Sunday, June 3, 2012

Belle Isle -- In the Books, Let's Get Out of Town

I was covering a baseball game this afternoon so I had to listen to the first 45 laps of the Chevrolet Grand Prix of Belle Isle online. I made it home for most of the red flag session and the anti-climatic 15-lap dash to the end, so I think I am up to speed.

We were due for a crappy race, weren't we? I think when the schedule comes out next season this race, which has always been a snoozefest, should be AFTER the ovals. I don't want to harken back to the 1990s often, but Milwaukee was always a perfect event for the week after the 500. If it ain't broke...

I'll give credit to Roger Penske and Bud Denker for trying to bring racing back to Detroit, especially with Chevy back in the series. Still, they have to do something about that race course, which might be one of the worst layouts in the series.

Anyway, I'm pretty disgusted about today, so let's change things up a bit and throw out a few winners and losers.


Scott Dixon. I rarely rejoice when a Big Two car wins a race, although this week I will make an exception because this was was well-deserved. After finishing second three times this year, including a crusher at the Indy 500 last weekend, Dixie finally brought one home. He took the lead from the green flag and on the post-red flag restart snookered Will Power big time, then survived two more restarts to lead all 60 laps. He also moved just behind Power for second in points. It was also his 28th career open wheel win, breaking a tie with Johnny Rutherford and moving him one win behind Rick Mears as he continues one of the most unappreciated and underrated careers in racing history. And yes, I was one of those unappreciative types but have finally come around.

Dario Franchitti. The Indy 500 champ made another run from midfield this week, getting to the runner-up slot from the 14th starting position. He was again one of the fastest cars at the end, and with three ovals coming up and sitting fourth in points he is working his way up the classification. This series is too deep and too diverse (between ovals, roads and streets) to give upon anyone just yet.

Simon Pagenaud. The Frenchman bounced back from an MIA May to pick up his third podium of the season. He sounded like he was having fun out there Sunday, but needs to improve his oval performance.

Oriol Servia. Again the hard charger of the weekend. No doubt he is very happy with Chevy power, finishing fourth at Indy and fifth at Belle Isle. To this point of the season, Servia has improved a total of 74 places over his starting position.


James Hinchcliffe. Hinch was the one who got all of the madness started when he hit a loose piece of track and went straight into the tire barrier, and his profanity-laced tirade was justified as he was clearly not at fault for the accident. Still, his 21st place finish drops him to fifth in points. He will be happy to leave Belle Isle as he also failed to make the Firestone Fast 6 (or Nine for Indy) for the first time all year.

Will Power. Yes, fourth place is third loser this week. Power didn't claim the pole (upset No. 1) and never led a lap (upset No. 2), quite the departure from Barber, Long Beach and Sao Paulo. He has got to figure out a way to get through the ovals and the next three weeks because that noise he hears is a trainload of drivers getting closer to him at the top of the standings.

Takuma Sato. Taku crashes for the third time in the last four races (although the wreck at Long Beach wasn't his fault) and his awesomely crazy drive at Indy is starting to seem like a distant memory. He did well at Iowa last year and Milwaukee seems to suit his style so all is not lost.

IndyCar. I'm not going to pile on the way others have, because as I Tweeted this afternoon, a minor bump in the road in another series (or even sport) is cause for high drama for IndyCar. Of course, many of those wounds are self-inflicted by a jittery fan base, and that is something we have to get over. Beaux Barfield and company had a lot of tough decisions to make, and many of them caused the usual wailing and gnashing of teeth. The series just can't seem to win. In the end this was just the perfect capper to a crappy week for the series. I'm not covering for IndyCar here, I'm not happy with a few of the decisions and how they were communicated, but it wasn't the cluster many are calling it either. Obviously the series faces challenges that many do not (like racing on streets that are used by cars and trucks 350 days a year), and they didn't pull it off as flawlessly as everyone wanted them to. Get over it and move on.

Move on we do as Texas is, thankfully, just a few days away. Testing went well at Texas, and the drivers were very happy with the feel and performance of the cars there. Let's get there and get this one in the rear-view mirror as quickly as possible.

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