29 August 2010

My Kinda Town

Despite Chicagoland Speedway being a short drive up I-65, I had never made the trip to Joliet, Ill..  To be honest, my knowledge of Joliet consisted of The Blues Brothers.  But with tickets readily available and hotels relatively cheap in Chicago, making it to Chicagoland was easy this year.

Just like at Kentucky last year, fans were treated to a typical Chicagoland finish - frantic and close.  In all honesty, when a .042 of a second finish is considered 'not that close,' the IZOD IndyCar Series clearly possesses the right formula for success at Chicagoland.

Honestly, upon arriving at the track, I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of a crowd.  Tailgating in the parking lot, there seemed to be a steady stream of cars heading into the lots.  And what turned out to be a late-arriving crowd saw a thrilling race, one that was eerily reminiscent of the Indianapolis 500, minus a death-defying late crash.

The crowd wasn't big enough that my wife and I couldn't move around to different seats during the race; the strategy at Chicagoland Speedway appeared to be to work down from the tops of each section, as Row 63 was well-filled, while rows lower were not.  By the end of the race, we had moved down to Row 53, or something like that.

Regardless, the action on track was exciting throughout the night; the leaders ran in a pack for most of the night, spreading out briefly as Sarah Fisher moved back through the field after an alternate pit strategy moved her to the front.  While Ryan Briscoe held the lead, he was quickly reeled in by Will Power and Marco Andretti, and the lead pack was back together for the remainder of the race.

At the three-quarter mark of the race, it looked like all Dan Wheldon would need was a solid pit stop in order to pick up Panther's first win in a few years.  Instead it was Dario Franchitti's daring pit strategy that won him the day.  And combined with Power's late pit stop because of a lack of fuel, the series points championship became much more interesting.

Power's mistake is the kind he must avoid the rest of the way if he wants to win; though the Team Penske driver showed well most of the night and was a contender to win, he left a chance at a win on the table and let Franchitti close within 23 points with three races to go.  Once again, it looks as if the IZOD IndyCar Series championship will come down to Homestead-Miami.

To lose Chicagoland Speedway would be a major mistake for the IZOD IndyCar Series and the International Speedway, Corporation.  The series has given no indication that they are looking to leave the track, while the reception has been cool from ISC.  Still, with a decent crowd and always exciting racing, it would behoove both sides to come together and find a date that works.  And if they do, I'll be back. 

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