Sunday, July 10, 2011

Wings get Eaten in Toronto

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 Eventually the broadcast crew reported that the penalty had been "rescinded."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).

1 comment:

  1. You and I agree far more often than not, but I'm afraid that the Dario/Power contretemps is going to be in that minority where we won't see eye to eye. To my eye, Power held his line right in the middle of the track, where he'd given Dario about a carwidth plus 6 inches between himself and the inside wall. Under the circumstances, where Power needs to finish ahead of Dario at nearly all costs on the road courses in order to carry a points advantage into Kentucky and Vegas (where most would presume that Dario holds the advantage), I'd say this was well within Will's rights. It looked to me like Dario was holding his line in that "thread the needle" position, right up until the spot (a carlength or so after the apex of the corner) where Dario would pick up the throttle, and at that point, it looked to me like Dario understeered into Will. Dario could have done a far better job of making sure that contact did not take place, and Justin Wilson's actions in a nearly identical situation (I think he was passing Viso at the time; whoever it was got a cut down right rear tire) tell me that Dario could have reacted differently. Wilson, in that exact same spot, saw that he wasn't going to make the pass cleanly, and instead of putting the power down at the regular point and probably running right into the side of the car he was passing, jammed on the brakes, which did result in a brief stack up behind him and a cut down tire on the car he was passing, but it did avoid that lead car being flat out punted. In fact, the car Wilson was passing had given Justin even less room than Power had given Dario, so if Dario had reacted like Wilson had (or, just hesitated for one more instant before putting the power down, and pardon that pun), there might not have been any contact at all. No harm, no foul, keep racing.

    Anyway, I thought the contact, especially given the two guys' positions as fierce championship rivals and the stakes with any contact between the two of them, certainly merited a penalty. Pile on top of that the fact that Dario went on to win, Graham Rahal and the rest of the Ganassi guys played games with purposely (and I will not be convinced otherwise) not lining up for restarts in order to get more laps under caution and then Scott Dixon apexing Turn 11 on the last restart (as the 3rd place restarter, he should have been on the outside of that corner before taking the green) meaning that RHR couldn't get alongside and therefore had to resort to punting Graham out of the way at Turn 3 later that lap (another penalizable infraction, IMO), oh, plus Dario mentioning in victory lane that "a lot of the top Target guys are here"...well, I got a pretty bad taste in my mouth from the whole thing. This was not IndyCar's finest day, and I hope that a wholesale review of the way penalties are handed out will be carried out no later than the day after the season is over, if not much, much sooner.