Well, at least part one. I may throw another post or two together about Saturday night as the week goes on, once I rehash a few more things in my mind.
Outside of Justin Wilson winning, which is a nice surprise and possibly one of the better stories we've had this year, the biggest positive of the night is that everyone seemed to get what they wanted. The drivers got cars they could drive, the fans got a lot of fun stuff to watch and everyone got home safely.
Now the question is: will we ever do it again? I'm gonna say yes, because Eddie Gossage and Randy Bernard are businessmen first, and Texas is good business. Now that we have found a combination of factors that make racing on 1.5-mile tracks doable, I think their "old married couple" routine continues and we get the race back in the future.
I'm going to hold off on clamoring for more, like many began saying last night, because I think the cars should test at every track to see if this formula works in other places. Once that happens, then we can think about bringing in more tracks to the mix...provided they want the series there.
Again, one thing we have to be clear about...it isn't that IndyCar doesn't want to go to places like Chicagoland, Michigan, Kansas, etc. They do, but the keys to these decisions are held by others, and that doesn't always work out well.
But back to the racing. That's what I liked about last night, that it was real, actual racing! Drivers were forced to lift, cars were hitting their rev limiters, drivers had to shift, tires went off as the runs went along...that is what elite professional racing is supposed to be about.
It also led to some crazy moments, a lot of drama and a bunch of surprises. Scott Dixon dominated the event leading 133 of the first 174 laps until getting loose and crashing out late, several drivers came back from a lap down and finished strong, and of course, Graham Rahal's unfortunate Turn 4 wall kiss showed that nothing is a given until you cross under the checkers.
So let's run through the top 5 and a few other thoughts:
Justin Wilson. We had the idea that the winner of this race would be a true DRIVER, so we got what we wanted. Wilson is one of the most underrated drivers on the circuit -- sometimes I wonder what he would do in a Ganassi or Penske ride -- and certainly his technical skills rise to the top in a race like this. It was Wilson's first win since taking Watkins Glen in 2009, and the first win by a non-Penske or Ganassi team this year. He's not considerd an "oval" guy but shows flashes here and there, especially at Indy two weeks ago, that he can drive on them quite well. He has momentum and Milwaukee is another driver's track, so it's right up his alley.
Graham Rahal. What have I said week in and week out about Graham's luck? It just sucks. He looked like he had the car at the end of the race but his exits just kept getting higher and higher. Right before he crashed I was thinking of how it would be a big deal if he won (especially since he hasn't in four years) but he couldn't save the car one last time. But overall his weekend went well, and he did need that.
Ryan Briscoe. Briscoe didn't seem to be a factor for a while and then picked up the pace later on in the race. Led five laps and kept his good mojo going as well. He's won in Milwaukee too.
James Hinchcliffe. Hinch just keeps piling up top-5 finishes and is back to sitting third in points, just 12 behind Dixon in the runner-up slot. Detroit looks to be the outlier of what is one of the best overall seasons in the series so far.
JR Hildebrand. After qualifying at a Lotus-like 202 mph he was a rocket from the get-go, moving up in the field right from the start and improving 18 positions over his starting spot. I just saw a note where he actually went a lap down TWICE but still was able to recover and drive his way through the field. It was his second top-5 of the season to go along with his effort at Long Beach.
The penalty. We all know that Power blocked Tony Kanaan late in the race. Even Power took responsibility for it and felt bad about ruining Kanaan's day. One of the fastest cars on the track at the time of their contact, Kanaan had to stop and have his nose replace for the second time on the night (they actually used one of Rubens' Barrichello's) and lost a lap to finish 11th. I guess what makes it worth talking about, then, is the fact that it was called at all. I doubt it would have been called prior to this season, but Beaux Barfield continues to keep making the correct decisions.
Some other thoughts: Simon Pagenaud did well finishing sixth, and James Jakes ran a smart race and finished 10th...Power, the points leader, lost a lap on his penalty and placed eighth...I like Katherine Legge, but given the way the cars drove and the race played out, I wonder what Sebastien Bourdais would have done...I really, really don't know where Marco Andretti's head is sometimes. I can understand being worried about the car fire, but to just climb out of the car without being told and losing six laps while being strapped back in is one of the dumbest things he's ever done. His lack of mental toughness is mind-boggling...Speaking of mind-boggling, Ed Carpenter commenting on his radio during the race about the fans watching a boring race was just bizarre. His 12th-place finish made him look like he was bored...Did Dario Franchitti's handling issues early on in the race get him a little spooked? He was so far off the pace he looked like one of the backmarkers he likes to complain about. I'm not saying his car wasn't right, but he wasn't thrilled to be there in the first place.