Brain Dump: Watkins Glen 2017

Like any sport that has been around for decade, Motorsport has many wise sayings. Adages like “To finish first, first you must finish”. And “You can win a race on the first lap, but you can definitely lose it.” And of course, “Don’t every pick a fight with AJ Foyt, even if you’re a swarm of bees.

There’s also the saying about “Rain is the great equalizer”. I’d make an Edward Woodward reference, but I’m not sure if you people would get it.

(“What do you mean ,’you people’?” – The Spotter)

(“What do *you* mean, ‘you people’?” – Denzel Washington)

Aaaaaand back to racing. . .for much of the race your humble host was getting irked at all of the constant broadcast chatter about rain and the incessant proclamations about how dangerous this or that green blob on the radar looked. The race at Watkins Glen came and went with nary a drop of rain, and it seemed like teams would soon want to round up weathermen and burn them at the stake for their false prophesies. But for fans this was marvelous stuff. Perhaps the aforementioned saying may need a corollary, because clearly the mere threat of rain was the great equalizer on Sunday.

Just look at the first lap, where nearly every car took the green flag while sporting rain tires, but after one lap promptly entered the pits to change to slicks. But which one’s to take – red or black? And should there be less pressure in them? And what of downforce? It was a situation where a guess could make or break the day. Suddenly the race was masquerading as an impromptu test session, as well as each team’s guess on whether rain would eventually fall.

Which is not to say that this was an undeserved win at all for Alexander Rossi, who now has the benefit winning at both Indycar events that present the victor with a giant wreath. Maybe the dude likes plants? Anyhow, he clearly had a strong car and his impromptu setup worked, much as it has for several consecutive races. His last five starts have produced a win, a 2nd, a 3rd, and two 6ths, which means in the last few months he’s been doing better than many of those other guys who can still win the championship. He and his team earned this win.

Oh, and speaking of the championship, much was made of Josef Newgarden’s wipeout exiting the pits, as it should. It was a huge mistake, perhaps only his second one all season after his decision to race a little higher than he should at Texas, and credit Newgarden for fully owning what happened in his post-race remarks. In fact, he even threw a little shade at F1 by saying something about not having tire warmers in Indycar because we want the racing to be difficult. How do you kids say it – “Sick burn, bro”?

However, the replays showed he wasn’t the only one struggling with that exit. Just two laps earlier Helio Castroneves avoided the pit exit wall but slid out of the exit lan and on to the track. Sebastien Bourdais looked like he would have done the same thing as Helio had Newgarden not been ricocheted off the wall. And immediately after this Marco Andretti hit the pit exit wall. Then Tony Kanaan, who hit so hard he had to retire.

From the race, not the series, that is. I’ve seen some of the nasty things you people write on the Twitters.

(“What do you mean. . .0h, nevermind.” – The Spotter)

Honorable mentions this week include:

Mother Nature, of course.

Scott Dixon, who was a strong 2nd place, and who’s won at this track so many times they’re probably going to name a part of it after him some day.

Helio Castroneves, who can still win his first Indycar series championship with a win next week, as long as Newgarden doesn’t finish 2nd.

Max Chilton, who has finished in the Top 10 on 3 of the last four non-ovals. He’s probably gone from the Ganassi team next year but he’s definitely improved this year.

Jack Harvey, racing the last two races for Schmidt Peterson, he brought it home in one piece on a day when drivers were sliding everywhere. Ironically his first rides outside of the Indy 500 are coming after his “paycation” commercials for AutoNation have concluded. And by “ironically” I mean thankfully.

Final Lap: It wasn’t exactly the same circumstances, but Newgarden’s pit folly did spark memories this other Team Penske driver making a similar mistake late in the season.

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