Kansas IndyCar musings
Most were not impressed with the attendance at Kansas Saturday for the IndyCar race. From the press box on top of the grandstands the stands were only 1/3 full. Our estimation was about 25,000 of the 80,000 plus capacity. We did not see any promotional indications (ISC's way of ensuring only NASCAR succeeds?) about the race being there whereas Barber really promoted their race with signs and posters up at restaurants around the city. Barber did a similar job to Edmonton for the first Champ Car race where every business had a poster up as advertising.
Maybe the fans are reacting to the poor racing at the ovals from the first half of last season. After seeing photo finishes on a regular basis from the IRL for years, all of a sudden it stopped. Ticket sales were independent for the IRL race Saturday rather than be part of the season package where you have to buy the whole season package to get the ticket to the NASCAR Cup race.
Helio Castroneves was pretty hot about the lap down car of Danica who make her car really wide so he couldn't pass her mid-race when he was second to Dixon. She would hug the white line in place and then move one to two car widths up making it hard for him to run even higher to go around her. That gave Dixon a huge lead driving on a clear track. Danica kept getting the move-over flag but continued to fight with Helio for ten or more laps. If she is already a lap down. Let the leaders race! Helio finally said to Tim Cindric over the radio when he got by her, "Unbelievable!" Unfortunately, we missed the prior radio conversation when he was stuck behind her. We're sure that would have been very entertaining.
The drivers definitely were upset about the back markers. We think the IRL needs to adapt the policy Champ Car had while it still raced on ovals, with ten laps to go you move the backmarkers out of the way. It certainly would have livened this race up. Even though there were battles deep in the field, it was a snoozer. Not like the Kentucky race last year when the teams were given back some flexibility on options to use on the cars. We can recall a few years ago Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon running side by side for lap after lap on a 1.5 mile oval. If the oval racing continues as KS did, the IRL is in trouble because this is not an exciting product to watch.
Seems there were 8 lapped cars between Castroneves and Dixon at one point mid-race. We're not sure how Race Control handled the yellow that came out on about lap 187 when Dixon entered the pits. We think he was already stopped when the yellow came out. Last year Briscoe, the leader who dominated, was on the pit slowdown lane a car length or so from the timing line at pit-in when the yellow came out. We can't remember now if he stopped, we think he did, and then was penalized with a drive through penalty. Or, he might have been waved around and came in again. But we think he stopped and it was a few minutes later that Race Control said he pitted when the pits were closed. He hadn't quite made it to the line when the yellow occurred. But I don't there was time to communicate that to him or the team before he stopped. And two years ago Dixon dominated at Kansas and lost the race to Briscoe because he pitted when a yellow came out and lost the lead, existing the pits in something like 10th place. Dixon wasn't able to get back up to the leader before the race ended in 2008.
Somehow, this year, Dixon managed to get picked up by the pace car as the leader. By the time Dixon stopped for his final stop, everyone else had already pitted. Dixon smiled when he talked about this in the post-race press conference because we know Dixon thought Déjà vu, he'd lose this race because a caution came out at the wrong time. So we think race control held back and had the pace car pick up Dixon. He had a sizeable lead over the field, and having not pitted until last, he gained a whole lap ahead until entering the pits.
Randy Bernard talked to the media. He's very much in favor of the two driver awards for the road course and oval championships. He feels that is the best way to interest the fans who are either road course based and or oval based fans. He is trying to do anything to increase the interest in the TV audience and attendance. He did say he'd be meeting with ISC about returning to Kansas. We certainly don't think the attendance on Sat. would make ISC think the IRL is a good idea. We heard it was ABC who wanted the race on Saturday which ran prior to the Kentucky Derby at 4 PM ET.
Randy did say when asked about what is happening with the chassis and engines that everyone has now agreed not to talk about it. When asked about the so called June 1st deadline he said he couldn't comment. Randy also said he had a real hard time not commenting because he loves to talk about things. We predict the IRL will just drag this out to the point where we are looking at 2013. Some of the veterans will be getting close to retirement age by then, Dario, Helio, Tony, etc. Our point is the drivers who are in their 30's and have the most fan recognition are nearing retirement. We don't see the IRL succeeding as they drag out these decisions.
We hate hearing from current IndyCar drivers who drove in Champ Car how the IndyCar series is so great because it has competition on all different kinds of tracks. Surely they remember Champ Car and CART did that too. Also, Randy was talking about how the IndyCars are the fastest form of motorsport. We think he forgets about NHRA and Champ Car. All we can say is two years ago I stood at Edmonton at pit-in behind the wall. An IRL driver had stopped there to watch the IndyCar drivers take the final corner. As we walked by watching the IndyCars we stopped and said "Gee, they look like they are just out for a Sunday drive." We told him that when Champ Car ran there you just couldn't stand at that spot the previous year because the cars were so much faster. The Champ Cars were very much on the edge and very twitchy under braking. The cars come straight at you and turned at the last instant, which would scare you silly.