Monday, June 27, 2011

Iowa!

Beyond that, no title gives the weekend justice. As someone who is part-Iowan (I was born and lived for a while in Davenport and my family's roots in the state go back over 125 years), I was really proud and impressed by the way people came out and supported the event. I was at the Midwest League All-Star game (low Class A) in the Quad Cities on Tuesday and they did the exact same thing.Very cool. Good people.

Anyway, on to the race. I figured this week I'd run through the top five and add another couple of comments along the way.

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Marco Andretti -- He needed this one...badly. Iowa seems to be a place where he carries a lot of confidence, and that showed with his drive on Saturday. He got himself into the mix quickly and just kept coming. It's hard to believe it has been five years since he has won, he's better than that, way better. He needs to drive well and the series needs him to drive well. As I wrote about over the winter, he needs to step up and become a face of his team and the series, and this was a move in the right direction.

Tony Kanaan -- As always, he put on a great show. His battle with Marco over the last 25 laps or so was great theater. I know they haven't always seen eye-to-eye (especially after the repeated throws under the bus TK got in the off-season) but I think they truly enjoyed racing each other. It was about as close to the edge of the rules as one can get, but isn't that what the highest levels of the sport are about? It was hard racing, and I think TK said it best in his post-race comments: if it weren't for the win they would have had a long conversation. It's nice he gets it because I'm not sure others always do. No matter who you are or what you have accomplished, you should have to earn wins and not expect everyone to get out of your way and hand them to you.

Scott Dixon -- Dixon had a horrible time in qualifying -- starting 23rd on the grid -- but steadily worked his way up in the field and finished a quiet third. I've never been a fan of his, but I've been impressed with his driving this year (I think he deserves more than he has gotten) as well as his improved performance with the media. Everybody who knows the guy likes him, now he is starting to project that to the fans as well.

J.R. Hildebrand -- Another guy who needed a finish like this badly. We all know about Indy, Texas was a fiasco and his wreck at Milwaukee had Scott Goodyear openly putting him on the hot seat. Now, I thought that was one of the most bizarre things Goodyear has ever said and it probably held little to no water, but it just put an exclamation point to his run of (bad) luck over the last few weeks. He has left a lot of wrecked equipment and a blown knee in his wake the last few weeks, here is hoping this helps him right the ship.

Dario Franchitti -- Dario had a good news/bad news type of weekend. The bad news first: he dominated the first 3/4 of that race and didn't win. The good news: he made the most of it and walked away with a 20-point lead on Will Power, which he is going to need now that we are getting back to Willer Time (ahem, road and street courses). Reading Curt Cavin's Q & A this morning, I discovered I wasn't the only one who was surprised that Dario left his crying towel at home for the weekend, but I was glad Sad Dario stayed home for the weekend. I think he realized two things: 1) he didn't lose the race, he just got beat by better cars, something that's somewhat easier to live with and 2) he left Iowa with a bigger lead in points than when he arrived. And, his car headed home in one piece. For a driver, that leaves little to complain about.

A few other observations:

* It really sucks that Dan Wheldon isn't in a car, and hopefully that can be resolved soon, if anything with a ride for the rest of the oval season. Still, his work on Versus has been great. The advantage he has is that he has just been in the car, his feel and knowledge of the car and the competitors is fresh. Both at Iowa and Texas he has provided some little nuggets of info that I have totally gotten into.
* But as long as he is doing TV, his "grid walk" with Robin Miller MUST be part of the program. Though they didn't glean a lot of new stuff out of their interviews, it was fun to watch them just grab people and put them on the air, because you really get to see people's true personalities when they are winging it. Plus, I thought Roger Penske giving Wheldon props for winning the 500 on the air was just a very classy move.
* Try as I might, I wish Danica Patrick would inspire me. She doesn't. I will never stray from my prediction that if she takes it seriously she will win the Indy 500 one day, but outside of the Speedway her driving does nothing. I even gave her another chance when I went to the Nationwide race at Chicagoland a couple of weeks ago. Nope. She drove around in circles for two-plus hours and did nothing. Passed a couple of cars, got passed by those same couple of cars and moved up late via attrition. Sound familiar? I know I sang her praises after Long Beach, talking about how I was impressed with her performance, I thought she would be more of a force on ovals, and she wasn't.
* Not that he has to worry about it for a while, but where is Will Power's confidence level on ovals? Admittedly, not everything that has happened to him has been his fault, but somehow I think the good vibes he got out of Texas have turned into some mixed feelings.
* Do you think that Mike Conway and Justin Wilson are looking foward to the twisties? Talk about needing some confidence.

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