Let’s be honest. We may have seen the last open-wheel race at the Kansas Speedway. The track is very capable of producing great racing. If you read my preview posts discussing the history of the IZOD IndyCar Series in Kansas City, you already know that. The track is the home of some of the closest finishes and most exciting racing in the history of IndyCar racing under Indy Racing League sanction. However, the event in recent years has been poorly promoted, and as a result its been poorly attended. Estimates for this year’s crowd languish down around 15,000. …pathetic. Couple the extremely weak attendance with shoddy, amateurish coverage by ABC/ESPN and you have a disastrous weekend for the league. The race itself was pretty good, in spite of what you may have seen on your television set.
no images were foundThere were many battles for position throughout the grid. So many, in fact, that I couldn’t swing my camera around quickly enough to catch all of them most laps. There were many times when I had to stagger my targets each lap to try and get all the action. I watched the TV broadcast tonight, and wondered if they were filming the same race I attended. It seemed as though ESPN saw the event as nothing more than an opportunity to run a 2hr infomercial for the Indy500 and run 2-minute commercial sequences. They did intersperse some racing 5-laps at a time when they could be bothered with it. The most glaring error was the complete whiff on what happened to Ryan Briscoe (during a commercial, of course). Briscoe lost his left front wheel on the backstretch during a yellow-flag caution. During the broadcast, it was mentioned that Briscoe “thought that something wasn’t quite right with the car” and came in for a wing adjustment and to check for damage. They completely failed to mention that he triked his car a full mile around the track! #FAIL
Great performances this weekend were put in by Alex Tagliani and John Andretti who finished 8th and 9th, respectively. For Tags, this was his first oval as a team owner, and he put in a great performance. John Andretti ran an IndyCar on a track other than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time in… hmm… what, the early 90s? Of course, he’s no stranger to the 1.5-mile ovals having ran these style of tracks in three other series. His 9th place finish was a great result for the Team Window World crew, and a great lead in for them to Indianapolis. Mario Moraes, who has languished a bit this season, also had a strong race moving up five spots from his P12 starting position to finish seventh. E.J. Viso was running strong as well until he got loose in Turn 4, bringing out the first caution of the day. Do not be surprised to see all three of the KV Racing Technologies cars showing very well on qualifying weekend at Indianapolis.
“I can’t be disappointed with this. I felt if we finished in the top 10, that would be better than I could expect and we finished ninth. We ran up there, we ran good and we ran good on the long runs. Like everybody, I think we wish (Scott) Dixon hadn’t caught it quite so good because then we could have finished a little better, but I’m pleased. We weren’t perfect, but it was good for me. I had a good time.” –John Andretti, #43 Team Window World Car, Andretti Autosport
Both Japanese drivers, Hideki Mutoh and Takuma Sato had real stand-out performances. Hideki had a great qualifying run which put him in P4 for the start, and he ran strong in the top 10 most of the day. Takuma Sato ran competitive laps on an oval for the first time in his career Saturday afternoon, and showed that he really has the nerves and talent for close wheel-to-wheel 200+ mph racing. Unfortunately, the two drivers ended up tangling with each other and slamming into the outside wall on the front stretch during a late-race yellow and restart. Takuma had amazing timing on the restart and got a strong run on Hideki who was moving to overtake a lapped car.
no images were foundUnfortunately, Hideki’s spotter failed to warn him about Taku’s pace resulting in the contact. Both drivers hit the wall plenty hard enough to take them out of the race, which is a real shame since both were set to have great 5th and 6th place finishes. One thing is for certain, no one needs to fear about Sato’s lack of oval experience. He can certainly hold his own!
“Today was a very exciting day for me being my first race oval race. I was running in sixth place with 14 laps to go when a yellow flag came out. There was a pack in front on the restart while I was racing Hideki (Mutoh) side-by-side. It looked like he was pushing up to the wall and I had nowhere to go. After having a conversation with Hideki, he was being pushed up into me by the lapped orange car. We both had nowhere to go. It’s very, very unfortunate. I feel bad for the fan, particularly for all of the Japanese fans and all of Hideki’s fans. The KV Racing Technology Lotus Team did a fantastic job. It’s just frustrating and I’m very disappointed not to finish. However I really enjoyed racing with many great drivers and gaining a lot of positions as well as understanding how oval racing works.” –Takuma Sato, #5 Lotus, KV Racing Technologies
Target Chip Ganassi Racing seems to be back on track. Scott Dixon proved yet again, that he is a master of the 1.5-mile ovals by winning the race running away from the rest of the field. It really was a masterful performance to watch. The Ganassi pilots have owned this track for the past few years with Wheldon or Dixon winning all of the Spring races. This year it was Scott Dixon finishing comfortably ahead of his teammate, Dario Franchitti. In third was Tony Kanaan who struggled with his car on Friday during practice and qualifying. In fact, after qualifying, Tony was so upset that he just got out of his car, ripped off his helmet, and marched back to his pit box. He was one angry Brazilian and this out-of-shape middle-aged chump wasn’t even going to TRY and stop him for a photo. Tony was extremely pleased with how his race car performed. It wasn’t fast enough to catch Dixon, but he sure gave Dario all he could handle during the last couple of laps.
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You can view more photos from the Road Runner Turbo 300 at the Kansas Speedway in our Photo Gallery.