Overheard at Pocono - Saturday
On a Partly Cloudy and warm day in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, the IndyCar gathered to watch practice and qualifying. Unfortunately the place looked empty - a very big facility with NASCAR size grandstands and a few thousand fans in attendance. However, given it is an oval event, which never draws a big crowd before race day, the few thousand fans is a lot more than some tracks.
|A perfect weekend so far for a happy Marco Andretti|
And with Marco Andretti winning the pole it is sure to help ticket sales on Sunday. The Andretti name is huge around this neck of the woods.
Marco dominated all three practices and qualifying. His car has been quick off the trailer and he is very confident going into tomorrow's race. Whatever his team has figured out, so far it is working.
You wonder how they can sell tickets for two NASCAR Sprint Cup races and an IndyCar race in a span of eight weeks where other tracks have failed and the answer is clear. First this is not an ISC or SMI owned track so there is no prejudice toward NASCAR. Brandon and Nick Igdalsky want all three races to succeed.
"We are seeing that 60% of the ticket buyers are different than the NASCAR races, they are either new fans or fans who are returning from when IndyCar used to race here," said Brandon. And the three races feed off of each other."
Nick chimed in and added, "don't be surprised if we add a 4th race in a 12 week span. We are looking at it."
One concern we saw here was the average age of the fans I observed walking around. Almost no kids and most people 40 years old and up. As we have written, the situation is dire. The sport has lost its connection with the youth of this country and if someone doesn't wake up soon and do something about it, the sport will cease to exist ten years from now. There is a solution, but it will take years to implement and it will take the entire industry working together to get it done. And while the Turbo movie offers some hope for a tick up in popularity, it remains to be seen whether it will have a long-term positive effect or not.
We hear the Long Beach IndyCar race is likely to get renewed for 5-years during a City council meeting in September. The rumors of it becoming an F1 race are unfounded we are told.
The drivers are finding this track a lot different than Indy. At Indy everything is pretty symmetrical, the straightaways are the same way, the short shoots are the same length. Here each straightaway is a little different. The corners are each different. The duration of the corners are different. Gearing for Indy is a little easier. You can have the options in the gearbox to kind of cover a couple of wind scenarios at once and be okay. Here with the different length straightaways, different shaped corners, it’s hard to have as many options available to cover different conditions. Gearing and getting it right for the conditions for two laps is going to be a big part of who comes out on the pole.
The way the wind has been blowing with tailwind on the front stretch are using two top gears, maybe three. Usually there is a down shift out of (turn) one and that gear will work back around to the front straightaway again. Then you will up shift for the long front straightaways. With this wind kind of how it’s been, but other guys maybe doing it differently.
Most drivers are saying that Turn 1 is an awesome corner. "It’s more daunting than turn one at Indy in my opinion," said Ed Carpenter. It’s such a, with the banking and the speed and being a much tighter radius than Indianapolis it’s hard to get right.
For an ultimate fast lap it is going to be dictated by how you get through turn one. When it comes to racing turn three is going to be a little more important getting a good run out of there and being able to run close in traffic. They are both important and you have to be able to get them both right.”
There used to be a big bump over the tunnel turn, it is better now but it’s a little choppy through there compared to the rest of the track. The rest of the track is smooth like Indianapolis.
As for a team like Andretti Autosport using a slingshot strategy in the race between the four cars to gain an advantage during the race, it's not going to happen.
“I don’t know it would be so tough to coordinate really because normally when you overtake somebody you can gap them for that lap," said Marco Andretti. "It takes a lap to catch back up so it’s really hard to switch once a lap let alone twice. No, it’s probably a tough strategy.”
“Saying that it’s important to mention that I think we were all expecting that this track was going to have the same nature as Indianapolis that we were able to draft pretty easily, but for some reason it is not happening that way. It does happen, but not in that magnitude," said EJ Viso.
"I believe that the amount of overtaking is going to be good, but I think not as much as we expect.”
James Hinchcliffe is sporting a brace on his right wrist because it is still sore from the accident with Power in Detroit. He has a soft tissue tear. "I can hold wheel fine, but it is going to be sore on a Monday."
Still no news on when the 2014 schedule will be announced. Let's hope Pocono is still on the schedule. The facility is so much better than it was when the Indycars ran here in the 80s.
|Pocono 400 trophy|
The trophy for this race is one of the nicest we have seen - a beautiful sculpture of the American Eagle and the USA flag.
Golf legend Fuzzy Zoeller was on hand to talk about the Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka triple crown and how it got started.
|Fuzzy's triple Crown trophy|
"My partner in the Vodka business is also a big IndyCar fan and we looked at whether it was a way to put a marketing program around Vodka and Racing. Ed Carpenter was starting a new team and we jumped on the opportunity to sponsor a car as well as have this Triple Crown prize."
The Chevy cars have pretty dominated the ovals this year. They found something in the off season and Honda has yet to respond. You have to feel sorry for the Honda teams at this point, but they are too good to be down long. Mark Cipolloni reporting from Pocono