Howdy peeps. Big contrasts in racing between IndyCar and NASCAR this weekend, plus our favorite driver (Har. Speaking for myself, of course) did well. So let’s get some dark roast going and BANZAIIIII (dive) in.
IndyCar on the Flat Oval — IndyCar hit the flat (9 degrees of banking, max) Milwaukee Mile again this weekend. Race notes here. First of all, huge props and shout outs to Andretti Autosport for everything they’ve done to promote the Milwaukee Mile. The weekend was a festival of driver appearances, stuff going on at the track, and super fan focus. Standing ovation for all that.
ANYWHO, short tracks like Milwaukee have to be a major challenge to televise. Once the leaders start lapping traffic (about 25 green laps or so into it) stuff gets crazy all over the track. There will be cars on every part of the track at one time and battles all over the place. It’s hard to keep track of who’s the leader, etc. Plus the cars on the track have to try to let lead lap cars through but still remain competitive with whoever they are racing for position.
In person it’s really cool because, as I said, there are cars on every part of the oval at any given second and all kinds of overtaking all over the track. Plus, (and this goes for all ovals except the big Indy 500) in person you can watch your driver all over the track and be entertained by him or her, then you can switch to watching another car for a while and see what’s what with him or her for a few laps.
But on TV you got to keep track of the leader and then kind of keep an eye out for the battles in the pack. So it’s kind of difficult.
I thought NBC Sports Network did a good job with a hard assignment. If nothing else, they gave some of the hard-cores on Twitter something to bray about, as in: “NBC SN coverage is soooooo much better than maggoty old ABC!!* (*Not an actual tweet. An exaggeration to make a point.)
Takuma Sato had his schwerve on for much of the race but got SCREWED by a yellow after he pitted but before a lot of the leaders pitted. So he went a lap down when pitting which is standard at Milwaukee, but then the yellow came out and the leaders got to pit under yellow while Sato only got his lap back and was tuck in P7 with old tires while everyone else had fresh tires. Festival of Japanese cursing!
Also on a short track overtaking isn’t that matter of fact, even when you come up to back markers. There’s only one groove in a lot of spots at Milwaukee, and the “straights” are pretty brief, so even letting someone by is a question of timing. Plus if you lift big and let the leader by, the person you are fighting for position with could inhale you too, or you could lift yourself right into the wall.
Andretti has the short ovals (both of them!) wired. Lately they have won early and often at Iowa Speedway and Milwaukee. Ryan Hunter-Reay’s win at Milwaukee triggered his multi-win rampage to the title last year.
The broadcast featured David Hobbs and Will Buxton who were pulled over from the NBC Sports Net F1 team. Will is ALWAYS ON FIRE about everything, so that’s either EXCITING or can be annoying depending on who you are. I like Will and he does a good job, but the manic excitement kind of wears on me (but that’s probably “down to me” as the Brits say). Hobbs was in the booth but had very little to do. Some key history-based tidbits here and there, but not the interplay that Wally and Bell have developed.
Marco has to be kind of pissy. He had the place wired but his car had a feinting spell on the track (lost electrical, which is like losing a heartbeat in a person). They finished it and he finished multiple laps down. I hope he’s enraged and ready to charge at Iowa.
So overall, much better than Texas but not an instant classic by any means.
NASCAR at MIS — Pretty stark contrast to Milwaukee is Michigan International Speedway. A two-mile oval southeast of Lansing and dead west of Detroit in southern Michigan. Wide corners and 18% banking are pretty much the polar opposite of Milwaukee. IndyCars at Michigan might go something like 292 mph* (*again, exaggerating to make point).
So the Michigan race was pretty strategy based and kind of a soccer game pace compared to Milwaukee. Despite the mass banking, there wasn’t a ton of two-wide at Michigan aside from some crazy seven-wide restarts. But the new Gen 6 cars seem to be pretty aero sensitive and a lot of drivers reported being looooose when they got two-wide with someone.
Still, like Milwaukee, there were cars who had it hooked up and some that didn’t. So that was interesting. Late in the race Jimmy Johnson was trying to chase down eventually winner Greg Biffle with just 20-ish laps to go when his right front blew (he said as a result of the hard-as-you-can-go driving he had been doing trying to catch Biff) an JJ spanked the wall. Overall, cars came and went with some finding the setup on a particular fuel run.
It was a festival of blown right fronts, as a matter of fact. Kasey Kahne blew one and popped the wall causing an engine fire. Kasey ejected out of there in a hurry, as you can imagine, but then reached back in and triggered the fire suppression system, which is pretty cool. It’s apparently some kind of fire retardant bomb under the hood that when the driver hits a switch it’s like “WHOOSH” and there engine compartment is filled with anti-fire foam.
The finishing order went Biff, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart.
Danica Marches — I was listening to Danica Patrick on my web-based scanner, as is my custom, and her car was piggy at the first but Tony Gibson and the pit crew started making with the “packer” and “wedge” and “track bar” (I don’t actually know what any of these are except they impact handling) and by the end of the race Danica was feeling it.
She drove from a starting position of P37 to finish P13 in her first race ever at MIS. The fair minded, I think, would say a 24-spot gain in the race was “impressive.” Danica’s fans — which include me — were in a throaty froth by the end of the race. Gibson said she drove her ass off and was proud of Danica and the entire crew. Agreed. She had great stops, especially with all the packer and wedge stuff going on.
Slow and steady for Danica. In fact, when I talked to Erin Crocker a couple weeks ago for an upcoming post, she had good things to say about Danica’s handling of the slow-and-steady required to learn stock cars. Erin tried to make the transition from being a successful sprint car driver into NASCAR and knows it’s hard to do.
”I truly, honestly admire Danica in what she does and what she’s created, but there are days when I think there is no way I want to be her right now. I’ve said in a few interviews recently: I give her a lot of credit because her perseverance is unbelievable. To run 25 to 30th every weekend and to continue to fight and to push and to answer the media questions like she does, that’s seriously impressive. I can tell you that I would be overdriving the car and I’d be wrecking. I would be. Because I would be so frustrated and wouldn’t be able to manage that. I give her credit for that. She continues to improve slowly but she’s being patient and persevering. I’m sure she has her days when she gets away from the media and is upset or whatever, but with the media she always puts on her game face. She’s spot on with the media.”
AJ Allmendinger, who has made the transition from open-wheel to stock cars, said “it took a couple of years to really get comfortable in it and really just understand what I was supposed to feel and that was tough.”
Sam Hornish: “In the IndyCar world everyone had the same chassis, same engine, same tires — you couldn’t get that far off so a lot of times it was more about what the driver was able to do and you could carry the car a little bit more if you were a little bit better driver. Whereas you come over here (NASCAR) and there’s about a hundred times more things you can change on the car. The cars are basically hand-built. This is lot more of a people sport over here on the NASCAR side. You have to have the right people around you or you are not going to be successful.”
Of course every time Danica does well (or poorly) her fans fire up with words of support and the haters fire up too with words of “you SUCK.” Danica almost never answers the haters, but Sunday she did tweet this:
@DanicaPatrick: “It's amazing how many people say mean things to me....yet follow me. Only conclusion I come to is, I win!”
The real way to damage Danica — if that’s what you’re into — is to pay her no attention. Attention = cash at some level, so by following her every move and generating media buzz of any kind, you’re helping Danica get paid. I’m a fan, so I like to see her get paid. But, really, life is too short and it’s not healthy to scrutinize someone and keep screaming “YOU SUCK” at the top of your lungs. Free country, but there’s more enjoyment in finding someone to cheer for than against, plus it won’t turn you into a bitter, angry person nobody wants to be around.
That’s all I got. Big weekend at my home track, Iowa Speedway. I’ll kick out any info I hear as in driver appearances, etc. Here’s my guide to greater Des Moines if you are coming for the race.
(Note: I continue to have issues with my spam filter. If your comment disappears, it hasn't be deleted, just sucked into my spam filter. I'lll manually restore it as soon as possible.)