Mark Wilkinson is back with his 'five worthless opinions' regarding IndyCar's rain-marred doubleheader at Belle Isle.
The Verizon IndyCar Series floated onto Belle Isle in Detroit and, with promoter Roger Penske’s help, managed to put on two races that once again highlighted the yin and yang of IndyCar as we know it. Here are some waterlogged WO’s (worthless opinions) to bring some sunshine to your day.
Take a chance, win a race
Andretti Autosport went 1-2 in Saturday’s race with Carlos Munoz and Marco Andretti. Strategy of any kind makes a race more compelling. The decision to stay on slicks and stretch fuel as the rain was coming in was flawless, as was Marco’s aggressiveness in staying out longer than the team wanted so he could build his lead. Munoz’s later fuel stop allowed him to pass Marco for the win, but it was gutsy racing from both Andretti drivers. Take a chance, win a race.
Unusual suspects at the top
What was great about Sunday’s race? The obvious was the small teams up on the podium. Sebastien Bourdais, a beast in the wet for KVSH Racing, held off Takuma Sato, another beast in the wet for A.J. Foyt Racing, for the win. The final podium spot was Graham Rahal, a beast in general this year for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Something less obvious was the fact that it was a Chevy and two Hondas vying for the win and nobody really noticed. It should be the drivers competing for the win, not the motors. I am sure that Honda is proud of sweeping eight out of the top nine spots on Sunday, but Will Power taking out Helio Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya running out of fuel, and Scott Dixon getting wrecked by teammate Charlie Kimball had a little something to do with Chevy’s bad day.
Following the strategy from the fan's perspective
Wet socks were the order of the day for both Saturday and Sunday, as was the cold. Rain and temperature are a strategist’s nightmares. Will the race go the distance? Will it be timed? When do we go from rains to slicks and slicks to rains? Do we stay out for position or get fuel? A hard-core fan is following all of these possibilities. A casual fan is wallowing in them. One thing that is extremely difficult to follow at a street race is strategy. If you have a radio or scanner, it helps tremendously. At home, viewers depend on the broadcasters, who are at the mercy of their monitors and their directors. Truthfully, radio does a much better job of explaining strategy. In any case, being able to follow team strategy just makes the racing better. Not shilling here, but if you have a Verizon phone, download the IndyCar 15 app. Radio broadcast, team radio communications, and other goodies…all free.
Interacting with the fans on social media
Speaking of strategies, Jon Beekhuis (@JonBeekhuis) conducted a Twitter Q&A after the race that was illuminating. He explained timed races, discussed tire selection, and interpreted rules and penalties. My question is this: Why is this only taking place on Twitter after the race? All these are topics that fans and viewers want and need to understand. Much of the consternation of being an IndyCar fan comes the esoteric nature of rules, penalties, and strategy. A new fan to the series needs a primer on these topics. If not, then rain shortened races like Saturday and Sunday confuse fans instead of excite them. Beekhuis takes these topics, and without dumbing them down or using props, clearly and cleanly explains them. Use and promote this man on pre-race, YouTube, and Twitter! Engage the fans! We are not stupid, just uneducated.
The rules and race control are in the news, as always. I will give race control this, they are NOT making calls that affect the outcome of races. Whether this leads to issues on the track or not remains to be seen. Graham Rahal moved all the way over on the track to block Takuma Sato on Sunday and defended this by saying blocking is legal as long as you don’t move in response to another driver. Fair enough. Still called for blocking, though. He was required to give up his position to Sato. That’s a penalty I can live with. His race was not ruined, just his spot on the podium. Juan Pablo Montoya complained loudly that Sato jumped the start. If he did, there was no penalty. I am not sure that probation and points penalties handed out on Wednesdays will deter rule breaking, but so far a light hand has seemed to work. I do wonder if the rolled-up-newspaper threat to drivers will be ignored by the drivers like it is ignored by dogs everywhere, though.
In honor of the doubleheader weekend, I considered a doubleheader set of WO’s (worthless opinions) but decided against it. The two days of bad weather in Detroit this weekend was punishment enough.