Probably the biggest reason the race was such a huge hit yesterday came down to the television coverage. The newly crowned NBC Sports Network delivered in a huge way. The cameras constantly captured on track action and put it on for everyone to see. While we did see some replays of overtaking, most of it was picked up live. We do have to offer a bit of credit where credit is due however. Brian Barnhardt was in the television truck and did aid NBC with picking up overtakes as they looked primed to happen.
This is such a night and day difference compared to just seven days previous in St. Petersburg. Fans were outraged as ABC fumbled around the track, missing key passes and relying on the replay. As we discussed last week on the podcast with Jenna Fryer, IndyCar is responsible for delivering a good product regardless of who shows the event. It is my hope that IndyCar sends Brian in the truck for all of the road/street races to be honest. The show at Barber was amazing and we can thank NBC Sports Network for really doing a good job. There are some areas where we could complain about Bob Jenkins destroying names…but we let that pass as it is Bob being Bob.
The new car performed beautifully on race day with very few issues. Alex Tagliani had issues right after the green flag went out, and Takuma Sato had more engine woes with his Honda. One of the bigger points brought up this weekend was the rubbing. Barber is a very narrow track with constant elevation changes. It is a great track to drive and very challenging for the drivers. The integrity of the new cars were a great addition to the show as it promoted some slight contact on track. We are not talking about a Toronto crash fest that looked embarrassing, we are talking hard racing where there is a level of respect between competitors. Overall though, the wings held on and the cars were able to take contact. Let’s give a little more credit though to the drivers at the end of the day. For the second week in a row, they looked like professional racing drivers.
The drivers put on some amazing performances. Will Power going from ninth to first, Bourdais flying in the under performing Lotus-Judd. The list of fantastic drives is long after this event. The thing that really made the event special with the drivers was there desire to take risks. Lots of heavy out braking maneuvers and solid commitment to take the corner provided a show that not many thought was possible around this track. Sure, I may throw my front wing inside on a corner and rub the huge sidepod, but I am not going to push you in the grass or spin you out in order to get the position. I am all for slight contact, but I hope that it does not get worse when we get to Long Beach. Accidents happen, but I hope we can keep the level of contact at what was on display at Barber. There is a fine line between being aggressive and being flat stupid.
Race control was out of sight and out of mind yet again this weekend during the race. I felt Beaux and the crew did a fantastic job on Saturday during qualifying too honestly. There was a great tweet that had went out from someone (cannot recall who) that said if you treat drivers like adults and give them adult rules, this is what you get. I have to agree honestly. I would have to say the biggest plus the whole race was the local yellows. Under the previous regime, we would have sat through tons of caution laps as the safety team removed Takuma Sato’s car. Race control however opted to use only local yellows for the most part. That is proper road racing and something that is a change from seasons past.
IndyCar has really brought it after two rounds. Great racing, plenty of overtaking, and great decisions from the stewards. I have been very critical during the off season about the direction IndyCar was going at the end of the last era. I have to say that I am very happy with the direction things are going as the series has built some incredible momentum this weekend in terms of competition. Very impressive Randy and I really hope we see the same thing at Long Beach. I know it is early and mistakes can and will be made, but the series has done a complete 180 so far this year. I am very excited to be an IndyCar fan. When was the last time you could truly say that?