Hello everyone, and welcome to the 2012 Izod Indycar Series! I'm very excited that the season is underway. First and foremost, I think moving forward helps with the healing process. I still get very emotional thinking about Dan Wheldon and that day last October, but with real competition and real storylines, I feel like actual progress and improvement can be made.
Obviously the next biggest news item are the 2012 Dallaras and the three different engines powering them. With a number of teething problems made painfully public, skepticisim for both car and engine ran high. It looks, however, that much of that was unfounded. Any time entirely new systems are introduced, problems can be expected. I don't think the mechanical attrition rate was unreasonable. Even the engines seem well-matched. Latecomer Lotus' were a bit behind, but Sebastian Bourdais had his running well inside the top 10 late in the race.
Race control looks to have improved-the start and restarts were all very clean, and car-to-car incidents were apparently very rare. (Though I wonder how much of that is drivers unsure of how much abuse the new cars can take?)
While veterans dominated the podium, some of the off-season's new hires proved to be good investments. First up was 4th place finisher James Hinchcliffe. A preseason no-brainer for the GoDaddy.com car, Hinch backed up his antics with a 4th place run. Simon Pagenaud no doubt wonders why he's been running sports cars for the past few years while Sam Schmidt's team looks stronger and stronger all the time. Josef NEwgarden looked good, and can probably be very happy with his 11th place finish for a team not accustomed to running road courses. I don't know that I saw Rubens Barrichello on TV all day, but the standings show that he finished 2 laps down. This blogger was very skeptical of the Mike Conway/Foyt combination, but I think I was wrong. Their mechanical problems belied a great run.
On the other hand, 2011 powerhouses will Power, Dario Franchitti, Graham Rahal, and Oriol Servia were mired mid-pack. Power and Franchitti ran on a pit strategy that I had worked out as being an ideal arrangement. I was wrong. Power salvaged 7th while Franchitti wound up a very uncharacteristic 13th. Rahal finished 12th, behind teammate Charlie Kimball, and Servia might have his Lotus engine to blame for his 16th place finish.
If you picked up on my undertone, you'd have figured out that I'm no fan of ABC's coverage. While the Vegas segment of the pre-race show was emotional, the race coverage left a lot to be desired. ABC seemed intent on only following the leader while battles raged back in the pack, on giving out zero information about pit strategy, and on relaying nothing about the cars that dropped out. JR Hildebrand and Sebastian Bourdais both were running in the top 10 late in the race, only to disappear without explanation. I really wish I had a computer set up to watch live timing and scoring data on... I guess all we can do is beg ABC to do a better job. I think the series is better off with bad coverage there than any coverage on an obscure cable channel, but all-around poor coverage does no one any good. St. Petersburg wasn't the only victim-I watched last year's 500 the evening after attending the actual race, and could scarcely believe they were the same event.
I guess I don't have a lot of comments today, but am happy we got a good (if not great) race with no major drama to kick off the 2012 season and move everything forward. I believe 2012 is an "End of the Beginning" kind of year and will prove to be pivotal in the history of the sport. Until next time,