IndyCar – Massive Momentum Post Barber

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Will Power was not the only guy smiling after the race at Barber Motorsports Park yesterday. I am sure the smile on Randy Bernard’s face was probably even bigger. He too had won on Sunday as the IZOD IndyCar Series delivered one of the best road races in a very long time. Barber Motorsports Park is easily one of, if not the best looking facility on the schedule. I have never really had a problem with the on track product either, but yesterday was something that truly fit the bill for a world class circuit like Barber. The end result? IndyCar has had two successful races back to back and people ARE taking notice.

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.

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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?

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10 Thoughts to “IndyCar – Massive Momentum Post Barber

  1. I didn’t set my DVR to record the race before I went to gorgeous Barber Motorsports Park on Thursday. I can watch highlights via YouTube, I suppose. If memory serves, we endured two LONG full-course caution periods to rescue Tagliani’s car the Legge’s car. ~frustrating for fans and racers when competition suddenly stops~
    BUT the teams still compete in their pit stops during cation periods, and help their drivers to advance some places! If your Mike Conway, you want to pull out your hair after losing places during slow services…

    Before, during, and after your interview with Jenna Fryer, I knew that
    (1) the on-track product needs to be improved,
    (2) the distribution (via television & Internet) of races needs to be improved, and
    (3) the QUALITY of the ABC broadcasts or NBCSN narrowcasts needs to be improved.
    I have hoped that INDYCAR would strongly suggest that the networks dismiss Jenkins, Reid, and Goodyear.
    And on IMS Radio, which I listened to during the IndyCar race, Davey Hamilton mentioned Alex Zanardi four times. Geez. Pippa Mann was an EXPERT commentator during the Firestone Indy Lights race. She really wowed me. She was attentive to everything and commented expertly on what she saw (to explain things to listeners).

  2. While I don’t recall the location of Tags car, I do know that Katherine’s Legge (as she was called..sheesh) was in a bad spot. Not sure what took so long to get her out, but FCY was warranted there.

    (1) On track product is amazing at the moment. Still early though.
    (2) I agree, IndyCar needs to do their job and put a boot up ABC’s backside. Maybe the addition of Barnhardt in the truck will help? Who knows, I am also for online streaming but we know the terrible story behind that.
    (3) I think the quality of NBCSN was perfect for this weekend. Granted Bob made a couple slips that were a little silly, but had you seen the broadcast, it was night and day difference between seven days. I think NBCSN got the message when everyone and I mean everyone (all six people who watched) got up in arms over what happened at St. Pete. Terrible TV broadcast and as Jenna said, IndyCar is partners with them so they need to direct them accordingly.

    Thanks for the awesome shots over the weekend and all of the posts too! Very enjoyable reads and I hope you had a blast. Barber is my second favorite track I have been too besides maybe Indy. Professional and world class!

  3. oregonwings

    I tonight finally finished watching the race off the DVR. Even if the eventual winner seemed somewhat expected, the race certainly was not. This has to be one of the most exciting road course races I have ever watched. Hats off to the newly re-badged NBC Sports Network for pulling off a GREAT show of the action. Shaun you have it spot on…all the exciting action was closely monitored and we were able to witness 99% of the passes live instead of via replay. It wasn’t just a “follow the leader” coverage. I must say I’m extremely pleased with the new cars too. The new design isn’t just safer, but allows some mild “nudging” without causing punctures, interlocking wheels and spinning out, etc. And this race exemplified why we do NOT need either push-to-pass or crazy anti-blocking rules. This was pure racing at its finest. Every racer was professional and did a great job. I really liked the interview with Helio and Graham Rahal after the race regarding the “defending” Helio had to do for his position. Both drivers were okay with how it went and Graham admitted that if he was in Helio’s position he would have done the exact same thing. The drivers apparently enjoyed the level of competition as much as the spectators.

    Also the commentating was very well done this time around. I really liked the format such as when they had 10 laps left they backed through the top dozen or so drivers giving insight to what the crews in the pits were saying about how the car was doing and what kind of push they were going to do from there to the finish.

    Does anyone have a count of exactly how many passes took place during this race?

    ABC….are you listening? ABC needs to watch this race coverage and learn a thing or two. Anyway, a great show all around, exciting passing even on the final lap. Keep it up IndyCar!

  4. Kevin Neely

    I’m with Brian. I heard Davey call Tag “Alex Zanardi” at least four or five times after he grenaded on lap one.

    On the Tag FCY on Lap One, it absolutely had to happen. His car was stranded on course right at Turn 4. I have video of the first lap with the cars coming through the rollercoaster. Tag had already obviously lost power and barely made it up the hill out of Turn 3.

    Unfortunately, I think one thing that never conveys well over TV about Barber is the elevation change. The total vertical change from lowest to highest point in the track is 80 feet, but that doesn’t come all at once. The cars are constantly going up and down hill, with the only true flat spots being the front stretch and the run between Charlotte’s Web and the Museum Turn. TV just never shows elevation change very well at all. The overhead shots though? FA-BU-LOUS!

    Also, Brian…It was great to meet you! Looking forward to running into you again very soon! Shaun, thanks for the shot this weekend!

  5. Nice article, thank you.

    One question: We read constantly that Barber is a narrow track, but I don’t believe that’s true. The Barber track is 45 ft. all the way round. By comparison, Road America is 28-32 ft. wide, and Mosport, which was paved to F1 specs, is 42 ft. wide.

    Track specs are hard to find, but I have not been able to find a single purpose-built road course in the US that is as wide or wider than Barber. Anyone have this information?

    Don Erwin, Barber Companies.

  6. atb73

    I’ve been saying it for years, it ain’t the tracks. The racing sucked because of the car and a hokie rule book. It was allowed to go on a lot too long. Marshall Pruett just now realizes the tv coverage stays locked on the leader. He could have dropped that bombshell years ago…..But I am ever so grateful that he and others tarred and feathered ABC rather publicly. And to have Helio back it up on live NBC tv, was priceless. What NBC did was a great sign of whats to come. There is plenty of room for improvement, same with the cars. Things were rolling along smoothly until Bugs Bunny sent Yosemite Sam storming into a Sunday sermon, guns a blazin’. I can see Barnhardt in the NBC production trailer saying out loud ” That ought to get him fired, I’m sure the Mouse will appreciate that!”

  7. atb73

    I hope I didn’t sound like a malcontent in my above post. Things are going real well IMO. The major issues that once drove me nuts have been addressed. Passing rules, same old same old, year after year…… all gone in on fell swoop. The wars over, but the real battle has just begun. THE RISE…

    What brought me here today was to ask about Doug, I haven’t seen him in a while, hope all is well.

  8. Don, Appreciate the kind words. As far as where to find track specs I have no idea. I was talking more about the line around the track makes it narrow. With the constant elevation change (which is awesome by the way!) and the way some of the corners are set up, the lane is narrow and tough to pass sometimes. I know the surface is pretty wide, but the flowing corners and elevation can sometimes make the track “narrow” from a fans view.

    atb, No malcontent. I think it has been a long time coming honestly. People were just really frustrated with the way things used to be. Now we have a fresh start and you are right, the toughest battle is going to be pulling ourselves out of this hole! Doug is good and has not been officially fired. He has been really busy lately and has been posting some Mazda Road to Indy stuff. Both Doug and I are having a pretty tough time getting to the track this year sadly. I think the next event for us is the 500. We need a SPONSOR! haha!

  9. atb73

    I’m just glad to hear all is well. I understand the woes of travel. St. Pete wasn’t cheap with family there to put a roof over my head. I’m feeling the hurt right now, but it was worth every penny.

  10. atb73 I thought I would share some shots of the new car from different angles. Hope the link works, but its Aaron T Boudreau if you are interested.

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