02 September 2009

There's Always Someone

So on the heels of another fantastic finish at Chicagoland, Speed's Robin Miller writes in his post-race notebook that:
IndyCar has somehow avoided The Big One as long as its had this package. Still, it would be nice to see a little more separation in 2010. And it would be even nicer to see Phoenix, Loudon and Milwaukee replace Kansas, Chicago and Homestead by 2011.
Now, I've been an advocate of finding a way to get the IndyCar Series to Phoenix and New Hampshire (and back to Milwaukee).  But at the expense of three ovals makes no sense to me.  Yes, IndyCar will play second fiddle to Trucks at Kansas in 2010, and who knows who will show up at Homestead.  But if the oval package is producing consistent side-by-side racing, why would the IndyCar Series shoot itself in the foot by taking away three ovals, especially it's most successful side-by-side racing track?

Yes, the pack racing that closed the race at Chicagoland was dangerous.  It was also damned exciting.  That edge of controlled chaos and carnage is one of the primary reasons people watch IndyCar racing.  Any driver in NASCAR can run into another vehicle - with closed wheels, heavy cars and lower speeds you are more protected than in IndyCar.  As Al Unser Jr. and Emerson Fittipaldi can testify, when open wheels touch, the results are much more interesting.  

Besides, if Helio Castroneves hadn't turned right instead of left with a handful of laps remaining, we would have never seen the pack finish we did. Would Miller still be advocating to leave Chicagoland if the 1st-13th hadn't been within 0.8 second of each other?  Because prior to Castroneves' crash, it was roughly 10 seconds (or more, I haven't watched the race replay).  That crash brought together a perfect storm of elements for the finish - a bunched field and side-by-side racing.  Yet, every driver in the field seemed to drive fairly smart over those final 5 laps.

Look, wrecks are going to happen.  They happen on road/street circuits; they happen on ovals.  Just because cars happen to run close at one track in particular (and over green flags the top cars separated themselves pretty easily) is no reason to suggest that the IndyCar Series abandon Chicagoland.

I agree with plenty of what Miller says in his notebook (especially about start times, though I can appreciate night racing at the right tracks), but on abandoning Chicagoland, he is way off.

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