Little ado about something
The crowd at last weekend's AllState 400 at the Brickyard was the smallest in the 15-year history of the race. After Sunday's tire debacle at Indy, imagine how small the crowd could be next year.
The fans were once again the big losers as NASCAR and Goodyear gave them something they would like to forget in what could forever be known as the "Competition Yellow 400." About the only thing these two groups did right was put safety first, deciding to throw a competition yellow every 10 laps or so to keep the right rear tires from blowing up and potentially injuring a driver.
"I've never seen anything like this," said four-time Brickyard winner Jeff Gordon. "I really hate that it happened at the Brickyard. It's such a big race. I think all of us are disappointed with what happened here today. It's embarrassing, and it's disappointing. I don't know where to start, really. We've got ourselves into a position here where obviously something's going to have to be done."
NASCAR and Goodyear certainly didn't anticipate the issues that would develop in the new car's (previously known as the Car of Tomorrow) first trip to Indy. Instead of staging an open test at the unique 2-1/2-mile oval in advance of the annual trip to Indianapolis, crew chiefs and officials decided to skip it and use the dates at a different track. That was a terrible mistake as the yellow flag flew so often it left the fans seeing red. The longest green flag run was 12 laps, capped by a seven-lap dash to the finish won by pole-sitter Jimmie Johnson, who claimed his second win in this race in the last three years.
But this was certainly no race to celebrate. And don't blame the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for this sordid affair because the track surface has remained constant since 2005. That was the year of the Formula One tire fiasco, in which 14 cars on Michelin tires pulled in on the parade lap to boycott the race, charging that the tire company had badly misread the track conditions when it built its tires. Its competitor, Bridgestone, had no tire issues in that race, in which only six cars fought it out.
"We just have to take what we learned today and do a better job next year as a group," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition. "It's fair to say we won't do the same thing next year we did this year. We tried to put our best foot forward and make the best judgment calls that we could getting prepared for this race. For sure, it didn't come off the way we wanted it to."
Crash of the Week
It may have been a single-car crash, but the aftermath of Matt Kenseth's right-rear tire exploding gave tremendous visual evidence of the incredibly precarious conditions the NASCAR drivers faced on Sunday.
The explosion from the tire blew the right-rear quarter-panel off the car, making it look like a bomb had ignited.
"I could see it in the mirror that part of the quarter-panel was blown off," Kenseth said. "It's a really, really, really disappointing situation. This is one of the two biggest races of the year, and to never have this tire here before and not come and do an open test and to work on these things and work on the tires, it's pretty darn disappointing. We had a great car today. I feel bad for the fans; we're running three-quarters speed because we're worried of the tires blowing out, and they got blown out every eight laps.
"You get about six corners' worth of warning, about a lap and a half. It'll just get loose if it's the right rear. That's when it started shaking, about three seconds before it blew out."
Quotes of the Week
"I'm sure after a long, hard race I'll be ready for a good old drink of water."
"We're all IRL people now,"
"Once a driver; always a driver. You just have to give him a car."
"I really don't know. I've only lived as a girl so..."
"Maybe we should give them some boxing gloves."
North of the Border
Excited fans everywhere, with big crowds for the three days of the event, and a city buzzing with excitement.
No, that's not a description of the scene at Indianapolis, the site of Sunday's AllState 400 at the Brickyard. That's a description of the IndyCar Series' first-ever race in Canada. Suffice to say, the Rexall Edmonton Indy at the City Centre Airport was a stunning success.
When the IndyCar Series unified in February, Edmonton was an event that had to be put on this year's schedule because it was one of the most successful races on the old Champ Car schedule. During the first year of the Edmonton race in '05, a three-day total of over 200,000 spectators came to the airport circuit.
With this year's race being held from Thursday through Saturday, there was concern that the spectator attendance would be off from the traditional Friday-Sunday schedule. But with perfect weather all three days, there were big crowds for Thursday's practice sessions, Friday's qualifications and a capacity crowd for Saturday's race won by Scott Dixon.
While the track promoter did not announce attendance figures, Saturday's race probably drew 60,000, with 50,000 fans on Thursday and 50,000 on Friday for a three-day total over 160,000. The "Festival City" looked like the host city of an NCAA Final Four, replete with race souvenir booths set up throughout the airport and the city.
"When I first went out I couldn't believe how many people were here for a practice on a Thursday," said Dixon. "I haven't seen anything quite like that before. It was fantastic to see that support and the fans were quite knowledgeable, too. They are great fans."
"I love Canada," said Tony Kanaan. "On Thursday it looks like a Sunday for us. We could barely walk through the paddock. This is the kind of event that we need. It's amazing."
And for the drivers, it was a demanding circuit, with fast speeds and slick areas that made it a handful for even the best drivers to keep it on the race course.