after the actual race and especially after a mix up like today? Does NBC really care that little? Just because they won’t be carrying IndyCar next season doesn’t mean they need to screw us now. So frustrating. So my enjoyable day of watching IndyCar was cut down to the last third of the race and I was not happy. I hate to be among the complainers but I couldn’t help myself when NBC screwed up so bad.

I eventually got over my disappointment of missing the start again. Watching Josef Newgarden attempt to hold onto the lead with Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward breathing down his neck was great racing. When Pato won his second race of the season his smile said it all. Sadly, Josef’s disappointment was also clearly written on his face.

So the Detroit weekend held all types of drama, good, bad and ugly. The fun part about making these lists was I kept going back to the good list and adding things there as I remembered them. I guess at the end of the day I am a half glass full kinda girl.

IndyCar Crew members are the Best! Scott tops the list!

Five years we had a cool interaction with James Hinchcliffe at the Milwaukee Race. You can read about it here- IndyCar Drivers are the Best!. To this day James recognizes us when we see him at the track. That interaction might not have happened had we not met Scott. Scott worked for the Schmidt Peterson team and let us know that James was indeed at the the track that weekend (his first time at a track after his accident) and where we might be able to see him. While we were talking with Scott that day in Milwaukee we asked a bit about his job and I asked if I could take a picture. He agreed.

First time we met Scott. July 2015

The following year I saw him at Road America. I had made a photo album on Shutterfly and included the picture of him. He laughed that I had it and was mildly surprised when I asked him to autograph it. He did though and took another picture, this time with me.

For the next five years I would always seek him out at races. Gateway and Road America were always the easiest to get a chance to talk with him. At Indy we don’t have bronze badges so we can’t get in the garages but the Schmidt team is near the suite area where we can go on the walkway overlooking the garages. It’s where we first interacted with James and Ryan Briscoe. We would yell down and Scott would recognize us, wave and chat for a minute if he had time.

A Hinch bracelet we gave to James the weekend before his accident.
Ryan promising to give the necklace to James.

At the end of the 2019 season we looked for Scott at Gateway. I wondered what he thought of the changes in the team as they became Arrow McLaren SP and we learned that James would no longer be a full time driver. Sadly we didn’t see Scott that race.

At Road America this year the Paddock was closed due to Covid-19. I was hopeful we might still be able to see the garages from a fenced area. We could but the Arrow McLaren SP team was farther down than the fence went. We hung out as far down the line as we could but had little hope we would see Scott. As we waited we saw a man in an Arrow shirt. I asked him if he worked for the team. He said he did. Then I asked if he knew if Scott was there for the weekend. I showed him a picture and he said Scott had resigned earlier in the year. Oh I was so disappointed because I would have loved to have had a chance to let him know how much we appreciated seeing him at the track and the time he always took to talk with us. Then the man we were talking with pulled out his phone and said he would take a video and send it to a friend of Scott’s and see that he got it. So without any warning or time to plan what I would say I made a short video. I probably look ridiculous in it but hopefully my message that I enjoyed seeing Scott at the track and wished him well with his new endeavors came across.

As we continued talking we learned the man’s name was Mark. We must have talked with him for 15 minutes or so. He told us what races he would be at and of course I had to get a picture. Now the tricky part will be recognizing him without a mask. Hope we meet up again at another race. I greatly appreciate him taking a video and getting it sent on to Scott.

This was post race and I had given my backpack with my mask to the boys.

I always say IndyCar and IndyCar drivers are the best but make no mistake that absolutely applies to the teams as well. I’ve never known a sport where the people are so kind and take so much time to talk with the fans. My blog has story after story of this exact type of thing. I used to think it was just luck or random but over the years I’ve realized that it is just how great the people in IndyCar are and interactions like the ones I’ve had happen all the time.

We will miss seeing Scott at the races but wish his all the best. Maybe one day we will see him in the stands rather than the paddock.

Arrow McLaren SP-How did things get so messed up?

You would have to be living under a rock (at least in the IndyCar world) to not know the latest news about Arrow McLaren SP and their new driver line up and how they completely screwed James Hinchcliffe. If you are living under a rock, or are new to IndyCar look up the articles by Marshall Pruett and Robin Miller. You can also check out the Trackside podcast with Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee. Over the years I have found Marshall and Robin the most reliable for news and then love to hear Curt and Kevin’s thoughts on Trackside after the news has dropped. Of course my fellow bloggers are another great source.

So, in a nutshell, Arrow McLaren SP hired Pato O’Ward and Oliver Askew for the 2020 season and left James Hinchcliffe out in the cold. I have so many thoughts on this and only one of them are good. Might as well start with the good so I can write about what I really want to share.

The Good-

Pato O’Ward is not a true rookie but he did not get a fair shake last season and showed some amazing talent when he was running. This kid deserves to be in IndyCar. Oliver Askew is last years Indy Lights champion and has shown great potential for the last couple years. This is the ladder series working and two up and coming rookies are being given a great chance to break into IndyCar. I’m thrilled to see them both with full time rides.

The Bad-

How in the world do you give two rookies a full time ride at the expense of a veteran, winner and Indy 500 pole sitter driver. Of course I’m speaking of James Hinchcliffe. James is not some old man past his prime. He is still competitive (although I will admit 2019 was a tough year), he is engaging, he is the driver that can grow IndyCar and he is an all around great personality. Does AMSP not realize that by firing James they are alienating the fans? Twitter is full of posts from people saying they now have someone to root against, that they can’t wait to boo them. I don’t disagree, except that it is not Pato and Oliver’s fault and I don’t plan to boo them as drivers.

When this new team first formed I had a strong feeling that Hinch would not be driving for them. It just didn’t make sense to me. Hinch is the face of Honda, he can’t drive a Chevy. I truly expected a statement from Hinch in the days/weeks following the newly formed team that Hinch would be driving for a different Honda team. What I didn’t expect was a team announcement saying that Hinch is out.

Just recently it was announced that Chip Ganassi Racing would be running a third car. Honestly, that alone is big news. I thought Chip was happy with two cars. That Marcus Erickson would be the third car was a bit surprising too. I’m glad Marcus found a landing spot but you can’t help but wonder now if that could have been James’ position had he known AMSP was giving him the boot.

Who is running this team? I loved Sam Schmidt’s team. He worked his way up developing drivers and skills as an owner in Indy Lights. Sam dominated there. Eventually he started winning in IndyCar. I love watching the underdog win. Then the Schmidt team moved up more, they were no longer considered the underdog but were moving closer to being a top team. So did Sam sell out? I would have loved to watch things continue as they had been. Schmidt Peterson was becoming a powerhouse in the IndyCar world and with the Arrow sponsorship they could really compete. Now everyone says Sam is still the boss I don’t know how true that is. Time will tell but I wonder who is really pulling the strings and making the big decisions.

I would have loved to have seen McLaren join IndyCar full time and start a new team and increase car number. I’m not happy with them taking over an existing team and changing so many things, engine manufacturer, drivers and who knows what else.

The Honda seats are gone. With the announcement that James is out coming so late it is much harder to find a ride. Marcus signed with Ganassi as previously stated and Santino Ferrucci may have been looking to move to Foyt but appears to be staying with Dale Coyne Racing. Andretti is bursting at the seams and while Rahal Letterman Lannigan would be the best fit, there doesn’t seem to be enough money in the mix to make that work. Another great spot would be a second car at Meyer Shank Racing but MSR has not run a full season with Jack Harvey yet. I don’t think they make the jump from partial season to running a full season with two drivers.

All in all it is just a bad move from AMSP. They are not gaining any new fans by this move and better have some PR plans in the works to smooth over the damage done by firing the driver most liked and most recognized in the paddock.

So what happens next? Does James find the funding to join a Honda team? Does he look at the Chevy teams? Does he take a “gap year” and do the Dan Wheldon thing- announcing and pit runs with Robin Miller. I guarantee we will see James at both the 500 and the Toronto race but he will be incredibly missed if he doesn’t find a full time ride. What does IndyCar do to make sure their most popular driver has a ride?

I heartbroken that James is in this position. All you have to do is read my previous posts to see how much we like and admire James. He has been a family favorite for forever. I’m disgusted with AMSP for allowing this to happen. If James chose to remain with Honda I expected AMSP to graciously release him from his contract, however when he chose to stay they should have been grateful and fulfilled their commitment to him. I’m also concerned about what this means for Robert Wickens in the future. AMSP continues to state that Robert will have a position in the team when he is able to drive again but I’d sincerely question it if I were Robert. I hope they honor it, just not holding my breath.

During the 2020 season I will be cheering for James in whatever role he has. I will also be following Pato O’Ward and Oliver Askew and wishing the best for them while simultaneously wanting to see AMSP struggle. I understand I can’t have it both ways but that is how I feel. I have no ill will towards the drivers, just not thrilled with the team. This frustrates me beyond belief because I have always been a huge fan of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. They have read and retweeted my blog posts. I know crew members and always stop to say Hi at races. We’ve loved watching Sam race in the semi- autonomous car. The thought of not being a fan of the team would have been inconceivable to me a couple months ago and yet just like that everything changed.

James, my boys and I wish you the best. You are a class act and we are honored to know you. You are so great with the fans and I can’t imagine a season without you. I believe though that you will find a way to be driving full time and you will prove once again why you are the heart of IndyCar to so many fans.

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