02 August 2009

On Kentucky

I got back from Kentucky Speedway at about 4:45 this morning. So forgive me if my thoughts on the race are not terribly coherent.

Obviously, some of the changes implemented
by IndyCar worked, especially removing the half-inch wicker on the rear wing. It really seemed to allow the drivers to obtain an aero-draft and pass much easier.

The push-to-pass system, the subject of some controversy over whether or not it would allow for actual passing, added a different dynamic to the race. While sitting in the stands I could not tell who had used the button, it added an element of intrigue to the racing.

It's easy to feel bad for Ed Carpenter, since he didn't pick up his first career win (that's how it looked with the leaders nearing the finish line on lap 200), but overlooked in that is the fact that Ryan Briscoe came dangerously close to hitting the wall earlier in the race (on the only yellow flag restart, the second straight race with just one yellow). Briscoe charged from eighth to first in the last segment of the race, which is pretty darn impressive, and would have been impossible earlier this year without the new options being given to teams.

Tony Kanaan was solid in third place, jostling with Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves for most of the final segment. At one point, it looked like he might have a chance to pass both Briscoe and Carpenter, but he pulled back. Given what AGR and Kanaan have gone through most of the summer, a podium result for Kanaan is a positive.

Getting this gem of a race, the closest in Kentucky Speedway history, is great, especially with the IndyCar Series moving the event to Saturday, September 4 next year. Especially when Bruton Smith, whose Speedway Motorsports, Inc., owns the Kentucky Speedway, promises to sell out the race next year (now if he'd keep his opinions on the oval-road/street course numbers to himself, that'd be fine with me).

Personally, it was my first trip to a race not at Indianapolis, so allow me a moment to reflect upon that experience. Having gone to Indianapolis since I was 11, the fact that coolers (and by proxy, alcohol) were not allowed in Kentucky Speedway was a big change.

However, I didn't mind it terribly for a couple reasons: first, the tailgating in the parking lots reminded me of college football season. It seemed as if 1 of every 5 cars brought a grill and cooked dinner prior to the race. Secondly, as quick as the race was (200.893 mph - the second-quickest in series history), there wasn't much time to have a beer. With all the green flag racing (and resulting side-by-side racing), there was never a lull in the action.

My only complaint was with traffic leaving the race - it felt like I was trying to leave Deer Creek - which resulted in my wife and I pulling in the garage about 4:30 (after sleeping for an hour at an I-275 rest area).

The Speedway itself was fantastic - I'd wanted to go there because I had heard that there wasn't a bad seat in the facility, and it was true. From our seats in the Grandstand (Section 3A, Row 6), we could see the entire track, crowd and pit areas - everything a fan would want. You could see the cars setting up for passes on the backstretch entering turn three and follow the entire race. In all, it was fantastic.

With Kentucky Speedway emphasizing camping next year, and the Labor Day weekend date, I'm in for it again, even if the IndyCar Series can't produce a finish as exciting as the 2009 version.

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