Peeps. What up? Time for a big-ass dark roast and some reflection on the big doings at Iowa Speedway over the weekend. I was there for a few hours on Friday, all day Saturday and all day Sunday then came home and watched it on the DVR and did some race notes. I was toast Monday morning. So let’s discuss today.
The morning rain ended at about 11:30, so that contributed to a late-arriving crowd. The stands weren’t sold out, but I’d go with 80% full. I always figure 32,000 permanent seats plus the hospitality tents that pop up on the turn four side of the grandstands and the suites. No idea what the ticket sales were like and how many people were spooked off by the early morning rain.
Some people are so panicky about weather. It was raining at 9 a.m. and my twitter feed was popping off with NO RACE TODAY I GUESS!! Please. It was sunny and warm at race time, and aside from some minor concern about a weeper, which didn’t delay anything more than five minutes, we were good to go.
Behind the scenes it seemed to go well. The media center was humming along and they rolled out the meat-based meals on the buffet, the wireless now actually works without having to jump through 12 hops and hop on one foot, Amy Konrath and the IndyCar PR posse had things under control and it was well organized and chill.
The Race — Thankfully Sunday wasn’t as BLAZING hot as Saturday. Morning rains at least did that for us. The good news is the race was killer. True, Hinch dominated and was never challenged, but there was plenty of overtaking going throughout the pack. Ryan Hunter-Reay might have challenged Hinch for the win if he hadn’t brain faded and smashed his wing into the back of Graham Rahal’s car. Lucky for him his own brain lock brought out the yellow and let him pit for a nose and still stay on the lead lap.
Then RHR cranked off an epic drive from P21 all the way to P2. He just ran out of laps before he could challenge Hinch. Of course RHR got out of the car and complained about lapped traffic getting in the way. True, but that’s a fact of life on a short track. Second, it was RHR’s biffing Rahal that screwed him harder than lapped traffic.
Ed Carpenter had a similar awesome march in the last 35 laps of the race where he moved from P10 to P4. Some of those positions required covering a quarter of the track to get to the next car for position. Ed also ran out of laps. Ed had a slower second stint, then a bad final pit stop and he was hosed. Still, Ed came away with the fastest lap of the race for the second Iowa race in a row.
During the race and again while watching the replay, I was reminded of the late Dan Wheldon’s TV commentary at Iowa when he said “this is what IndyCar racing is all about.” We had cars going two wide around the track but no “pack racing.” We had overtaking, but you had to plan for it in advance and maybe it took you two to five laps to get it done. We had people who faded and climbed based on the stint, we had defensive driving, we had dive bombing under people. It was incredible. Iowa made a strong claim for best oval racing of the year again this year. If this kind of race had happened at Indianapolis, people would be planning some kind of statue to commemorate it right now.
ABC Broadcast — I thought ABC had a great broadcast. It’s possible to find something to complain about in any 90-minute show, but I thought this was easily their best broadcast of the year. Eddie Cheever and Scott Goodyear seem to be growing more comfortable with each other, Marty Reid was enthusiastic, the pit posse was fully deployed. ABC tracked RHR’s rampage through the field all race and also Ed’s charge late. They used a nice mix of onboard cameras exterior shots to communicate the action and close racing. They worked the storylines that were there and didn’t try to manufacture drama. Eddie Cheever, especially, made some comments at the perfect time to enhance my viewing. The broadcast team was not the issue with this race.
Crap Ratings — The overnight rating for the race was 0.7, and that’s only going to slide in the final rating. The race was head-to-head with NASCAR at Sonoma, and I think you see the result. I suppose you could say 0.7 is not bad when you consider it was head-to-head with NASCAR. That’s the half-full way to look at it for sure. The half-empty way to look at it was IndyCar had an awesome race and ABC had and awesome broadcast and they wasted it on a time when the competition stomped ABC.
If I worked for IndyCar I’d be freaked out about low ratings. But I don’t work for IndyCar and there’s nothing I can do to boost TV ratings (and it certainly is not my job to do so) so I’m way over being freaked out about ratings. I’ve wasted too much energy over the years in stressing about low ratings. Pretty sure everyone involved in IndyCar understands that ratings are critical and they have to improve, so saying it over and over does nobody any good.
Go back to Saturday Night — I’ve heard a lot of rumblings that this should go back to Saturday night, both from a weather perspective and to get away from going head-to-head with NASCAR. I agree on both counts, even though Saturday night race hoses any possible double for fans with Knoxville Speedway just down the road.
Daytime races are awesome, but daytime in Iowa in late June is rolling the dice that it won’t be 112 degrees and humid. Night races lessen the heat concerns and Saturday Night Racing is a great Midwestern Tradition. PLUS it gives people Sunday as a travel home day.
I’ve also heard that the race was too short. Few cautions meant the race was a tight 90 minutes. Adding another 30 minutes to that wouldn’t hurt anyone’s feelings, especially since it was the only race on Sunday. People naturally compare the time they were entertained based to the cash they spent for a ticket. Our seats cost $65 a pop, so that’s $1.38 a minute. Either that or go all Milwaukee and beef up the side shows going on. Having said all that, Iowa is tough on drivers with constant G-loads and such, so a longer race has to be safe for the drivers, of course.
Good news to hear that Mark Miles of IndyCar wants to come back to Iowa for the foreseeable future. The race is on a year-to-year schedule right now and I hear Iowa Speedway is looking for a multi-year contract. The good news for IndyCar is Iowa Speedway needs the IndyCar date. They already have two NASCAR truck races and two NASCAR Nationwide races, that’s four weekends, and IndyCar is the fifth. As long as the sponsor — Iowa Corn — is happy, everybody’s happy. Based on the number of red CORN POWER shirts I saw, the corn people seemed happy.
Good to See Everyone — Always good to catch up with race people I only see at Iowa, and members of The Media who come out for the race. I talked to Marco Andretti (here) and Josef Newgarden (here). Also talked to Ana Beatriz on Sunday for a yet-to-be-written post, so stay tuned.
That’s all I got. I’ve got a few things to wring out of the digital recorder yet, so stay tuned. Thanks for reading the dog blog.