Yes, I went there. Sorry. I’ll understand if you stop reading now. :)
The post-Indy 500 depression had barely lifted and the IndyCars were back at it with practice and qualifying for Dual 1 on Friday, and practice/qualifying for Dual 2 on Saturday; followed of course by Dual 1 Saturday afternoon and Dual 2 Sunday afternoon. It all seems so clear-cut now, doesn’t it? Why were we all so confused on Friday? (That was sarcasm, by the way, since many of you don’t know me very well just yet…)
I admit I was somewhat leery of the idea of these doubleheaders, especially this one on a new course and coming so soon after Indy. I love having more races this season, I just wasn’t sure how the doubleheader format would work. And after the 10-car wreck (more thoughts on that in a bit…) on Lap 28 of Dual 2, I admit I was one of those taking to Twitter to ask if anyone still thought these doubleheaders were a good idea. One member of my IndyCar Twitter family responded they would be a good idea on an oval, but not on a bumpy course like Belle Isle. At the time, I wholeheartedly agreed.
However, the race settled down dramatically after that wreck, and some of those cars were even able to make it back on track, albeit not in their best competitive shape, but running and not creating a significant hazard to themselves or the other drivers nonetheless. Others have posted detailed race recaps, so I won’t do that here, but I do have some thoughts about the weekend overall.
Is there anyone who isn’t just thrilled for Mike Conway? The man who remained true to himself by declaring his discomfort with racing on ovals at the end of the 2012 season got a call last Tuesday and found himself on the top step of the podium on Saturday, the pole on Sunday, and on the podium again in Dual 2. What a whirlwind six days for a truly nice guy! I loved how he casually mentioned he was off to Le Mans next weekend in his post-race interview. That’s just classic Mike Conway. Someone mentioned hearing him say he was available for Toronto, and I hope it happens. There is absolutely no excuse for Mike to be without a ride on any of the remaining road/street courses if he is available. If a team doesn’t hire him as its full-time road/street course driver for 2014, well that will just be a crime.
Equally exciting was watching the crepe-master himself, Simon Pagenaud, earning his first IndyCar win. Normally I don’t enjoy a race when the leader pulls away like Simon did, but in this case it didn’t bother me at all. If my favorite driver/team can’t win on any given race day, it’s always nice to see a first-time winner, especially when it’s someone as nice as Simon. Did you know Simon fosters dogs for the Humane Society of Indianapolis? Having rescued close to a dozen pets in my lifetime, and currently being in my 16th year of volunteering at the SPCA from which I rescued most of those pets, that fact alone makes me a HUGE fan of Simon!
I can’t remember the last time we had three races in a row where even fans of other drivers were genuinely happy for the winners. I think it says a lot about IndyCar’s fanbase that most of us can recognize a deserving winner, even if it’s not the driver we root the loudest for on race day.
It was great to see Ryan Briscoe back again so soon after Indy. Unfortunately his time behind the wheel didn’t last very long in either race (leading more than one blogger to wonder–only slightly tongue-in-cheek–about his future with Panther Racing), but I was encouraged to hear him say any future IndyCar races would have to work around his ALMS schedule, meaning he hasn’t ruled out future races this season. I hope this is the first step towards Ryan returning full-time to IndyCar in 2014, be it with Panther Racing or another team.
You really have to feel for AJ Allmendinger, don’t you? He put in such a great showing during May at Indy, putting himself in the Fast Nine on Pole Day, starting the race in Row 2, leading the race and contending until an unfortunate seatbelt mishap necessitated a visit to the pits. I said after the race AJ belongs in IndyCar and I meant it. I still believe that. But this weekend was just pure disaster for AJ. He drove a total of six turns in the two races combined, putting his car into the wall both days. He looked absolutely dejected and who can blame him? This was the last pair of IndyCar races planned for AJ, at least as far as we know, and for him to crash out on the first lap both times–in Roger Penske’s favorite place no less, had other drivers sending him encouraging tweets. I hope Roger gives AJ another chance to drive this season, and seriously considers giving him a full-time ride in 2014 (yes, I know sponsorship will have to come through and it’s not so simple as Roger wanting to put him in a car). Or if not Roger, I hope AJ lands somewhere next year.
Back to the Lap 28 pileup for a second. Crashes like that make me nervous, as I am sure they do most people. When those cars start ricocheting off of each other and into walls, you almost expect someone will come away injured. I’m very thankful nobody was injured this past weekend. That crash on a restart sealed my feeling that, while change is inevitable and can often be good, one change IndyCar never needs is the establishment of a Green/White/Checker finish.
I have enough friends who follow NASCAR to know how much my Twitter feed lights up when “The Big One” happens during a race. Many of those tweets seem to celebrate such crashes as a great part of NASCAR racing. Fans of the sport seem to look forward to them happening.
Speaking purely for myself, the thought of “The Big One” on an IndyCar restart terrifies me. In IndyCar, “The Big One” almost always means someone is seriously injured, or worse. Would I stop watching IndyCar if a GWC finish was made part of the race? No, I wouldn’t, but I can promise you I’d watch every GWC finish through my fingers while holding my breath.
Let’s look at other sports for a minute. Baseball, basketball, soccer, and football each have different ways of dealing with a tie at the end of regulation. Some games can end in a tie, while others must be played until there is a winner. And each sport has a different way of reaching that eventual winning score. I have never heard anyone say baseball should adopt football’s methods, or basketball should adopt soccer’s methods.
I know what you’re thinking–those are all different sports, and the only thing they have in common are that they all use some form of a ball. But let’s be honest–other than their cars having a steering wheel and four tires, IndyCar and NASCAR are very different sports. What works in IndyCar doesn’t always work in NASCAR and vice versa. And nobody should try to make them the same. If someone enjoys one over the other, that’s OK. If someone enjoys parts of both, that’s great. But the last thing anyone should try to do is force the rules of one form of motorsports on another form. I’m not going to dwell on this, and I wasn’t going to address it at all, but that crash, which thankfully didn’t turn out to be very bad at all, solidified in my mind that the last thing IndyCar needs is a GWC finish.
So we head to Texas on Saturday night with Marco and Helio tied for P1 in championship points. I’m thrilled by that, of course. Marco had a tough weekend and ending it in a tie for the lead is pretty much the best outcome he could have hoped for. I think this is going to be a great week for Marco in Texas, and I can’t wait to see if I’m right!
Finally, I want to thank everyone who has read this blog, and if you keep coming back you get extra special thanks. I’ve passed 500 views in just a little over 2 months and I am humbled that so many people have stopped by to read my (often rambling) thoughts. I’m hoping to have another post for you tomorrow or Wednesday, so keep an eye out for that. Until then, thanks again for reading!