Sunday, July 7, 2013

Pocono 2013: First Impressions

After attending the first Pocono Indy 400 in twenty-four years, a lot to comment on.

1. What a great day for Pittsburgh's own, Chip Ganassi. 1-2-3 with Scott Dixon, Charlie Kimball and Dario Franchitti. This was the turn around these three and Honda have been waiting for. Dixon is still in the championship picture.

2. One has to wonder what Marco Andretti has to do to catch a break and close out a race. Dominated all weekend and came up with zilch. Could have made up a lot of ground in the championship instead he's still up stream and as the series heads to seven consecutive road and street courses it does not get any easier for Andretti to stay in the championship picture. He's had a really good season but easily had the best car at Texas, Milwaukee and today Pocono and could be in a much better position.

3. Didn't realize Tony Kanaan had front wing damage but it was a terrible break for the Brazilian as it looked as he was in a great position to keep his Triple Crown hopes alive and pick up that $250,000 prize for winning two of three legs. Now Kanaan and Dixon will go head-to-head for the consolation prize with at least twenty-two drivers trying to play spoiler.

4. If there is one thing Ryan Hunter-Reay should feel positive about is he is only twenty-three points back of Helio Castroneves after Takuma Sato slide in the back of him entering the pit lane and the series heads to Toronto where Hunter-Reay is the defending race winner. Should Hunter-Reay double up at Toronto and Castroneves finish second in both race while leading no laps, Hunter-Reay would be one point back of Castroneves. It's still anyone's ballgame.

5. After a really good race, the traffic heading back east to New Jersey sucked. It wasn't leaving the track that was the problem, it was Interstate 80 and all the holiday traffic with thousands heading back to New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Vermont. It was inevitable and no ones fault. It was just a pain when it took you twice as long to get home. The race flew by taking only two hours and four minutes to complete meaning fans were getting on to the major highways when all other vacationers were heading home as well. Had this race been slowed for more cautions or had been 500 miles (which I suggested back when the schedule was released) it wouldn't had been any better. As I sat in the car after going ten miles in one hour I thought maybe it would have been better if the race had been on Saturday and not Sunday with less people heading home. But with this being a major holiday weekend, it may have been inevitable regardless of what day the race was held. The race began a little after noon, Pocono Raceway's staff did a great job getting everyone in and out of the track in a timely fashion and none of the traffic problems were the track's fault.

Hopefully I can see how a fan could decide not to go back to Pocono in 2014 after the terrible traffic. It is one of those things out of the track's control that deters people from returning despite the time they had at the race itself. I am not sure if there is anything the track could do but if they are thinking about extending the race to 500 miles in 2014 they should be mindful of the holiday traffic and what race fans could face afterward.

6. I hate when people comment that the stands look empty and are pessimistic. Today the stands had a good crowd and personally, if 600,000 people were there or 60 people were there, I am glad I went and that doesn't change the racing I saw on track.

7. A few tips if you have plans to go to Pocono in 2014 even after reading impression #4: Do not but Victory Lane Club or $100 Club tickets. Worthless. You might get more shade than if you were in the grandstands but do not see nearly as much of the race track. Parking at Pocono Raceway is free. A big change from most sporting events which are charging at least $20. Hydrate. The weather wasn't bad today but bring sunscreen and a hat. Today was in the mid 80s with humidity only around 50-60%. Today had a great amount of cloud cover and a nice breeze cooling you down. Now today's weather is not a guarantee to comeback in 2014 and I have experienced worse at Pocono but today wasn't brutally hot and enjoyable.

8. I brought a buddy of mind to his first auto race of any kind today and he enjoyed it and noted how there were a good amount of good looking woman walking around the paddock. It's not related to racing at all but in case you like cars and good looking woman, IndyCar is for you.

9. Back to racing: Honda had a great weekend after it looked like they were going to be spanked again at an oval. Great to see Josef Newgarden get a top five. Justin Wilson didn't look good at all the first two stints but turned it around and finished seventh.

10. It may have been an eleventh place finish but it was the best career oval finish for Simona de Silvestro who needed a good oval finish after struggling the past few seasons. She still needs a little work but today was a step in the right direction.

11. Shout out to Ed Carpenter who finished ninth and his sponsor Fuzzy Ultra Premium Vodka for giving away tickets to the race, two of which went to my parents.

12. Glad to see Pippa Mann get a full race in after retiring after two laps at Texas.

13. I've said it once and I'll say it again, Graham Rahal needs a senior teammate to work with. He was off the pace all day and needs a Oriol Serviá to work with. Granted James Jakes is doing fine but Rahal and his team are lost and needs a savior.

14. Another tough day for James Hinchcliffe as he heads home to Canada, however he has not had much luck at all in his home nation. His best finish in four starts in Canada is a twelfth at Edmonton last year and in six combined starts at Toronto (2 IndyCar, 2 Lights, 2 Atlantics), Hinchcliffe only has two top tens, with his last coming in 2009 in Indy Light and three retirements.

15. I look forward to returning to Pocono in 2014 and cannot wait for the doubleheader next weekend at Toronto.