Ho hum, another typical, boring street race in the IndyCar series.
I'm not usually this blunt, but I'm gonna be right now. If you have a problem with today's race, find something else to do or find another sport to follow. This was (non-oval) open wheel racing at it's best. A tough, physical track, car pieces flying all over the place, drivers racing to stay alive in the championship, others racing to possibly save their jobs, lead changes, storyline changes and plenty of drama.
And hey, in a roundabout way, we had a green/white/checker! How about that? Now, there is discussion on Twitter about it, but my stance hasn't changed. I liked it in this instance because it didn't extend the scheduled race distance so all was good.
Can't ask for more. This post is going to be epic anyway, so I'll run through the front of the field and throw down a few other thoughts.
Winner: Ryan Hunter-Reay. What an absolute clutch drive. RHR and his team screwed up badly Saturday in qualifying and started the day in the 10th position. It didn't take him long to get to the front, though, and he sealed it with a couple of good restarts at the end. That gives him four wins and he heads to Fontana in two weeks just 17 points behind Will Power for the championship.
Runner-up: Ryan Briscoe. Briscoe was another guy that started a bit midfield (11th) and worked his way to the front as well. He's had a strong couple of weeks, and given how he earned the pole and notched a top-5 at Indy back in May, he could really finish with a flurry.
Third: Simon Pagenaud. The Friendly Frog called it yesterday, didn't he? After crashing in practice and qualifying ninth he said he felt like he had a great chance to win, and he almost pulled it off, leading 14 laps and staying in the mix all day long. Plus his fifth-to-first restart on Lap 36 might be the second-best restart of the year behind Tony Kanaans' sixth-to-first dash at Indy. Then again, that is the Restart of the Decade so it's no shame to be second. How is Simon going to drive next year when he knows the tracks and knows what he is doing?
Fourth: Scott Dixon. Making his 200th open wheel start, Dixon was solid but not spectacular. He gained a single point on Power but his title hopes are pretty much dashed.
Fifth: Rubens Barrichello. Rubens! Again! A fourth and a fifth in the last two weeks is pretty much what he was looking for when he came here. He sure was hella aggressive on that last restart, wasn't he? He confirmed in interviews he will be back next year, which is great news, but a bit coy as to where.
Sixth: Will Power. As has been his M.O. each of the last three weeks, WP jumped out to a huge lead early but fell victim to a bad call when he stayed with the rain tires while others either stuck with the slicks through the brief shower or stopped and switched. Then he couldn't make much happen in traffic and that was that. Instead of getting one step closer to wrapping up the title he is now under HUGE pressure to get it done, and on ovals he has a career average finish of 13th place. Should RHR win the 500-miler at Fontana, Power would have to finish fourth or better, and that is a tall order for him on ovals.
THE restart. Yeah, you know which one I'm talking about, the 2nd to last where Briscoe was the leader and looked half asleep as three cars breezed by him. I guess how that should have been handled is up to interpretation, but two things happened: 1) the green was shown and 2) the cars were beyond the cones. Briscoe and Penske Racing are in the minority on this one that a penalty should have been called on that, but I liked Power's honestly where he said that with a championship on the line he would have done the same thing. Either way, we raced on and given the circumstances that's probably the way it should be.
Here is Beaux Barfield's explanation
Lead Changes. Twelve lead changes by seven drivers, five of which led 10 laps or more. Is that some sort of street circuit record?
Points! Power and RHR will spend a lot of the next two weeks discussing the title in interviews and getting their picture taken with the championship trophy. It's a nice problem to have, isn't it? Right now Will leads 453-436, and if you want a crib sheet to use on the night of Sept. 15th (my son Kevin's 12th birthday by the way), cool Aussie IndyCar superfan Shane Rogers gives us this primer that lists all of the scenarios. While I wish Helio Castroneves and Dixon were still in the hunt, but this is what we want, a mano a mano duel to the last 225 mph lap of the season.