Sunday, June 28, 2015

California Indy 500 - The Classic Nobody Saw Yet Nobody Can Forget

Indycar returned to California Speedway and the result was history for this form of racing.   The most competitive race in Indycar history exploded, as the lead changed hands 80 times among 14 drivers, beating the previous record set in the California 500 in 2001 when there were 73 lead changes.  

Yet the aftermath illustrated the stupidity that has reduced Indycar racing to irrelevance, as driver Will Power and Penske Racing honcho Tim Cindric griped about the enormity of passing and the frequent four-abreast battles by invoking the death of Dan Wheldon to argue against pack racing - and once again ignoring non-pack melees of greater violence such as what transpired at Toronto earlier this year in the Indy Lights race as well as Dario Franchitti's disaster on a street course that ended his career.   Dan Wheldon's death had nothing to do with pack racing and Cindric and Will Power should know better.   Running over 200 MPH instead of 190 is more relevant to safety than pack racing - and for whatever it is worth the cars seemed curiously slow in this race.

Racing is about lead changes, and nothing else - you go for the lead, you take the lead, and if you lose the lead you take it back.   That's been the reality of racing forever.   And 80 lead changes - only the fourth race in history after three Talladega thrillers in the 2010-11 to reach that number - is racing as it SHOULD be.   So what the California Indy 500 showed is a racecar package that worked to perfection - a package Indycar needs to use for Pocono in late August; the stronger the draft, the better.

It also illustrated the need to incentivize going for the lead - most laps led should always pay more to the driver since that is a huge performance gauge.

If there is a safety concern here, it's in the abysmal state of the surface at Fontana.   The cars clearly weren't as comfortable as they should have been the whole race and it appeared some of the crashes might have been prevented by a better surface.   Fontana needs to be repaved even more now than before, and the "character" argument about racetracks doesn't mean anything.  

The sad part is it was a classic race that no one actually saw - the crowd at Fontana was almost nonexistent, an interesting comment with the NFL trying to secure a temporary home for a team for 2016 on the myth that there are actual fans in the LA area.    Indycar's decline in popularity has been long term and it needs racing this exciting to regain popularity.  

Some other takes on this amazing 500 -

* It was a superb day for AJ Foyt's team as Takuma Sato led 31 laps and sliced into the fight for the win, rallying when he got squeezed to the apron and lost his momentum, before getting into the Lap 241 crash.  Jack Hawksworth's tenth salvaged something that should have been more for Supertex.

* What does Ed Carpenter have to do to win?   Once again Carpenter was in the thick of things and once again it led to nothing.

* Rahal Letterman's win broke the duopoly that's developed between Penske and Ganassi, a duopoly that appears to be leaving Michael Andretti's outfit behind.   It was also the eighth different winner in Indycar this year.

* Eight cars got tires under yellow after the Power-Sato crash, but the way the draft was working it might not have mattered.

So ended the classic that nobody saw but nobody should forget.


Michael Snider said...

Rahal did not get fresh rubber at the end.

Monkeesfan said...

Thank you for the correction.