Sunday, August 23, 2015

First Impressions: Pocono 2015

1. I am not sure where to begin. Let's just start with the accident. I didn't see Justin Wilson hit the debris. The crowd was so stunned Sage Karam, the hometown boy, had an accident while leading that by the time you completely missed that Wilson was involved. It felt terrible but at the same time, you just wanted the race to restart. You wanted to see this race end. You didn't want to leave on that note especially with the end in sight.

2. To be honest I just want to talk about Wilson. I don't have a perfect solution to the problem but enough drivers have been hit in the head by debris in recent years, from Henry Surtees to Felipe Massa to James Hinchcliffe to now Wilson that something should be done. The idea that I thought of was, if a closed-cockpit is not possible, to have a windshield that could go up and down like a visor on a helmet so the driver isn't totally enclosed but the only way for debris to hit the helmet would be from directly above. You could have it connected through the engine cover that way there would be enough room to lift it up to allow a driver in and out of the car. It's not perfect; I haven't spent that much time thinking about it but it's what I got in the heat of the moment. 

3. Wilson is in a coma and now we play the waiting game, praying and looking for a way to continue while a son, a father, a husband, a brother, a friend lies in a hospital bed, fighting for his life, fighting to make it to another morning. You can't help but feel helpless. Like a goalie facing a five-on-none and knowing divine intervention may be the only way you prevent a goal. It sucks but it's the situation we are entrenched in. 

4. I am going to move on to the race itself because it happened and deserves to be acknowledged.

5. It has to be bittersweet for Ryan Hunter-Reay. You win but your teammate left the track in a helicopter. Hunter-Reay drove really well in this race. He had a few poor pit stops but he was able to make his way back to the front and his crew came up big on the final stop. The lengthy final caution squashed all fears of him and a few others not having enough fuel. He made some really good passes on Juan Pablo Montoya, Takuma Sato and Gabby Chaves to get back to the front.

6. Josef Newgarden dominated the first 20%, was none existent for the next 70% and finished strong in the final 10%. And he kept himself championship eligible, though he will need to come up big and have some help at Sonoma if he wants to leave with the Astor Cup. Newgarden has had a fantastic breakout season and he is just getting started.

7. After seeing Juan Pablo Montoya was starting 19th, it appeared this would be the race he would lose his hold on the title. But while his other championship challengers faltered, he proved why is one of the best ever and got a podium. He truly deserves this title. 

8. Gabby Chaves had a really good day and it's a shame his engine expired with just three laps to go. This was his best race of the season by far.

9. Back to Sage Karam, this was his best race of the season. I wish he would get a chance to run at Sonoma but he, like Montoya, drove to the front and raced clean. 

10. As for the Graham Rahal-Tristan Vautier incident, the Frenchman was pretty ambitious with that move. Vautier has had a pretty good year but unfortunately the worst move he made all year took out a championship challenger. Rahal is still in it but it appeared he was going to overtake Montoya, make up ground to Montoya or remain right on the Colombian's backside in the championship as he started 14 positions ahead of him. Rahal still has a shot at the title but he pretty much needs to win. 

11. I don't know why there were so many accidents today. It was much cooler this year at Pocono than the previous two years but I am not sure if that is the sole cause. The racing was pretty good but we didn't get those long green flag periods this year like we saw in 2013 and 2014. 

12. I hope Pocono returns. The crowd was good. The paddock was packed. The weather was phenomenal. The start time was a little late for a Sunday but with NBCSN being packed today with live Formula One followed by live Premier League, followed by live IndyCar, there wasn't much that could be done. Perhaps, there didn't need to be an hour post-match show or the post-match show could have been shown after the IndyCar race. To be honest, if there aren't going to be support series at Pocono, just do everything on Saturday. Practice from 9:00-11:00 a.m. ET. Qualify at noon. Go green at 3:00 p.m. ET. 

13. Last week, I wrote an article, "Am I Heading to a Funeral This Sunday?" That has been haunting me since the accident. A serious accident is always possible at a race but you don't go to a race expecting it. I was talking about saying goodbye to IndyCar racing at Pocono, not a driver but the wording seems wrong after today. Am I sorry I titled it that way? I don't know. Yes? No? It just seems wrong now but it's not. It's just unfortunate timing and it happens in life.

14. I am a big Queen fan and they are just one of the many musical groups I can listen to for comfort. The have a song called "The Show Must Go On" and while it may be tough, the show must go on. Six drivers have a shot at the title. Juan Pablo Montoya has 500 points. He leads Graham Rahal by 34 points. Scott Dixon trails by 47, Will Power by 61, Hélio Castroneves by 77 and Josef Newgarden by 87. Marco Andretti, Sébastien Bourdais, Tony Kanaan and Simon Pagenaud have been eliminated from championship contention. The #25 Honda that Justin Wilson was slated to drive at Sonoma likely won't be there, meaning we are looking at 24 cars for the season finale. With a maximum of 104 points and a minimum of 12, the most points a driver can make up is 92 points. We can go more in-depth about Sonoma and the championship picture later but this is the Astor Cup battle at-a-glance.

15. Pray for Justin Wilson. And try to get some sleep. It will difficult but try. Good night.