All in all, a fantastic end to the 6 month drought of IndyCar action. And for Ryan Briscoe, it was an all out confirmation that Chip Ganassi’s “superteam” will have stiff competition from Penske. Granted, Ryan received some help when he pitted right before a full course yellow, but he was able to fend off multiple attempts from Justin Wilson in the Coyne car and then later Ryan Hunter-Reay.
And while Briscoe took home the top honors (and the 50 points), Ryan Hunter-Reay’s first race with Vision was truly remarkable. He also benefited from the same pit sequence as Briscoe and Wilson, but he was able to get by Wilson for second place and hold on to it, while making several attempts for the lead. Not bad for a guy who had no time in the Vision car before this weekend and who didn’t have a contract a week ago.
Justin Wilson though has to be the story of the race. He received the 2 point bonus for leading the most laps while driving for a team of very humble means and managed to pull out a stunning 3rd.
And while Vision and Coyne finishing 2-3 in this race is not akin to the newfound Brawn/Toyota/Red Bull dominance in F1 early this season, it is worth pointing out that these teams are still able to compete with the Big 3 on the road and street courses. Speed is easier to find on the twisty tracks. The smaller budget teams don’t have to invest as much in different wheelbases and configurations as they do on the ovals since less areas are available for open development. Open development requires money and time, which the Big 3 have had in abundance compared to the smaller teams like Vision and especially the sophomore year CCWS teams.
As for the Versus broadcast. GOLD! The announcing team worked well together, Bob Jenkins showed us why he has been doing this for so long and the pit reporters did a great job. The ‘Pit Strategist” role of Jack Arute is an interesting idea and could turn out to be one of their better innovations. The camera crews did a fantastic job giving us overhead shots, wide angle shots, close ups, harbor views and in car footage that made the race shine. Versus carried the series for well over the 3-hour window. The result was me being a very happy IndyCar fan. Now if some of Versus ability could just rub off on the ABC crew for the early summer stint. We will wait patiently for the Neilsen numbers to come out in the next day or so to see how many faces were watching the race.
On to Long Beach in 2 weeks where we will have some new storylines to watch, but first we have to find out who will be there. Of note:
-Penske made comments throughout the weekend that they would run a 3rd car if Helio was cleared. His trial should be going to the jury early this week, so we could know more very soon. That said, Penske has secured the #12 and has recently done deals with Verizon in Grand-Am and Nascar, so look for Verizon to be on the sidepod if Helio comes back. There is still the issue that Phillip-Morris, who sponsors Penske’s current 2-car effort, has held Penske to a contractual obligation to run only 2 cars, no more, no less. Some have suggested that Luczo Dragon may grow to a 2 car team (since Roger’s son Jay is part owner). Of course, all this hinges on Helio being exonerated.
-Alex Tagliani had Northlands (promoter for the Edmonton race) sponsorship on his car this weekend. While this is reportedly only a one week deal, Alex has been working with Edmonton area businesses to find sponsorship for Long Beach onward. Put two and two together and you have Northlands, seeing that Alex was going to run all but the first race, deciding to sponsor him for the first race so he can be around all season. I took this as a very good sign. As of yet, Alex doesn’t have a deal for Long Beach, so we will wait and see.
-Darren Manning also does not currently have a deal for Long Beach with Dryer and Reinbold but they are hopeful that he will race. Many are now suggesting that Milka could run 8 or so races this year in that car and that Manning would run the rest. Of course this hinges on getting sponsorship to run Manning and getting Milka’s sponsor check to clear (which seems to be quite the trick lately).
-Tomas Scheckter is still working on a deal that would see him in a seat at Long Beach onward with Team 3G.