As should be evident from the nearly one-week delay in posting this word receptacle, your humble host would rather forget the 2018 race at Barber than relive any of it. But, for posterity and the tens of you who read these brain dumps. . .here goes.
When I was a boy I liked to watch racing, and during my summers in southern Indiana that meant attending the “Thunder on the Ohio” hydroplane races. This was an event featuring boats that looked nothing like boats with names like “Miss Circus Circus” and “Miss Budweiser” competed to see who was the fastest casino or adult beverage on water. Or something like that.
Honestly, all I remember was sitting on the banks of the Ohio River and being overcome by chiggers. Memo to all: don’t sit on the banks of a Midwestern river during the rain unless you are prepared to have these insects attack the warmest and sweatiest places on your person. And that is all I have to say about that.
Anyhow, I recalled my memories of hydroplane racing much during the recent 2-day Indycar hydroplane race in Alabama, because according to my recollection the boat that is leading at the start of a race is almost always the boat leading at the end. It’s nearly impossible for one of those “thunderboats” to pass another.
Which is not unlike what was happening at Barber. Yes, there was some passing, but the skill that is involved to complete passing on a wet road was overshadowed by random acts of puddledom that just flat our ruined the event for me. Then again, maybe it was the flashbacks to The Chiggering of 1983.
I know racing in the rain can be exciting because, as the saying goes, rain is the great equalizer. But when the rain comes sporadically and voluminously to a track that has insufficient drainage, it becomes the great randomizer. Which means it is no longer a test of skill, or at least not a test of actual racing skill. It’s more like hang on and hope you time fuel and tire strategies well.
To be fair, it wasn’t the debacle at NOLA a few years ago, which only had 22 laps of green flag racing under similar conditions. But that being said, it sure seemed on Sunday the strategy of starting early and getting as many green flag laps in as possible was very NOLA-esque. The only difference is they couldn’t get half the race completed.
And then there’s that factor of turning it into a timed race, which made Monday’s racing stranger. The cars were not allowed to be worked on, but they were allowed to top off with fuel, which rightly enraged a few competitors on an alternate pit strategy. And then it started raining again on Monday, and honestly this isn’t a race we’re going to look back on with much fondness.
Although be “we” I’m certainly exempting Josef Newgarden, who won has now won three of the last four events at Barber. Because he’s in some crazy zone now where he was won 5 of the last 10 Indycar races. And also because you can’t really pass anyone in a hydroplane race.
Then again, maybe the real winner was James Hinchcliffe for his interview during the intermission, wherein he proudly proclaimed “you’re looking at a man who just wet himself”. As if the race didn’t have enough talk of moisture. Oh well, he probably got more publicity for that and his sponsors than he would have for winning the race. But now when we see him in his firesuit selling Hondas, well, let’s just say I’m sure some of aren’t going to be looking at the cars.
Final Lap: Perhaps the most disappointing feature of the event was that Will Power spun out during a restart in the rain and there was nary a bird to be flipped. Opportunity lost.