Racing In the Rain in New Hampshire

Big Bend, WI (August 14, 2011) – NASCAR was at a road course this weekend and didn’t race in the rain, the IZOD IndyCar Series was at an oval and apparently raced in the rain.

What a weekend for the IndyCar Series at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. It had all twists and turns of a John Grisham novel. The race was dominated by pole sitter Dario Franchitti who once again showed his supremacy on one-mile ovals. If the schedule included Phoenix and the defunct Pikes Peak International, this championship feasibly could be locked by Labor Day.

On a lap-118 restart, Franchitti appeared to crowd Takuma Sato who started alongside (inside). Surprising to all with the exception of Franchitti and interesting enough, Sato. Franchitti blamed Sato, “He (Takuma Sato) kept coming up and I don’t know what he was going to do. He had a very clear view of where I was and he kept coming up. We had a good race car overall and we were strong all weekend. It is really unfortunate for Team Target. He started coming up into me before the restart. I really don’t know what he was thinking.” Sato agreed saying he thought he crowded Franchitti and even blamed it on debris, not on the track but in his eye. The television crew along with race analyst Davey Hamilton on IndyCar Radio and me thought that was Franchitti that came down a bit towards Sato.

The initial start of the race saw Tomas Scheckter subbing for the injured Justin Wilson passed ten cars on the outside before the Turn Two Mike Conway-Graham Rahal crash. After the second restart that was aborted after another Turn two incident featuring Helio Castroneves’ spin and crash, Scheckter was up to third place. He eventually faded and tried to go three-wide with Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan putting all three out of the race. Scheckter is IndyCar’s “Mr. Excitement.” Kanaan who may agree, ended up on his head and blamed Scheckter and Andretti for the incident, “You’ve got to ask Marco and Scheckter what they were thinking I was on the inside and all of a sudden I got collected. I don’t know who hit who where, but they gotta have something to explain. When a car is a lap down, they shouldn’t be racing the cars that are on the lead lap. Marco had this to say post-race, “The Snapple car had a bent right rear from the (Mike) Conway incident, trying to miss Conway earlier. I was just trying to bring it home. I was basically a bystander in the middle of the racetrack, I didn’t move my line and I think (Tomas) Scheckter came across my front and took me and Tony (Kanaan) out. I had nowhere to go. I would have let them by but I had no idea.”

Once again, Team Penske struggled but with Franchitti out Will Power had a chance to make up some ground in the points battle. The race was put under yellow with a handful of laps to go due to light rain. However went green with many at the track incredulous because it seemed wetter than when the yellow came out approximately five minutes prior. Danica Patrick who was running sixth spun at the exit of Turn four as the green came out, as did Sato. She collected Power who also spun and got collected by Ed Carpenter. Power jumped from his car and appeared to sprint to the race control trailer in the paddock to show his displeasure. Perhaps ICS Head of Security Charles Burns reminded Power that they were upstairs on top of the grandstands. Power then was shown walking with Team Penske President Tim Cindric when Power gave the “double-bird” to race control which was shown on live television and on the big screens at the track, much to delight of many fans and this writer. Power after the race, “First of all, I have to apologize for losing my temper after the accident that ended our race. Regardless of what happened on the race track, my behavior was inexcusable and I apologize to our sponsors, the fans, the IZOD IndyCar Series officials and the Penske Racing organization. I should not have behaved the way I did and I am sorry. It’s definitely no excuse but I was just very frustrated because our car ran so well and our team had worked so hard to put ourselves into a position to get a good finish and I thought it was just ridiculous to restart the race under the dangerous conditions that existed on the race track. I am just glad the officials decided to make the decision to revert the finishing order back to what it was before the final restart. I want to thank my team for their hard work today and, again, I’m sorry for the way our race ended and how I handled the situation.”

Danica was quoted after the race, “That was definitely my mistake. I got on the throttle and it came around. I take full responsibility for that one and the mess that it created. I was one of many people who thought that we shouldn’t be going green. I was like ‘what are we doing? What are they doing’ I left it in first gear and not getting traction. I’m one to finish races and be smart and get through it all, but it was slippery out there.”

You thought that was all? On the final restart, leader Ryan Hunter-Reay (RHR) was passed by Oriol Servia and Scott Dixon. With Patrick spinning behind the trio, the green flag never waved from the flag stand, however green was called from the race control. Who won? Hunter-Reay. Race control explanation: The finish order was set based on the Lap 215 running order under caution — before a Lap 217 restart that went awry because of a slick racing surface. “It will be an aborted restart. It was a mistake on Race Control’s part and the only right thing to do and the fair thing to do is to go to the running order before the restart,” said INDYCAR president of competition and operations Brian Barnhart, the chief steward.

Servia thought he had won, “I think it was really wet out there and we shouldn’t have gone out, but they threw the green and I was ahead when the yellow went out. Any racing, even here, when you call the leader that is the way it stands. They called me the leader and then they decide to reserve it. I am very upset. Race control called leader car No. 2 and that is when the yellow came, we were ahead.”

Dixon thought Servia won and he was second, “Most importantly they just need to be consistent. In my eyes, I should have been second right behind Oriol Servia because Ryan (Hunter-Reay) didn’t go. I think that Ryan deserved to win today because he had the better car and he was out front, but it went green. We aren’t racing USAC on the dirt so why did they go back a lap and include no pace car laps and invert the order of how it actually played out. It just makes no sense because they have been going off of time lines all day and because of that we got passed by the No. 06 twice today. I just don’t understand race control’s thinking. It isn’t make things up as you go racing; It is IndyCar racing with rules. I am fine if they make decisions, they just need to be consistent. You can’t go back and do several different things and race that way. It needs to be the same thing every time.”

When interviewed by Bob Varsha on SPEED TV’s WindTunnel program, RHR said about the final aborted restart. “It was raining, it was a no start. Why Oriol who led twenty feet thinks he’s the leader we never made it to the start/finish line, it was already yellow. Guys were already crashing. There was no green flag displayed by the starter. ”

Barnhart was interviewed on the ABC live television broadcast that the observers around the track gave the go order and the pit techs from pit road did not offer any insight regarding what the drivers and team managers were saying. RHR even said the pace car driver Johnny Rutherford had his windshield wipers on. This will certainly had fuel to the “Fire Barnhart” demands. Right or wrong, that decision cost a lot of team’s money, money to replace rear wings, uprights, wishbones and front nose assemblies that can add to six figures pretty quickly. Not too much of a problem for Team Penske, but very costly for a team like Sarah Fisher Racing.

Regardless of whomever you think who won the race, perhaps RHR summed it up best when asked about Race Control’s decision to restart the race and their claim of lack of protest from the drivers and teams he said “It doesn’t add up.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay gives Andretti Autosport their third win this year (Mike Conway-Long Beach), Marco Andretti (Iowa). Interesting that after all the struggles AA had at Indianapolis two of their three wins have come on ovals.


INDYCAR announced today that it will delay the introduction of alternative aero kits for its new IZOD IndyCar Series chassis until 2013. The next-generation chassis remains on target to debut in competition at the start of the 2012 season.

“The most important thing we can do as a series is look at what is in the best interest of both our long and short term,” said Randy Bernard, CEO of INDYCAR. “It is important that we maintain a high car count next year by ensuring we have cost containment for our teams. We must listen to our team owners and try to help. I’m the biggest advocate of the aero kit and I feel this is by far the best decision for our series. The 2012 season will be exciting with the debut of our new car as we focus on relevancy and technology with engine competition, turbochargers and direct injection among other things.”

Reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon was behind the wheel of the initial test of the new chassis Aug. 8-9 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.

“We are extremely pleased with the results of our first test of the new chassis,” said Will Phillips, vice president of technology, INDYCAR. “Everything performed as we expected in this initial shakedown. All systems were sorted and checked, and we look forward to our next test.”

INDYCAR announced plans for the car – a rolling chassis dubbed the IndyCar Safety Cell that comes complete except for tires, the steering wheel and driver seat and with different body coverings for ovals and road/street courses known as aero kits – in July 2010 after it reviewed multiple manufacturer concepts. The cars will be powered by 2.2-liter turbocharged V-6 engines produced by Chevrolet, Honda and Lotus.

It will replace the chassis that came on line in 2003 and was built for oval racing (the first INDYCAR road/street course race was in 2005 at St. Petersburg, Fla.).

Engine manufacturers — each of whom has ordered a next-generation chassis — will commence testing in early October with their respective aligned teams. So far, Chip Ganassi Racing, A.J. Foyt Racing and Sam Schmidt Motorsports have signed on with Honda. Team Penske is the anchor team for Chevrolet.

Teams are scheduled to receive their first chassis in mid-December.

IndyCar Media contributed to this column

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