Darlington, Oh Dar-ling-tonnn -- Wait, that was Galveston that Glenn Campbell sang about, not Darlington. So it turns out The Lady in Black wore a bright floral springish outfit and proved to be not so Tough to Tame Saturday night.
Mine was a good strategy because Kyle Busch was in Lady-in-Black-slap mode most of the race. I think he lapped up to P12 or maybe even higher at one point. Once we got one yellow late in the race, we got a few more and the end of the race played out in a trophy-dash-like fashion. Again, the smart way to drive a NASCAR race is to stay up in the pack, chill out, cruise for 75% of the race and then get down to business.
Unfortunately for Ky, his tires went to shit (I think one of them got cut) in the last quarter of the race and he faded to P6, giving the KyBu anti-fans something to rejoice in. That's racin'! You never know when you’re going to throw a rod, cut a tire, and get hosed.
Matt Kenseth, fresh from his big appeal victory over a couple-gram-too-heavy connecting rod, took the win. Teammate Denny Hamlin was second and Jeff Gordon in his SEVEN HUNDREDTH CONSECUTIVE START was P3. 700 straight starts is amazing. Longevity in racing, given the vagaries of teams and sponsors, is increasingly rare, so congrats to Jeff and his fans.
Again, I was fascinated how NASCAR fans expect non-stop action during a race which has a big portion of endurance built into it. Give me Darlington’s slow jam over Talladega’s festival of passing for the lead and random dice roll nature any day.
Other than that, the @TooToughtoTame (Darlington Raceway) wasn’t quite as fearsome as its rep on Saturday. It didn’t really eat a bunch of cars. Tire management and strategy did seem to be key, however. When I was listening to Danica’s scanner, they would tell her if someone was “coming with tires” which meant that they had newer rubber. Tires fell off a lot during the stint (sorry, “run”) so that added some interest. Interesting that the driver who got nuked by NASCAR (Kenseth) and his temporary crew chief (because the normal one was suspended) won the race. That’s so NASCAR.
Indy -- Practice started at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday. Cue the opening day froth. I understand the opening day excitement, but I don’t really share it. If you’re within driving range of Indy, it’s probably an exciting time. It’s the first time for a year the public can get into IMS and see IndyCars on the track, so I’m sure it has that kind of a big state fair/annual celebration vibe. But for me, eight hours away in Des Moines, not that big of a deal. If positivity alone could right the IndyCar ship, all the excited proclamations from Saturday and Sunday would have it P1 in the sports universe. Certainly the fans who love opening weekend are doing their part to promote IndyCar.
There were increasing amounts of action at Indy Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Marco Andretti has the fastest speed so far at 225 and change, but there’s always the question of if it was with a “tow” from a car ahead or not. I don’t get too frothed about the speeds at this point because 1) it’s early and 2) the tow factor. The record pole speed is 233.1 mph set by Tony Stewart (of all people) in 1996. That's not to be confused with the fastest qualifying speed, which was a four-lap average of 236.986 mph set by Arie Luyendyk also in 1996. But since Arie was a second-weekend qualifier, he did not win the pole despite the fastest qualilfying speed in the field.
Last year Ryan Briscoe got the pole at 226.4 mph. Some (perhaps hopeful) predictions of more speed this year, but I kind of doubt it. Last year IndyCar cranked up the turbocharger boost on all cars by just under 10% for qualifying weekend, which was expected to add 40 to 50 horsepower to the cars. Then they cranked it back down for the race. I hope we don’t turn up the boost again this year just for qualifying because that was just fake, ersatz and bogus. Update: they are going to turn up the boost for Friday through Sunday, which is super lame. Details here (at the bottom).
Nonetheless, the 2012 Indy 500 race itself was the best in years, with little guys like Ed Carpenter and Takuma Sato challenging the Target Twins late, and I see no reason why this year’s shouldn’t be as good. I’ll be there in person for the race this year, so giddy up. It was great to see Women of pressdog Simona De Silvestro, Bia Beatriz and Pippa Mann out there practicing as well. It was a long, hard road for Pippa to find the cash needed to get back on track, so her fans (including me) are justifiably giddy about it.
F1 in Spain -- Entertaining race (I thought) in Spain last weekend. Many notes and observations here. One of the various reasons I like F1 is its extreme reluctance to throw full-course yellows is a good alternative to the yellow-reliant NASCAR. The Kimster (my fav F1 driver Kimi Räikkönen) was once again the tire-friendly driver of the week.
Katherine Legge and Ashley Freiberg -- I felt good for both these Women of pressdog® who both raced at Laguna Seca this weekend. Katherine got her first race in the DeltaWing. She and co-driver Andy Meyrick and the DeltaWing team finished on the podium (P3) for P1 class — but there were only four competitors in P1 and one of them blew up, so don’t get too frothed. The DWing had engine, transmission, and ultimately a terminal electrical failure in the final half hour of the race. At this point, races are as much to test the DeltaWing as anything, so having stuff fry is both expected and actually helpful in the development of the car.
Katherine drove on par with Meyrick. She started the race and even had the fastest lap in the Delta Wing, although by the time Meyrick got in for the second half of the race the car was probably ailing. The team seemed happy with the progress (news release here).
Ashley Freiberg, in her first series driving a sports car ever, is tied for the points lead in GT3 Cup right now, thanks to P2 and P5 finishes in last weekend’s races, also at Laguna Seca. Read more here. It’s easy to cheer for Ashley who is one of those super-nice people with tons of talent who seems deserving of her success. One of those good things happening to nice people deals. I think Ashley is going to become kind of a big deal here pretty soon.
There you go. Another 1100 words of random rambling. Thanks for hanging in there this far (and if you didn’t, I understand). This weekend (ha ha, actually NEXT weekend) F1 from Monaco (insert clinking champagne glasses here) will be on the mothership, NBC (not NBC Sports Network). Monaco is the biggest glamour race for F1, but for me it’s always been a big snoozer. Kind of a parade through historic streets. But the new rules and car and tire issues may give us hope. Indy qualifications are this weekend as well (pretty much all day Saturday and Sunday) on NBC Sports Network. NASCAR has it’s All Star race at 7:30 Eastern Saturday at Charlotte.
Watch, ye bastards. Have a good one. pdog … out