Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Wednesday, Wednesday

So here we are in the middle of the week again. You know, Wednesday is one of those bittersweet type of days for me. It's getting close to the weekend, yet it's still so far, far away.

When I think of Wednesday I think about the first time I ran the Chicago Marathon in 2000. Once you get to Chinatown you go south for a ways until you get to US Cellular Field (where the White Sox play), then you turn the corner on 35th Street and get your first look at the skyline in a long, long time.

I love the Chicago skyline, it's so beautiful, and a nice bonus to living here (I'll get to the downside in a minute), but the worst thing about seeing those awesome buildings while you are running the marathon is that it is a relief to see them again...until you realize you are 21 1/2 miles into the race and still more than 4 1/2 miles from the finish line!

But I digress. Thankfully we have a race weekend to look forward to, and Toronto at that, which is one of the cooler and more popular stops on the calendar. So let's get back into blogging mode, and since this is a holiday, it will be a bit lighter than usual.

*Happy Fourth! Yes, today this country celebrates its 236th birthday, and as an extra bonus falls in the middle of the week to make this Wednesday not so tough to get through. My family first came to this country sometime in the 1630s and settled in the Midwest almost 200 years ago (I'm mostly English and Irish). I'm not what I would consider a patriotic person, but I am proud of my heritage and proud to be an American.

So eat, drink and be merry today. Enjoy the fireworks and your family, and be thankful that we live in a country that while unfortunately gave the world country music and reality television made up for it by also giving it baseball and oval track racing.

*Chicago is out for 2013. This story in the Chicago Tribune flew under my radar a couple of days ago, but its final decision doesn't surprise me. The story talks about how a proposed IndyCar street race around Grant Park in downtown Chicago is probably not going to happen, now or anytime in the future.

Unfortunate, that's all I can say. As I mentioned in this post back in November, as the third-largest market in the country, IndyCar needs to be here, and if the series can't race at Chicagoland Speedway for whatever reason, an event downtown would be a great consolation. A street race downtown would be literally in the shadows of the skyline, and coupled with Lake Michigan would be an incredible backdrop for racing.

The city hosts several events in and around Grant Park, including the marathon, Lollapalooza, Taste of Chicago, and the Air and Water Show, not to mention dozens of conventions and millions of visitors every year. I'm not quite sure how an IndyCar race is different from any of those in terms of the impact on the city, but apparently others think differently and don't want it here.

Then again, this decision was made by people who think that they can bring a Super Bowl here despite building a stadium that is too small to host a game, and not putting a roof on it (which I would want open during Bears games by the way) so that people would stay warm there in February with a stiff wind blowing off the lake. Oh yeah, a roof means you could have a Final Four there, too. Midwestern common sense stops at the Cook County line, in case you were wondering.

It is just a shame because Chicago has a racing history that goes back 115 years, and in fact they raced in front of huge crowds in old Soldier Field for close to four decades. I hope that maybe someone puts together a plan that everyone can work with, but I won't hold my breath either.

*Lotus has an updated engine. So how much longer will we have them to kick around? We'll find out this weekend and they unveil their new powerplant this weekend and Toronto. Simona De Silvestro is feeling a bit more confident and believes they could be top-10 ready by the September race in Baltimore. Let's hope so...Simona has handled the debacle that has been her season with total grace and professionalism, and is due for a HUGE break.

It will be interesting to see how much of a difference the changes will make. I don't know if Lotus can make one change -- albeit a big one -- and close the gap all that much, but if this one change takes and they can continue to improve with each race weekend, that will take them to the off-season where they will be able to get more of an equal footing. When Simona tested at Mid-Ohio this week it was the FIRST test Lotus has attended this year. Sure they are slow as hell, but starting the season behind and never catching up has been a huge hurdle to overcome.

That said, I'm glad IndyCar has made them work for it. I've seen some who have suggested the series just give them more boost to level the playing field, but that's the same as giving everyone a trophy. It wouldn't have been even close to the fair way to handle the situation.

*Toronto! The series moves north of the border this weekend, which is kind of funny calling it "north" of anything since it still sits further south than much of the US. But Toronto is a great backdrop for racing and this year marks the 26th edition of the Honda Indy Toronto, which was first won by Bobby Rahal in 1986.

Dario Franchitti has won this race three times to lead active drivers, while Will Power has won twice. Still, neither touch Michael Andretti's record of seven. No doubt Toronto would be a great place for native son James Hinchcliffe to pick up his first career victory.

I'll be back this weekend with a race preview and wrap-up, as always.

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