Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sonoma Preview

I'm back!

What a crazy three weeks, sorry I've been AWOL, but the beginning of the school year is incredibly busy. By the time I finish my week tomorrow afternoon I will have written nine newspaper stories this week, but I'm in the mood to write about some racing, so let's get to it.

The IndyCar series resumes this weekend at Sonoma after a three-week break. As in, finally! Once again, further proof that we need more races on the schedule, because this has been a killer.

Anyway, it seems like Penske and Target Chip Ganassi resumed their rivalry near the front, as the two teams represent five of the first six qualifying spots on the grid. Will Power was once again the class of the field, earning the pole for the third year in a row in a time of 1:17.2709, about a quarter-second faster than teammate Ryan Briscoe.

Which begs the question: why do they even make Power waste his time and qualify on road courses? Dude's a stud.

Sebastien Bourdais breaks up the party after starting a season-best third, while Helio Castroneves is fourth, Scott Dixon fifth and Dario Franchitti sixth. Ryan Hunter-Reay, second to Power in the points by six after Will's pole point today, will start seventh.

So for those of you scoring at home, the top four in points (Power, RHR, Castroneves and Dixon) all start in the top seven. Add Seb to the mix and that looks to be a shootout. Hoo boy!

On to the predictions:

*Winner: Power. To quote Chicago Bulls analyst Stacey King, Power at times can be "too big, too fast, too strong, too good". Power has been the victim of a lot of bad luck this year, but when things go his way he can take it to the proverbial 'nother level on twisties. The title is in sight and I think he is ready to close the deal.

*Podium: I'm going to call it as Bourdais, and one driver out of a pool of either Castroneves, Dixon and Simon Pagenaud.

*Strategies. At 85 laps, you know some teams are going to roll the dice as the last couple of races have seen pitting early for track position work out. If we don't get a yellow, as has happened the last two races, it might be the best way to get to the front given Sonoma's reputation for difficult passing.

*One thing to remember. We are at the point of the season where there are plenty of drivers capable of winning races are eliminated from championship contention, which means they can go straight for the win. I think from here on out we could be witness to some whacked-out strategies by teams that have nothing to lose.

Before I go, another couple of things.

*It turns out Robin Miller was just bored. According to this story in the Indy Star, IndyCar is not for sale, nor are the owners going to buy the series. A survey of 15 different owners showed this rumor as bogus. I gotta say, I like Robin a lot and sometimes he does some great stuff, but I'm to the point now that if SpeedTV's Marshall Pruett doesn't report on something, I'm just ignoring it.

*Goodspeed, Neil Armstrong. As I was born in 1969 and witnessed the moon landing (well, my mom was rocking me to sleep while sitting in the living room) I've always had a fascination with the moon landings and the space program. I can't imagine the courage, bravery and skill it took to climb on top of a rocket, travel 250,000 miles, put on a suit and jump out onto the surface of the moon. Guys like Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Alan Shepard are true superheroes.

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