This weekend, Indycar returns to my home race! That means I'll be attending my second race of the year and meeting up with more friends I see far too seldom. Got a disjointed, rambling post here. If you get bored reading, just skip to the next paragraph:
What a race at Mid-Ohio! I loved going to races there when I lived within driving distance. Even if you don't think the races are entertaining on TV, you'll love them in person. Check out the action from several vantage points and marvel at what a modern race car can do. Scott Dixon took another win here, breaking his slump for the year in dramatic fashion. I'm heartbroken for Josef Newgarden, let down once again by circumstances beyond his control, but at least Dixon made it a clinic for everyone else. See Marshall Pruett's piece at Racer.com for details of how he did it.
Checking in on the championship, and... Advantage: Will Power. By 4 points. So, not by much over Castroneves. 63 Points back in third, is Ryan Hunter-Reay, clear of Simon Pagenaud by a single point. For RHR or Pagenaud to have a chance at the title, they will have to have strong runs in each of the last 3 races and hope for mediocre-or-worse results for the Penske cars. The double points awarded at Fontana are going to make a huge difference in the championship fight.
My analysis: Power has been the most consistent over the past 3 races. I was going to write Pagenaud off because ovals (which make up 2 of the last 3 races) haven't seemed to go his way this year. In fact, of the top 4 in points, he has the second-best average finish on ovals. Helio is the best, with a 5th. Of course, RHR, who has won 2 oval races already this season, has the worst oval average. What's my point again? Oh yeah, I really need to stop spending so much time on the stats... My gut feeling prediction: Power, under pressure, throws away his championship lead. Helio does likewise, but mounts a strong run at Fontana. I really hope he proves me wrong, but I'm not sure Pagenaud can out-score RHR in the season's final stages. In other words, we'll see another Power/RHR shootout for the championship in Fontana at the end of the month!
Looking through the field, I'm not sure there's a clear favorite for the win on Sunday. I'll say that Mid-Ohio opened the gates for Ganassi, and that Tony Kanaan will break through and win the race. Rather than pick a Penske car or Hunter-Reay, I'll choose Takuma Sato as my contingency pick, with a very, very hungry Josef Newgarden as #3.
The Milwaukee race date has been moved from mid-June to mid-August, immediately following the State Fair. From a purely personal standpoint, I like this move a lot. June is very close to the Indianapolis 500, and I always felt like I was catching up from being gone that weekend when the Milwaukee race rolled around. (Attention Detroit race organizers: I could maybe attend your race if it wasn't the weekend immediately following the 500!!! Thanks in advance for making this reasonable accommodation for one single, solitary fan.) Moving the race to August means a more relaxed summer for me! Seriously, though, having 10 days to sell the race during the State Fair can't be a bad thing. Oh, and tickets are very reasonably priced. If you're on the fence, I strongly encourage you to attend this race!
One final thought: I think Andretti is doing one thing very, very right with Milwaukee: Not marketing it as a 'race', but as 'Indyfest'. I think this might be a piece of getting attendance back to oval tracks. Stop calling the races the "East Nowhere 500" or whatever-give them a catchy name that implies some kind of fun or interesting activity. Then back it up with all the usual street-race-type promotional activities: loads of support races, carnivals, concerts, celebrities, etc. Give the non-race fans a reason to come out. I'm sure this might make all the old-timers blanch, but I don't think that's such a bad idea. Which would segue into another post, if I had it written yet. Stay tuned!
See you at the Mile!