Well, that was, um, exciting. Interesting. Hope you all have your spoons ready, because the pot is getting stirred...
It sounds like this race has already created a lot of anger-between drivers, between teams, between fans and race control, and I don't think Versus did anyone any favors. Well, let's get started.
Right away, Briscoe (on the inside) makes contact with TK's right rear, and takes him out. The booth guys seemed to dismiss it as "a bit of oversteer", which, based on my experience (though I'm not a professional race car driver), seems pretty reasonable. His car slipped. TK happened to be in the way. Didn't stop him from being pissed, though. And I don't blame him for that, though I would think he'd change his mind when seeing the replay. (TK has been more than fair to other drivers when he's had trouble due to their mistakes this year).
The pivotal moment of the race (and, by my count, at least the third pivotal moment in the championship battle) came shortly after the second round of pit stops. Like many incidents today, analysis of this one was seriously hampered by the lack of any alternate camera angles. What could be gleaned, though, was that Power led Dario into the corner, Dario made a pass attempt, Power was hit and spun. By the angle that was shown, it looked to me like Power had left room for Dario on the inside, then took an odd line through the corner that had him close back up and make contact, so that Dario's left front hit Power. I got that feeling again, knowing that the anti-Franchitti crowd would have a field day with this. I'm pretty sure, however, that Power was more at fault (despite Dario's post-race acceptance of "50% of the blame"). His line just looked strange. A post-race interview with the Target driver confirmed this. What will end up worst of all for Franchitti's image (tarnished by whining this year and apparently being able to capitalize on lucky situations), Versus reported on TV that he would be served with a drive-through penalty. He never appeared prepared to serve it and Chip Ganassi professed ignorance of any penalty. Eventually the broadcast crew reported that the penalty had been "rescinded." Apparently, race control never issued a penalty. I don't know why Versus would have reported that they had, or what the punishment would be.
Power's day would end for good several laps later when he and Alex Tagliani would hit. It was after this car-parking incident that Power would complain about Dario's "dirty driving" and wonder why he never got penalized. Will would go on to call Tagliani a "wanker" and blame the crash on him. I didn't see any interviews with Tags, but I did see that he replied via Twitter, saying (among other things) "Problem with Will is that he drives like nobody exist around him". I think I've seen this. Power has no problem leading and winning-so long as he's out front and not near traffic. Put him around other cars, and he seems to lose his edge. His numerous poles may have allowed him to break out and put him into position to exploit his strengths and translate those into wins. If anyone has more/different insight, I'd love to hear it.
The rest of the race was, well, carnage. A strong Rahal got punted to the rear of the field, and the strongest car not sponsored by Target was newlywed and hard-luck champion Ryan Hunter-Reay. Great for him. An invisible (save for taking out a bunch of cars late) Marco Andretti and Vitor Meira rounded out the top 5. Other top 10 drivers included:
Sebastian Bourdais-right after I wondered if he'd been sorry he came back this year for a bunch of DNFs and a DNS.
Ryan Briscoe-The most trouble-free of the Penske cars. At least the only one who didn't need a new wing and alignment, or worse, on pit road.
JR Hildebrand-What? He was in this race?
EJ Viso-Somehow, this is the KV car that makes it to the end?
Simona de Silvestro-Her Yo-yo season seems headed back towards the top...
Two of my other favorites, Servia and Rahal, finished on the lead lap in 12th and 13th.
I guess I was a little disappointed that one of the usual suspects won such a strange race, but I really can't fault him. I really think that none of the above incidents were intentional (Race Control seemed to agree, but they don't always appear to be very consistent. Props though to Al Unser, Jr, who went on Versus immediately following the race and explained why penalties were not issued in each situation.) I'm not looking forward to wading into the blogosphere's fray tomorrow, but I guess that's the price of an interesting race. Talk to you all soon (and don't be afraid to leave a comment).