Lite 200 at Mid-Ohio
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Other's by Dan
This is my 7th in a continuing series of articles that take a different perspective on races, i.e. what happened that others might have overlooked. Check back with AutoRacing1.com the week following every race for my latest article.
What more can be said about the Penske team's resurgence? Just before the race in Portland, CART held a test at Mid-Ohio that witnessed Team Penske dominate. Then, without missing a beat they drove off to a great win in Portland. Just last week, Team Penske was in attendance at a test at Elkhart Lake and again dominated that test. I guess it was only natural that the red and white cars of de Ferran and Castroneves would run away with a dominating victory. Watching these two cars following each other around reminds me of when Vasser and Zanardi ran away with victory in 1996. That was the beginning of what would become the Ganassi Dynasty. Could this be a signal that Penske will reign once again?
It is always scary to see a driver roll a car, but I would love to have seen the underside of de Ferran's chassis, as I am sure other Reynard teams would have as well. The undersides of these chassis are so much more important in creating downforce than ever before. And with the way Penske dominated this weekend, they have it figured out.
Every week it seems that the chassis manufactures introduce new parts and modifications to the chassis. This week's change to the Reynard is small and might not be anything at all. At the bottom edge of the sidepods there are 2 small openings. I have a theory as to what they might be. It has been hot in the Midwest therefore necessitating that the side pod vents be open completely in order to optimize cooling. However, the vents do effect the aerodynamics of the chassis by creating drag. These openings might just exist to provide more cooling of the radiator.
However, Lola showed up with a more radical change in the form of a new front wing configuration on the Newman-Haas cars. How can we over look 2 different trick noses this year on the Lola? The mysterious nose hump appeared at spring training and was used at Cleveland. It allows for a longer wheelbase and that stabilizes the cars handling. I am not sure what this weekend's change to the front wing does aerodynamically, but I am sure word will filter in shortly. Incidentally, this wing configuration is similar to the one used on the ill-fated Lola T96. It might be hard to determine the effectiveness of this change but Andretti and Fittipaldi clearly outpaced Ganassi's Lolas. Photo copyright 2000 Autoracing1.com and Mark Cipolloni.
I noticed in the opening laps of the race that Christian Fittipaldi locking up the front wheels. He did do this earlier this year in Portland. It certainly effected his race. And, we have noticed locking front tires on the Lola of Michael Andretti. Interesting to hear at about lap 20 Andretti radio to the pit to say that his tires had gone away. I can't help but wonder if this is a concern more with the Lola than with driving style. And, it is a problem that is plaguing Newman-Haas more than Ganassi. I was intrigued when Paul Page mentioned that the Ganassi Team said that they are having a problem with mechanical downforce on the natural terrain courses. Let us not forget that Ganassi spent time preparing for Indy while CART was testing at Mid-Ohio. They might be behind the ball as a result of their absence. Photo copyright 2000 Autoracing1.com and Tom Malaska.
If Franchitti could have one wish this year, I bet it would be to start this year all over again. He has had more than his fair share of bad luck this year and this weekend's round was no exception. First he is plagued by problems with the engine electronics and his shift without lift stopped operating. Then the car inexplicably stops running at the top of the hill at pit out. Just when it looks like Dario is cruising and has some of the earlier gremlins behind him; he tangles with Vasser in the keyhole. This might have been one of those cases where Dario was out of view of Vasser's mirror.
The restart on lap 67 produced some of this weekend's finest racing. Positions 4 through 11 were gathered together vying for position. This kind of racing is certainly evidence that the points chase is tighter this year than we have seen in recent years. And it didn't take more than 3 laps for Tagliani and Tracy to escalate their battle into a shoving match at the end of the straightaway. From the replay, it looks like Tagliani clearly had successfully completed the pass on Tracy. I imagine that when it comes down to 13 laps to go and Tracy hasn't been burning up the points chase in recent races it gets hard to give up 9th position. I don't want to come down too hard on Paul. He did show glimpses of maturity earlier this season, but he is undoubtedly frustrated with recent results. Of course, not to mention slipping down in the points so rapidly.
Well, all this culminates in another emotional victory by Castroneves. After suffering through the effects of a virus, it was a tremendous accomplishment to finish the race let alone win. Helio said it, "what a team, what a fantastic car, today is just a fantastic day." Ditto!
1st place: Helio Castroneves takes his second career victory of the season and his career. Last season, Helio could show that he was going to be one of the good ones given the right equipment. That is certainly the case this year. Helio should be able to move up the points in the next several races. He is able to race a smart race. If the equipment stays under him, he'll make a serious run at the championship.
Christian Fittipaldi for taking a smart drive to 3rd place after a horrific wreck at Chicago just 2 weeks ago. He has to settle down and take every point he can get. The next stop is Road America. This is where Christian took his lone CART victory and is another natural terrain road course. Hopefully he can maintain the momentum.
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