IndyCar Feast or Famine

Five races in fifteen days to begin the month of July, then three weeks off before returning to Mid-Ohio and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indianapolis 500. There has also been talk (I’m not sure it is confirmed) that both Mid-Ohio and Gateway will become double headers. If so then in the span of 23 days we would have five races plus qualifying and practice days at Indy which are much more intense than practice and qualifying at other venues. Honestly, it’s fun for us fans but it has to be exhausting for drivers and teams. Many of us our still on lighter schedules due to the pandemic so we welcome the busy race weekends but I’d also be fine with spreading the joy out.

So I’m going to dive in talking about the Iowa double header, announcements about the Indy 500 and thoughts on the remaining races.

Iowa was a blast! I loved pretty much everything about the races at Iowa. The qualifying just made sense for such a busy weekend. Each driver ran two laps. The first lap counted for the first race, second lap for the second race. One slip can send you way back but one good run sends you to the top. It was fun to watch and see where everyone ended up. Even more fun was having a first time pole winner with Conor Daly. He had a fantastic qualifying run for both laps but only held onto the pole for race 1. Josef Newgarden won the pole for race two. I have always been a Josef fan but now that he is with Penske it’s not as exciting to see him win- it’s expected. Conor winning the pole for the Carlin team- that’s exciting. I’m always rooting for the underdog.

Simon Pagenaud had a problem and wasn’t able to qualify which meant he would be starting at the back for both races. Since he won race one and finished fourth for race two this wasn’t a problem but I could see how that could have been a much bigger problem for a smaller team. I still like the qualifying system for the double header but had it been a different team I might have been saying they need to rethink the strategy or give a team a second chance to get the car going. Yes I hear myself, just being honest.

Loved that Tony Kanaan gave the command to start engines from the car. Race two Helio Castroneves gave the command. Helio gave a whole little speech. TK just gave the command. Would have loved to have heard a bit more from Tony. Honestly, he appeared a bit nervous about it. I think the whole weekend was an emotional one for him as he winds down his IndyCar career.

The invocation was way too long. Let me preface this by saying I am a Christian and I have always appreciated that they broadcast the prayer. What a great way to share about the love of Jesus. Well apparently the preacher that was asked to pray on Friday felt the same way and then some. He turned his prayer into a sermon. Sadly, rather than reach others it turned them off. I saw many complaints about it on Twitter. You can’t make anyone feel any different by forcing them to do something they don’t want to do. The following night the invocation wasn’t aired. Hmm? Maybe because there was a shortened pre-show, maybe because the preacher went way too long on Friday. I have always appreciated IndyCar Ministry. They say a beautiful prayer and are there to pray with drivers before the race, hold services at the track and teach about Jesus to those who want to hear. If we have many more invocations like fridays I’m afraid the series will stop broadcasting them.

The race had its share of excitement. TK brushes the wall. Will Power looses a tire. Colton Herta and Rinus VeeKay are involved in a very scary accident (more on that in a bit) and Simon Pagenaud goes from last to first to win the race. Loved every minute. Oh and don’t forget James Hinchcliffe in the booth. Wish he was in a car but love having him as part of the broadcast team. Now if we could just get Kevin Lee back I’d be thrilled.

As the race was going back to green after a caution what was expected to be a green flag lap remained yellow. The cars in the back of the pack didn’t slow enough and Colton Herta and Rinus VeeKay were involved in an accident. Herta’s car vaulted over Rinus Veekay’s car. The new aero screen definitely helped keep the drivers safe. There is no doubt about that in my mind. It also protected Marcus Erickson from some debris. The aero screen did its job. However, I also wonder if the screen played a part in launching Herta’s car into the air. Did it act as a ramp? It looked like it from my perspective but of course I am not even close to an expert on things like that. I hope it didn’t. I do know it protected Rinus and Markus. I’m so thankful for that.

Simon Pagenaud was the winner working his way from last to first. Never change your fantasy pick when they have a bad qualifying you will regret it. I felt Simon could still have a good race but doubted he would get the win. Well I was wrong. So much for my fantasy points.

Race Two

The race is much hotter. 90 degrees. This has to make the back to back racing so much harder.

Hinch looks great in his suit and tie. So snazzy and does a great job in the booth. Just want to see him in the race suit for a few more years.

As stated Helio gives the command to start engines. Loved it. Miss him in the series.

Ed Carpenter hits the wall. Ryan Hunter-Reay has the same accident that he had in race one, hitting the pit exit. He does more damage the second time. Pato O’Ward has a bad pit stop. He had been running second and then he drops down a lap after everyone cycles through their stops. Simon Pagenaud had another great race finishing fourth. Tony Kanaan finishes eleventh and on the lead lap. Marco Andretti gets a top ten. Oliver Askew finishes sixth- great two nights for him. Josef Newgarden wins from the pole and Will Power and Graham Rahal round out the podium. Good to see some who have been struggling have a good night. Will Power was completely spent after the race.

I wrote about race one a few days ago, gave a quick abbreviated review of race two today. Since I began this post we have learned that the race scheduled has once again changed, making my post title even more relevant.

So while the teams enjoy three weeks off the fans miss racing. It was hinted at that Portland and Laguna Seca might not happen. It was announced today they are no longer on the schedule. To replace them three more weekends have become double headers. Mid-Ohio, Gateway and the October Harvest GP at IMS Will now each be double headers. I appreciate all Roger Penske and IndyCar have done to make sure we have a good mount of races this season. I know there are things in our world right now we can’t change so double headers sure beat no race at all. However, I really feel for the teams and drivers. You could see how tired they were after the Iowa races. Late nights to repair cars or even to change liveries makes the weekend even longer for the teams. As a fan I enjoy the races but I am hopeful that next year we will be back to single race weekends for the most part. Double headers need to be spread out if they do continue.

Let’s close with the Indy 500. It has been announced that it will run at 25% capacity. I can’t even imagine how different it will look. I am thankful that anyone who wanted to attend is able. Many chose to stay at home this year. We hope to be at qualifying but honestly if masks must be worn and it’s a hot humid day I’m not sure like that sounds fun. Might be a wait and see for us.

Power wins the penultimate race of the 2019 season

Spending a Sunday afternoon watching a race is seriously my favorite thing to do. I can’t believe we only have one more race this season. Today’s race was amazing and I loved every second. I have six pages of notes about the race so get ready to dive in. I have to say though that one of my favorite things is watching live and tweeting with my IndyCar friends. Today I tweeted that I always remind my boys that when I am old and in a nursing home all they need to do is show me old IndyCar races, bring me wine and play George Michael for me and I will be happy. My twitter friends were all over that and I am now thinking I need to open an IndyCar nursing home. How fun to watch races all day every day with others who love racing. Sounds good to me.

So if I’m being totally honest I don’t really have time to get this post out and we have a fun day planned tomorrow, first on our boat and then taking the plane up for a quick flight to grab so dinner. Last official day of summer so we are going all out. That means I need to get six pages of race notes into a post tonight. In order to do that I’m going to take a page from Eric Hall – anotherindycarblog.wordpress.com / @erock_in_indy and do an unfiltered race notes kinda blog. Thanks Eric for the inspiration.

Portland race- huge crowd, long lines. Love it.

Katherine Legge in the two seater. Wonder why so many drivers and not Mario but love seeing Katherine at the IndyCar race.

Saw on Twitter that Hinch will be staying with McLaren/Schmidt. Wow. That actually shocks me. I thought for sure Hinch would stay with Honda when all was said and done. Will be so interesting to see what happens next year when his contract is up. Not a bad move for Hinch, I just thought Honda would do anything to keep him and that the Honda money would be enough to make him stay with a Honda team. Goes to show what I know.

Then we learned that ABC Supply would no longer be a AJ Foyt Racing sponsor. I need to read more about this but I am so disappointed. I believe I heard they will still sponsor the car for the 500 but need to double check those details. Foyt Racing has said they still plan to have two cars next year and this doesn’t change anything for their race team.

Green flag/ Turn one. Huge crash. Graham Rahal is too aggressive and starts a chain reaction which takes out both James Hinchcliffe and Conor Daly. Seriously, cmon Graham. Zach Veach is out too. Graham takes full responsibility.

The yellow was way too long. Green flag returns on lap 13.

Then Ryan Hunter-Reay makes an insane move and takes out Jack Harvey. I was fuming. Jack is only doing a partial season and RHR makes a ridiculous move which ruins both their days. Harvey and the Meyer Shank team had a great qualifying session and looked to do well in the race and then got collected in RHR’s dumb move. Unbelievable. RHR did receive a 30 sec penalty for avoidable contact and rejoined the race several laps down but still can’t believe he did that.

Dixon finally got around Colton Herta and Herta dropped like a rock and several others passed him.

Lap 47- Dixon has a three second lead. I seriously thought the race was over at this time and that we would just be watching a parade with Dixon leading. I was wrong.

I always enjoy the drama when things go wrong in a race. So many were complaining about the first turn crash and while I hate that Hinch and Veach were done for the day, I do enjoy how a crash like that can totally change the course of a race.

And just a few laps later we saw that again when Scott Dixon had an issue on Lap 56. His battery failed and just like that the guy I assumed would win the race is now down three laps. Crazy.

Power takes the lead.

Somehow Josef Newgarden has stayed out of trouble and after a poor qualifying session he is now in fourth place. I was/am a huge fan of Josef but I so enjoyed rooting for him when he was the underdog. Now that he is with team Penske I find myself rooting against him.

Lap 61- Double points at Laguna Seca means every point is critical in this race.

My tweet about the nursing home is getting a lot of feedback. Apparently others like my idea. What a fun nursing home that will be. Watching IndyCar and drinking wine (or beer). Love it!

Lap 68- Power leads and looks like he will win. I was so close to picking him on my fantasy league but went with Herta.

Lap 70- Pigot and Andretti should pit as soon as possible and pray for a yellow to mix things up.

Lap 71- How did Kanaan go down a lap?

Lap 74- JNew small issue in pits.

Lap 78/79 Marco and Pagenaud have contact. Marco has damage and needs to pit. Seriously that guy can never catch a break.

Lap 90- a couple races ago we wondered if Power would be winless this year, now he looks to win his second race of the year.

Lap 95- Power leads by 6 seconds over Rosenqvist. Rossi 16 seconds behind.

Never mind, Ferrucci stops on front stretch. Full course yellow. Things might change after all.

Restart keeps everyone in same position. Thought it might get nuts with so many fighting for a win or championship but they all fell in line.

JNew finishes 41 points in front of Rossi for the championship with Pagenaud just 42 points behind. With double points at the season finale it is still anyone’s championship.

Power has to be enjoying this win after his win in Pocono being in a rain shortened race.

Seriously, how do we only have one more race this season? It went way too fast. The 2020 schedule came out today. We will be returning to the oval in Richmond and that will add a race weekend. Other than Circuit of the America’s being later in April the season pretty much remains the same. I am thankful for the extra oval race. I would love to see a 20 race season beginning in February. Edit- I somehow missed that Pocono will not be returning. That is frustrating. So no added weekend and we go a month without a race from middle of July to middle of August. Something needs to be added there by 2021. That is too long of a break. July 18 will be at Iowa and racing won’t return until August 16 at Mid-Ohio. I don’t care for that.

So while I’m rooting for Rossi or Pagenaud for the championship I’d put my money on Josef. With Laguna Seca having not been on the schedule for several years it will be an interesting race to watch. I can’t wait and yet am not ready for the 2019 season to be over.

Thanks for reading.

Alexander Rossi Dominates at Long Beach

When Alexander Rossi first joined the IndyCar series in 2016 it was obvious to the fans he would rather be in F1. After his first season and winning a little race called the Indianapolis 500 he seemed to be a bit more interested in staying in IndyCar. Now in his third season I think it is safe to say Alexander Rossi is thrilled to be running in the Verizon IndyCar Series. He has also won the hearts of the fans and many of us were thrilled to watch him dominate and win at Long Beach Sunday afternoon. I’m always the first to say I hate a Penske parade. I want lead changes and drama but I loved every minute of the race on Sunday and was thrilled that Rossi led so many laps before finally taking the twin checkered flags. Farther back in the field was where the drama was and that all made for a fun and interesting race.

The drama began in qualifying, nothing too major at first but then Ryan Hunter-Reay was penalized for not staying in the designated lane when leaving the pits. In the driver meeting they were very specifically told where the blend line was and where they could cross over to the race track. During qualifying RHR cut over early and was penalized and therefore did not advance to the fast six. Now Marco Andretti is often called a cry baby but that title should really belong to Hunter-Reay. It was very clear he cut over too soon. It was a mistake, it stinks, move on.

The middle of the car needs to pass over the orange line. It didn’t. Ok so it was qualifying and not the race but a rule is a rule and after the drama we had last year over this same issue you would think RHR would have admitted he goofed up and be thankful it was only during qualifying and not the race. The race didn’t go so well for him either although that was not his fault- cry over that but man up about your own mistake.

We didn’t have to wait long for more drama- Lap one Graham Rahal had his brakes lock up on him and rear ended Simon Pagenaud. Pagenaud spun but Rahal continued on. He had to serve a drive through penalty but worked his way back up to finish fifth. Sadly Pagenaud was out for the day.

Some cars were on a two pit strategy and some on a three pit strategy so that kept us wondering how things would play out. Robert Wickens had gearbox problems and Kyle Kaiser caused the second yellow when he slowed on the track. When the green came back out we were entertained once again. RHR had problems when he punctured his tire. Just not his day. Then Sebastien Bourdais made an incredible pass on lap 47. He passed Spenser Pigot, Scott Dixon and Matheus Leist. Unbelievable. Sadly he crossed over into the pit lane with his two right tires and had to give the position back to Scott Dixon. Ok. That was the right call although it was such a gutsy move I’d be tempted to look the other way if I was race control but rules are rules. The problem was by the time race control told Bourdais he had to give up his position he had pulled away from Dixon by several seconds. He had to slow down allow Dixon to catch up and pass him. Bourdais then passed Dixon again two turns later. However, that just allowed Rossi to build an even greater lead and Bourdais couldn’t recover. Bourdais and Dixon both would later pull into closed pits and effectively ended any chance either one had of winning.

The closed pits added to more of the drama. I see them kinda like a yellow light. You are approaching planning to go and suddenly the light changes or the pits close. You’ve already committed and turning back might not be impossible but also not easy or possible safe. How many times have you gone through a yellow as it turns red because you took half a second to decide which option was better. Stop or go. The way I saw it both Bourdais and Dixon were close enough to the pits and had already decided to pit. Bourdais drove through, Dixon was serviced and then had to drive through during green. Might need to review the best way to handle closed pits during a yellow.

At the end of the day it was an entertaining race and I was thrilled to watch Alexander Rossi win. He clearly dominated the race. Will Power finished second and while it looked for a bit like he might be gaining on Rossi he just didn’t have enough to really challenge. Ed Jones finished third. Very impressive.

Zach Veach also had a great day earning the fourth spot. He is one to watch.

Graham finished fifth and Marco Andretti after poor qualifying finished 6th. Perhaps if they can start from the front of the field he will finally win a race again. I hope so. Tony Kanaan finished 8th for AJ Foyt Racing. His second top ten I believe. That team still needs to improve but I’m seeing glimpses of what could be and I’m very hopeful AJ will be back in victory circle soon.

Less than a week till the IndyCars are Racing again. This time at Barber Motorsports Park. I love this time of year!

Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama plus bonus Indy 500 talk

The race at Barber was the second race this season without a yellow flag. While that might sound like good to some it actually makes for dull racing. Passing was tough so we basically watched Simon Pagenaud lead, saw some passing farther back and green flag pit stops. Scott Dixon got spun around and lost his track position, he regained some positions and finished tenth. Juan Pablo Montoya started last but made his way through the field to finish fifth. JPM might not be my favorite driver (in fact he is my least favorite) but you can’t deny he has talent. Graham Rahal though was the bright spot in the race making the last laps exciting. I was yelling and cheering for him as he passed Pagenaud to take the lead. Unfortunately, he damaged his front wing and Pagenaud regained the front position. Graham held on to finish a very respectable second. Hopefully the Hondas are figuring out their issues. 

Barber looks beautiful on TV and I would love to attend that race in the near future. NBCSN did a great job as always. I really enjoyed having practice aired and live qualifying even though I watched later on the DVR. All in all a good clean race but missing some excitement, had Graham won that would have changed things. 

Next up is the Grand Prix of Indy. My boys and I will be attending, arriving in Indy on Friday. They are excited because they get to miss a day of school. I’m excited to return to the Speedway. Sadly, we won’t be attending The 500 this year- more about that in a later post. 

Speaking of the Indy 500, we received great news this week. Oriol Servia will compete with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.  Servia has always been a driver I liked but I appreciate him even more after drove Justin Wilson’s car in the 2015 season finale. Servia is a good driver and I expect him to do well. 

Even more exciting was the news that Stefan Wilson will also be competing. Stefan will be driving for KV Racing Technology and will be driving the No. 25 car.  The news literally brought tears to me eyes. My family loved Justin Wilson. (Read about it here) I was thrilled when I learned his brother Stefan would be driving in the 500. Stefan is parterning with the Indiana Donor Network and a program named “Driven2SaveLives” which promotes organ, tissue and eye donation. Justin was an organ donor and his donation saved five lives. Through the program Stefan and the Indiana Donor Network hope to sign up 2,500 new donors. I already am an organ donor, are you?  Sign up here-Indianadonornetwork.org I’m sure this will be an emotional month for Stefan. I am just as sure that he will be on everyone’s favorite list for the race. From what I’ve seen of Stefan he is just as kind and generous as Justin was and I sure hope this leads to more racing for him. 

So after two caution free (and a bit dull) races we will move on to the GP of Indy. Even it is goes caution free it will be amazing. I will be at one of my favorite places with my two sons sharing my passion for IndyCar. I can’t wait!