Sunday, July 22, 2012

Edmonton Indy Preview

It's been sort of a quiet week in the IndyCar world. No real drama and nothing happened that could have given the series the weekly "black eye" that a lot of people love to write about. It just didn't seem...normal.

Although in the sense of fairness and to make sure EVERYONE knows I am not a full-fledged member of the kittens and rainbows crew, I'm airing my one complaint for the weekend in the second graph. Why in the heck isn't qualifying on live television?

Friday we celebrated the 43rd anniversary of the first ever moon landing, where Neil Armstrong said it was "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind". Much respect to the men and women who have strapped themselves to the top of a 200-foot tall rocket in the name of science and exploration.

(Quick trivia: Of the 12 men who have set foot on the moon, nine are still living, despite the last moon landing occurring in 1972. Of course they are, they are immortal badasses.)

The space program is a perfect example of what people can do when they put their minds, thoughts and ideas together. If we can figure out a way to do that, why can't we show television programming live? Does a re-run of Tour de France coverage REALLY draw more viewers than IndyCar qualifying? If that's the case, then we have to figure out a reason why.

In the end, NBC has other stations, and even though I don't like the way ABC punted its coverage on a whim, why can't they just schedule qualifying on one of those channels? Or better yet, after looking at the IndyCar weekend schedule, why didn't they just put off IICS qualifying until the TV window was open?

It's 2012 and qualifying is being shown in tape delay? This has to change, as does the lack of live video streaming. I know that part of it is a bit more complicated because of rights/ownership issues, but it's inexcusable. In this day and age of instant information, delaying the broadcast of a live event is a killer. Who watches when you already know the results? Unless you deliberately stay away from any technology all afternoon (which I did today) it's only the diehards that will take the time to watch.

Not only that, the broadcast "fast forwarded" through parts of the sessions. Come on, guys! 

IndyCar can't get live qualifying but NASCAR's Class AAA farm league gets its practices shown live on one of the ESPNs. To quote Allen Iverson, "We talkin' about practice, man. Practice!" Fix this soon.

I'm done...let's return to the fun stuff.

Qualifying today was a bit interesting, and once again, at least on paper, we should be in for a good show later today. With the dry-rain-dry pattern during qualifying, there were a few surprises and the Fast Six eventually featured six drivers from five different teams. This coming after practice sessions where the top-20 cars (at minimum) were separated by less than a second over the 13-turn, 2.224-mile course.

With the weather adding in an extra variable, qualifying took on more strategies and decision-making on the part of the teams when a brief rain shower fell during the Fast 12 session. The led to some serious parity in the Fast Six as five separate teams were represented.

In the end, Ryan Hunter-Reay continued his roll in capturing his first pole of the season, and first since 2004. Coming off three straight race wins, RHR flexed his muscle some more and most importantly picked up a valuable point that may come in handy later on in the season.

Unfortunately, he may have won P1, but he won't start there as an engine change dropped him to 11th. Scott Dixon will also have his work cut out for him as a new Honda powerplant in his car means he starts 18th.

So for the fourth straight race Dario Franchitti, who finished second to RHR by .0118 seconds, will take the field to the green for the 75-lap race. Ryan Briscoe, who briefly held the pole in the Fast Six session, starts next to Franchitti, and they are followed by Takuma Sato, Alex Tagliani and Helio Castroneves.

Will Power will go off sixth after missing the Fast Six for the first time since Barber back in March. He overcooked it into turn 1 on what was setting up to be his fast lap and did not advance. But starting seventh isn't so bad, and he will become a factor very, very quickly.

With weather not an issue, I expect a lot of fast and furious action out there as the track's surface will put the drivers a little further out on the edge than they usually go. The bumpy track means the car's ride heights are a bit higher this weekend, meaning a little less downforce. That's made more than a few cars get off the ground going around corners, and fast laps have been lost by drivers having to correct cars that get a little jumpy. No one will be able to take anything for granted, that's for sure.

Actually, since I'm from the Midwest, watching qualifying today I had the thought that if sprint cars ever raced on a dirt road course, this is what it would look like.


Winner: Helio Castroneves. Helio was quickest in the Friday practice and has three runner-up finishes here. He also had the race almost sewn up in 2010 until he was assessed a penalty for blocking, which set off one of the greatest tirades in IndyCar history. He has three sixth and a seventh-place finish in his last four races, and his consistency will begin paying off.

Podium contenders: Franchitti and Power will be in the mix, although Toronto wasn't good to either of them, was it? I expect Simon Pagenaud to work his way up from his fourth-row starting position. And you know what would be great? To see one of the Canadians, either James Hinchcliffe or Tagliani, take home some hardware in their home country. Both had some quick moments in qualifying.

IndyCar 36: Look for Hinch in this week's edition, as the crew followed him around for his hometown race in Toronto. I fully expect it to be one of the more entertaining shows of the year.

The race will be shown live on NBC Sports Network beginning at 2 p.m. Eastern following IndyCar 36 and the Indy Lights race.

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