The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is a beautiful race track, and the morning sun on Race Day made it look even more fantastic. Even at 7:30 in the morning, the hills along the Esses were filling up fast. Qualification on Saturday was amazing to watch, especially with Justin Wilson doing so well. Briscoe earned the pole, but Wilson was right along side him qualifying P2 for Sunday’s race. In the previous road race at Watkins Glen, Wilson scored Dale Coyne Racing’s first ever win in any major open-wheel series. It was quite a boost to a team who’d come a long way since joining the Indy Racing League, and qualifying on the front row had everyone excited and optimistic. Graham Rahal was the crowd favorite, of course, being from Columbus, OH which is just down the road from Mid-Ohio, and his P4 qualifying effort earned much cheering from the many fans in attendance. In fact, Graham actually received more cheers and applause during the driver introductions than Danica! Can you believe it? Speaking of Danica, it was another lack-luster qualifying effort by Andretti Green Racing. The best of the squad, Tony Kaanan, qualified in P8 followed by Hideki, Danica, and Marco in P11, 12, and 13, respectively. On a positive note, Ryan Hunter-Reay finally showing pace in the #14 and qualified in P7. Not exactly setting the course on fire, but he did out qualify TK.
Sadly, Mario Moraes lost his father to cancer the Wednesday before the race, and Paul Tracy was asked to take the #5 car for the weekend. Its worthy to note that Moraes was the one to request that Tracy be given the call. I guess there really are no hard feelings after Edmonton. Our condolances, thoughts, and prayers go out to Mario this week.
Robert Doornbos apparently has had enough of Newman-Haas-Lanigan Racing, and the feeling seems to be mutual. Bobby-D exercised his options to leave after the 12th race with the NHL team, and his teammate didn’t shed a single tear, saying to Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch, “I don’t know what his deal is, but I’ve got to be brutally honest, I just don’t care.” Doornbos returned to his old team, HVM, to join forces with EJ Viso. Its now know that this is not just a one-off ride, as he’s signed with HVM not only for the remainder of the season, but also as a full-time driver for the 2010 season. Well, good luck Robert. …you’re gonna need it. Your opinion may differ, and if so I invite you to share it in the comments below, but Doornbos has not shown any amount of strong talent. He’s a competent driver, but not much of a teammate nor is he able to contribute significantly to the development of the car. I expect that his tenure at HVM will provide him with no more top finishes than his time at NHL, less in fact.
Filling the void at NHL was Oriol Servia. This, however, is a one-off or perhaps a two-race deal if he’s approved for Sonoma as well. That would likely be the end of it, however, as NHL is looking closely at the now free-agent Alex “Pink” Lloyd. I’m happy that Lloyd is being seriously considered for a ride, especially with a good team, but its unfortunate that a driver like Servia continues to watch from the sidelines.
If you’ve been reading any of the many IndyCar blogs and forums around the net, you’d get the impression that the Mid-Ohio race was a real snoozer, but I beg to differ. I thought the race was fantastic, filled with lots of good racing action. …at least for the first half of the race. The pass that Wilson made on Briscoe after he gets loose going into the Carousel was impressive enough, but to then gap the rest of the field by several seconds was amazing! Through the rest of the field, there was also a lot of good racing action. Among the top five, there were some nice battles to watch, even though no one actually succeeded in improving their position. It was still great to watch the drivers jockey for position. Paul Tracy gave the young EJ Viso a driving lesson when he executed a textbook-perfect pass by outbraking Viso at the end of the back stretch heading into Turn 4. Everyone watching could see the pass coming for a couple of laps. We all knew that the pass would happen, and where it would happen. It really was a thing of beauty to see the vetran set-up, and school the younger driver. Unfortunately, Mr. Conway wasn’t as skillful in his attempt to overtake Danica in the same turn. He ended up locking his brakes, skidding into Danica punting her into the gravel. Don’t get me wrong, this kid can be fast. We know he can be fast. We’ve seen it in previous races, and he’s no stranger to series championships and race wins, but he simply has not figured out the Dallara. This year he’s DNF’ed more often than not. Time is running out for the young man, and if he doesn’t improve soon, then he may not have a ride for next year.
Speaking of someone who has just not figured things out, Milka Duno was embarrasingly slow! It seemed that every time she went by, she was in someone’s way. The worst was when Wilson and Dixon were flying down the back stretch and were hung up behind her all through the esses. …at least Wilson was. I’m not going to say that this incident cost Wilson the race, but I will say that it was a contributing factor. Even her engineer, Larry Curry, was annoyed with her disregard of his mandate to “Let them go, just let them go.” After the race, Milka blamed her poor pace on a gearbox issue. Quite frankly, if it was a gearbox issue, then she should have parked the car. There’s no point running at the tail end of the pack with a broken car that can only get in the way of others. Either she’s lying about the gearbox and was just slow, for which she’s being disrespectful to the fans, the league, and her fellow drivers, or she continued to run a car that she knew was dangerously slow and had mechanical issues, for which she’s being disrespectful to the fans, the league, and her fellow drivers. I know that D&R enjoy the Citgo money, but enough is enough.
After running out of fuel on pit lane, sputtering into his box, and then stalling the car when leaving the pits, Wilson was completely taken out of the battle for the race lead, leaving only Scott Dixon. Dixon went on to completely dominate the rest of the field winning by 29 seconds, putting him back on top for the series champioship. This second half performance by Dixon is what caused many to claim the race was a snoozer. I will admit to dozing a bit in my lawn chair there in the Esses, but that doesn’t negate the great action that happened in the beginning of the race. My congratulations to Dixon on the race win and reclaiming the lead in the series championship, but I’ll be honest. I was rooting for Wilson. I hope the Coyne team keeps at it. They’re headed in the right direction and have a race coming up that’s going to play directly to the strengths of their super fast driver.