Slowing Down on the Backstretch – March 30, 2010

Published On March 30, 2010 » 1012 Views» By admin » Blogs, Cup Series

This week’s blog is all about deception: What you saw last weekend in racing may not be reality.

First, let’s start with the exciting IZOD IndyCar Series race at St. Petersburg. There were a few fans commenting on Facebook, Twitter and various Internet forums that the race should have been run Sunday despite the rain in the Tampa Bay area. These cars have rain tires – run! Stop being such wimps and weasels – run!

Get a grip, please. I was in St. Petersburg for the race, and there was no way in heaven or hell that the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg could have taken place Sunday afternoon. St. Petersburg received 4 inches of rain that afternoon and evening, and there were 6 inches of standing water on the exit of Turn 9. Last time I checked, Miss Budweiser and Chip Hanauer weren’t on the entry list.

Plus lightning slashed across the sky for a good chunk of the afternoon, forcing teams and fans to be evacuated to nearby shelter. Fans, trust me: This was biblical rain. I was waiting for a hail of locusts after a while. No chance this show could have gone on Sunday.

But IZOD IndyCar Series fans were treated to a compelling race Monday morning in St. Pete, with a familiar winner – that Will Power kid. Power drove a masterful race to remain perfect in two starts this season, his first full year for Team Penske. Power already leads by 44 points over Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dario Franchitti and Justin Wilson, who are tied in a Palomar knot (fellow trout fishermen, you’ll understand) for second.

So on the surface, it appears that Power is running away with it, and we’re destined for another season of Penske domination, right?

Wrong.

Power is a stone-cold killer on street courses. That’s no secret to anyone who followed Champ Car or the IZOD IndyCar Series for the last five years. But he’s yet to win on an oval in 11 roundy-round starts in the IZOD IndyCar Series over the last two seasons. So until Power wins just turning left, let’s hold off on the championship coronation. Plus it’s only March. But you’ve got to admit, the guy looks super strong right now.

And yes, it’s only March. It’s only two races. But any thoughts of Penske-Ganassi domination, which was the recurring subplot of 2009, should be tucked in and put away, at least for now.

Take a quick look at the top five of the point standings. Power. Hunter-Reay. Franchitti. Wilson. Matos. What’s the common thread? They’re all from different teams. That’s right: The top five dudes are all from different teams. Sure, Penske and Ganassi won all the oval races last season, which doesn’t bode well for Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport), Wilson (Dreyer & Reinbold) and Matos (Luczo Dragon Racing-De Ferran Motorsports).

But there is beautiful parity for now.

NASCAR: Denny Hamlin won Monday at Martinsville, which put the brakes on Jimmie Johnson’s reign of terror in the Sprint Cup Series.

Or did it? Again, that deception thing. Johnson finished ninth and took the lead in the series point standings for the first time in 2010. So not only are Jimmie and crew chief Chad Knaus dominating the Chase over the last four seasons, they’ve also got this regular-season thing figured out, too.

The Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 also was the first race for the Car of Tomorrow without the rear wing, instead replaced by the good old-fashioned blade spoiler. And Martinsville was a solid race.

But was it because of the spoiler or was it because it was Martinsville? Lawn tractor racing would be exciting on the Marty paper clip. The jury remains out. Let’s see how the racing is Saturday night, April 10 on the desert mile at Phoenix.

Formula One: Hey, Formula One woke up Sunday in Australia after playing Rip Van Winkle two weeks ago for a snooze fest of a season opener in Bahrain. Jenson Button won in a McLaren, hinting that maybe his stumble to the World Championship last year wasn’t all due to a huge technical advantage for Brawn in the first half of the season – even though it was.

There was plenty of action and passing in the first half of the race, but that came with a catch – the track was wet. Once the track dried, the race became pretty pedestrian.

So again, appearances can be deceiving. The race was interesting, but that was because of the rain, not because of a sudden resurgence of ballsy racing or an end to the over-reliance on aerodynamics that’s killing F1.

Moral of the story: F1 needs random sprinkler systems installed at every track.

Song of the Week: After victories in Sao Paulo and St. Petersburg, Will Power is the unquestioned king of the streets in the IZOD IndyCar Series. So this live rendition of The Rolling Stones’ classic “Street Fighting Man” is in honor of Power’s perfect start: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SyTn3xg0JVs

Until next time, keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel … and don’t forget to visit IMS on Twitter at www.twitter.com/IndyTalk and continue to stop by here at our place on Facebook.


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