The general fan reaction around the blogs, forums, and twitter streams to the IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights races at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course have all been about the same, and in my opinion, completely off the mark. I can hear the detractors now, “So, Doug, what makes you think that you’re right in the face of so many who say that the races were boring.” I have two comments to that: I was actually there, and I paid attention to more than just the leader.
Listen to the rest of the net and they’d have you believe that the Firestone Indy Lights race, much like the IndyCar Series race, was a total snoozefest and a complete waste of tires and ethanol. I couldn’t disagree more. It is true that James Davison lead the whole race, without challenge, from the pole. He did, and it was a masterful drive. Just watching Davison wheel that car through the Esses was entertainment enough. The kid looked very smooth and poised, and watching him score Vision Racing’s first ever victory was a treat. That alone was enough for the event to be compelling for me, however there was much more to the race than Davison’s domination.
J.R. Hildebrand continues his march toward his first Firestone Indy Lights championship. At Mid-Ohio he did not have a great car, as JR fought with a dysfunctional front suspension all race long. In spite of his handling issues, he was still able to put the car on the podium and extend his lead in the championship. His lead might not have grown if not for Saavedra’s rough morning. Sebastian started in P8, much deeper in the grid than he’s accustom to being. As much as it sucked for Sebastian starting that far back, it was fantastic for us watching the race from the Esses. Saavedra is a very talented, but also very aggressive driver. Starting back in the grid just made him even more aggressive at the beginning of the race. Every lap, it seemed, he was picking off one driver after another by being very late on the brakes at the end of the back stretch as he entered Turn 4. On more than one occasion, billowing clouds tire smoke and brake dust announced his passes. Unfortunately, he was not able to get fully past Felipe Guimaraes in the A1GP Team Brazil car and was clipped in the left rear as the two entered the tricky over-crest Turn 5. Had contact not been made between the two, Saavedra would have been in fourth and soon on the gear box of his teammate and championship rival. As it turned out, the contact would eventally be a race-ending incident for Saavedra as he would later lose the car in Turn 12 and hit the wall, damaging his front suspension as well. Like I said above, Davison might have been running away with the lead, but watching Saavedra’s climb through the grid in the first half of the race was well worth the price of admission.