Now that I’m back from Alaska and in front of a keyboard again…
Somewhere around Lap 140 at Pocono a series of thoughts occurred to your humble host. First, this race is really long. Indycar races not named “The Indianapolis 500” don’t typically last beyond the two-hour TV window, but this race at Pocono was, well, also 500 miles as well. Yes, I’m getting older and my memory fails me at times.
But then my subsequent observation was “I’m not bored. This race is really good!” And by that I mean this was the kind of race that people who don’t follow racing would enjoy. Lots of passing, lots of different leaders, lots of different pit strategies – the racing was not unlike the Indy 500 the last few years.
Yes, the crowd was less, there was no singing of the home state, nor yellow shirts nor track fries nor a zillion balloons. But the racing was fan-flipping-tastic.
Heck, we even had a last-to-first winner in Will Power, who pitted twice after Lap 65 to replace his front AND rear wings, reportedly after contact with a familiar foe with a name that rhymes with “Gnarly Pinball”. He went a lap down, he got his lap back, and then suddenly he exited his final pit stop with the lead. And then he started making wacky moves to prevent Josef Newgarden from scoring his third straight win.
Question for the group: how many bottles to Power’s wife Liz chew or mangle during a 500 mile race? Is it just one, or does she change them out as she get thirsty?
(“Stay focused, please.” – The Spotter)
Anyhow, with the win Power has moved ahead of Paul Tracy and Dario Franchitti on the all-time win list. I know he hasn’t won the Indy 500 yet, but we probably should start talking about him as one of the all-time greats of the sport. Put it this way: Power has five more Indycar series wins (29 to 24) than Helio Castroneves in less than half of the races. And Helio ain’t no slouch.
Also, one last thought that occurred to me was how well the broadcast team was doing. Kevin Lee, Paul Tracy, and Townsend Bell were all in fine form for the full 500 miles, and maybe it’s because of the news earlier this year about the considerations of the next broadcasting contract, but it sure did give a feel for what an Indy 500 on NBC might look and feel like. And it was really, really enjoyable.
Honorable mentions include:
Ryan Hunter-Reay, for absorbing a mind-boggling 138G impact during qualification, and then driving the wheels off, all the way to the front. He finished in 8th, but it beats spending Sunday in a hospital, which is what nearly anyone else might have done after that impact.
Simon Pagenaud, who has finished in the Top 5 in 11 of 14 races this year. Which somehow puts him in 4th in the championship standings.
Carlos Munoz, who raced admirably for his fourth Top 10 finish of the season. That’s twice as many To 10s as Conor Daly, if you’re scoring at home (or even if you’re alone).
James Hinchcliffe, for scoring possibly the save of the year on Lap 102. Shades of Sam Hornish Jr.
Giovanni Petrole, for giving the finest and most boisterous starting command of the season.
Final Lap: “Someone just told me I’ve led every race I’ve been in here. This is becoming my Indianapolis. I hope not, because I don’t want to take 12 years to win here.” – Tony Kanaan, after the race.