Monday, August 6, 2012

Mid-Ohio Recap

First of all, a confession: I caught the race in segments and not the event in its entirety since I was covering a baseball game yesterday afternoon. I listened to the first 20 laps on Sirius (where the guys did a great job as always) and caught the rest of it in the press box on a really big, really nice TV.

So, what I can offer is an informed opinion and not the in-depth, mind-blowing expertise you have come to know and love at 15DIM. I'll try to do better next time.

As always, let's roll through the top six and a few of my other random thoughts.

*Winner: Scott Dixon. If I had written a preview prior to the weekend I was picking Dixon as he had won three previous times at Mid-Ohio. He added to that total and notched his 29th career win, tying him with Rick Mears for 10th on the all-time list. Dixon only led once for the final 26 laps of the race, beating Will Power out of the pits after the final round of stops and pulling away to a monstrous (at least in terms of this year) 3.4 second win.

Back to the wins thing. According to an article on Dixie would like to race for nine more seasons. It's pretty conceivable that if he continues at his current winning pace he could get into that rare air of 40-plus wins, a stratosphere that is the home to just three drivers: AJ Foyt (67), Mario Andretti (52) and Michael Andretti (42).

In the short-term, he made a big jump in the standings and is now just 28 points out of the lead with three races to go. The only problem is that he is still fourth, and will need some help jumping over three other drivers.

Runner-up: Will Power. Now, if I had written a preview after qualifying, I would have said that WP was going to take the green flag and run and hide from the rest of the field. And for 57 laps I would have been right. I'm sure Power could have made more of a run at Dixon if he'd wanted, but he accomplished what he'd set out to do when he arrived for the race weekend, which is leave with the points lead.

With Ryan Hunter-Reay's Chevy engine losing power late in the race  which eventually saw him finish 24th, Power jumped to the top of the classification with 379 points, just five ahead of RHR and 26 on Helio Castroneves, who felt under the weather all weekend and limped home to a 16th place finish.

Third: Simon Pagenaud. Three podiums for a first-year (he's not a rookie...LOL) IndyCar driver on a one-car, small market team? History is going to be very, very good to Simon when we talk about his performance in 2012. Honestly, this is really something. He will be back with Sam Schmidt's crew next season, another year of continuity and the second time around the tracks could mean good things for the team and Pagenaud.

Fourth: Sebastien Bourdais. Sunday was SeaBass' second top-10 of the season? Really? He's been qualifying pretty decent all year and threw together some heroic driving efforts in the Lotus (like the epic ninth-place run at Barber) but it just hadn't come together like we thought it would when Dragon Racing moved to the Chevy at Indy. Still, he's got two more twisties left this season, and Sonoma is right up his alley.

Fifth: James Hinchchliffe. I don't think Hinch salvaged his championship hopes, as he now sits 63 points behind Power, but he stopped the bleeding of a three-race stretch that had seen him finish P17, P22 and P12. It was his eighth top-6 finish of the season, you've gotta wonder where he would have been without the wreck in Iowa and engine issues in Toronto.

Sixth: Tony Kanaan. Most dedicated readers of this site now I usually stick with the top 5, but I make exceptions, and anything involving TK is one of them. His weekend up to that point had been dreadful as he qualified 18th, but improved a field-best 12 spots (Hinch moved up 10) and picked up his fourth top-6 finish in his last five races.

No yellows! Two races without a yellow hadn't been done in a quarter-century (or the year I graduated from high school, whichever makes me sound less old), despite a lot of good, hard racing in the middle of the fields. It certainly made the two-stop or three-stop strategy all the more intriguing. It's kind of funny that a few weeks ago we were talking about green/white/checkers and races ending under yellow and now we are talking about races WITHOUT any yellows. Just goes to show the cyclical nature of sports and how "quick fixes" aren't always necessary.

19 races. Randy Bernard once again supported his stance of having at least 19 races on the schedule in future years. I hope this means two things 1) there is enough in the works that we can hit that number next year and 2) those agreements will be with a long-term future partnership in mind, and not just one-and-dones (like Louden) that in the end I think hurt more than help.

Just give us races we can count on and dates we can count on. Right now I have May 26th and June 15th circled next year, and it would be a big deal if I could do that on my future calendars as well. That's how you grow attendance, peeps.

A couple of other interesting things happened over the weekend that deserve its own post, so I will see you with those a little later in the week.

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