24 July 2009

Edmonton Primer

I might get to see some racing this weekend, fantastic. Plus, my view will be the same as most Indianapolis Star journalists, who are staying in town to cover the NASCAR parade instead of traveling to scenic Edmonton. Before I get into a preview of the Rexall Edmonton Indy, I feel like I should critique myself from those predictions I made prior to my departure for vacation.

So, let's start with my continued underestimation of Andretti Green's awful season (Danica Patrick largely excepted). They don't appear to have "it" this year (and they barely had it last year) in any regard, with poor qualifying efforts and poor race results. Give this, why I would continue to think Tony Kanaan would finish on or near the podium is ridiculous on my part; despite his driving talents, he can't get a car that actually works for him, and it doesn't appear he's had a good car since around Long Beach or Kansas. I'll have more thoughts on this team next week.
Why, with two road courses, did I not expect Justin Wilson to finish on the podium at least once? Simply put - I'm dumb and overlooked him. So, congratulations to Justin and Dale Coyne Racing on picking up the win at Watkins Glen. Thank you for breaking the streak of Ganassi and Penske winners. Hopefully more of your brethren follow in your footsteps.

On the plus side, the Toronto race
reached the magical 1.0 rating. And with so many people watching, at least there was a good show. I was driving home from Maine during the race, but I can attest that it received some solid air time on the Sunday night news in Buffalo.

Now, with regard to Edmonton, it's being touted as a course similar to Watkins Glen and Toronto, i.e., a street course that allows passing. And, given the topsy-turvy nature of this IndyCar season (street racing being exciting, ovals being boring), I suppose we should expect some entertaining racing on the 14-turn circuit.

With Alex Tagliani and Paul Tracy both racing, the field continues as it was from Toronto, where both drivers put forth solid performances and came away thinking they should have finished better. The Canadians will hopefully bring a few more fans to the track, too (and if they want to boo Helio Castroneves again, it's ok, but Helio is doing his level best to prevent it). In his only race of the 2008 IndyCar season, Tracy finished fourth while driving for Vision Racing.

Last year, roughly 160,000 spectators made it to Edmonton over the race weekend. That's great for the ICS, as the TV ratings for the race will probably be low, due in some part to the race going up against the Brickyard 400 on Sunday. Which begs the question, why can't this race be moved to the weekend before the Brickyard, when both series are currently off? Wouldn't having an exclusive weekend for IndyCar racing, especially on a good circuit, be good for the ICS?

In that 2008 race, Scott Dixon took the checkered flag (shocking), while Castroneves was second (another surprise). So, it's not like Ganassi and Penske don't know this track. Expect those teams to be near the front again. On the lowest part of the podium in 2008 was Justin Wilson, and given Coyne's road/street proficiency, I would expect him to be a contender this year.

Now that I'm looking at things logically (it's amazing how a vacation helps settle the mind and allows you to think of things like "Why would I expect AGR to perform well in a race at this point?"), I think the race shapes up as such:
A red car will win (though Franchitti is in a blue car this weekend - kudos to Ganassi for mixing up the colors of his team's cars this year, by the way - let's continue that trend into 2010.). Though a yellow car could win in Will Power's sweet Penske Truck Rental car. I look for Tracy and Tagliani to shape up perform better than at Toronto. Mike Conway will probably qualify well, but again, Jan Beekhuis will tease Robbie Buhl about having to repair a car. Here's how I look the race right now:
  1. Dario Franchitti (who will pull away in the points a bit; when he passes someone in this race, since he's driving the Vaseline car, does Jenkins say, "Franchitti slides past (fill in driver's name)"?)
  2. Ryan Briscoe (who stays in the championship chase)
  3. Scott Dixon (also stays in the hunt)
  4. Will Power (he definitely could win this race - can we get him a full-time ride and sponsor for 2010, please?)
  5. Justin Wilson
  6. Paul Tracy
  7. Helio Castroneves
  8. Alex Tagliani
  9. Tony Kanaan (oh, what the hell - let's toss AGR a bone - Kanaan did lead some laps here last year)
  10. Tomas Scheckter (quietly building some momentum for 2010)
  11. Marco Andretti (sure a top 10 sounds nice, but let's be honest - more is expected)

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