Monday, April 2, 2012

Barber Post-Game

I could probably have also called this post "Will Power Is Just Better Than Everyone Else", and if the race had gone down the way many thought it might -- little passing or action -- WP's dash from a road course career-worst P9 to start the race only to finish, as usual, in Victory Lane, it might have been appropriate.

But Power's effort Sunday was only one of several great storylines that came out of the Honda IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama, a highly entertaining show of great racing from the front of the field to the back.

Here are a couple of thoughts:

*Will Power. As a driver, Will dove a great race, and once he got to the front he did his usual, drove near-qualifying-type laps and pulled away from a late restart for a comfortable win over Scott Dixon. But his team had a huge hand in it too. Tim Cindric made some great calls and their pit work was excellent. Power didn't seem to have a lot of confidence in the car under race conditions until yesterday, but he learned a lot, which is dangerous to everyone else.

*Dixon. Driving a Honda, Dixon once again drove the wheels off of his car but seemed frustrated with his second runner-up finish of the year and his third straight at Barber. A late pit mistake may have cost him a little bit, but once the adrenaline wore off and he could be objective I'm sure he would conceed that Power had a better car.

*Helio Castroneves. Finishing P3 is a respectable day, and kept Helio at the top of the points, but I think he felt like he should have gotten more. After leading early he stayed near the front but just didn't seem to have a car he was happy with. He did have a spirited battle with Graham Rahal in the closing laps, which was fun to watch.

*Sebastien Bourdais. His drive makes me want to bring back my Speed Racer quote from the other day: "He might have a better car, but I'm a better driver". Two weeks in a row the Frenchman has gotten every ounce out of himself and his ride, and though his P9 finish doesn't look impressive on paper and wasn't even the biggest move of the race (Oriol Servia going from 26th to 13th was), it was an incredible drive. Bourdais is kind of a mysterious guy since he doesn't say a lot and isn't involved in social media, but his emotional interview after the race showed me that 1) he left it all out there Sunday and 2) he really, really cares. That's cool.

*The Racing. In the past, the biggest raves for Barber went to the facility's picturesque setting, but the drivers all came to play on Sunday, with some great battles all through the field. The mid-pack was especially active, with Marco Andretti putting on a good show and guys like Bourdais, Rubens Barrichello, Dario Franchitti and Ryan Hunter-Reay mixing it up. Who knows, maybe this kind of stuff happened at St. Pete but we would have never known, which brings me to my next point.

*NBCSN 1, ABC 0. The two broadcasts were like night and day as the NBC Sports Network did its usual spot-on job of showing the race. They focused on the right battles and provided tons of information. I think Bob Jenkins does a passable job but sometimes seems like he is slipping a bit (meanwhile Paul Page does drag racing and snowmobile races the Winter XGames. WTF?), but Jon Beekhuis is like an Einstein of racing and Townsend Bell did a great job. I also heard Pippa Mann was great during the Indy Lights race. There are so many drivers like those two who are looking for rides that provide a unique perspective as "active" drivers -- just like Dan Wheldon did last year -- and it is great for the viewer that they are utilized. One thing I liked is how they focused on various parts of the field, and even covered battles to the line after Power took the checkered flag.

Plus the IndyCar 36 special featuring Tony Kanaan at St. Pete was very well done. It will be interesting to watch how that show evolves during the year.

One complaint, though: Where are the Twitter handles? Virtually anytime ANYONE'S name is flashed on the screen, their handles should be there as well.

No racing this week, but a big test at Indy to look forward to on Wednesday. Next up is Long Beach and some old school tradition, not to mention one of the more popular spots on the schedule. And did I mention the Indy 500 is only 55 days away?

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