Here it is, folks - the penultimate edition of "What We Learned" for the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season. Next week, we'll be doing a season retrospective that will have your kidneys battling for the honor of exploding your pancreas. I'm not quite sure what that means for you, but it can't be much worse than watching those "Race to the Party" ads.
Get comfortable, because this week we have a long list of life lessons learned at the Track Too Tough to Find - Homestead-Miami Speedway. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll kiss your productivity goodbye.
Hit the jump for more...
The Universe desperately wants Robin Miller to be happy...
I'm not the only one who sees a Mailbag-gasm coming up here soon. The one-two punch of Graham Rahal getting a full-season sponsorship for next year and USAC's own Brandon Wagner winning the Firestone Indy Lights Series race at Homestead might exceed Robin's happiness threshold - we're probably fortunate he was not slamming down a Mug 'n' Bun tenderloin at the moment, because he'd probably have had to go to the hospital with severe ecstasy.
...but apparently isn't all that concerned about Jack Arute.
Poor Jack. It's been a rough season for the guy. There was that prop incident with the two circular fans that went over like a Hitler retrospective at a bar-mitzvah. Then he mistakenly identified Japan as Australia at Motegi. You'd think that karma would take pity on him for the season finale, but it was not to be. First, Jon Beekhuis wouldn't let him interrupt from pit road (THE ABSOLUTE GALL! Seriously, when you hear, "Guys!" on the headset, that means it's time to shut your pieholes.), and then when the Leatherman got up on stage to hand out the goodies to Frico Suave and his crew, the microphone wasn't on. You could tell that Jack was pretty well fed up at that point - judging, of course, by the way you could actually hear his teeth grinding even over the maddening feedback buzz of the Homestead PA system.
ISC makes a great case for being discarded.
They said there were 12,000 fans in the stands Saturday night. Apparently, whoever came up with that figure can see more invisible people than that kid from The Sixth Sense. The distressing sight of a single section of bleachers roped off to contain the teeming mass of lethargy, surrounded by a half-mile of empty seating, unfortunately was not a huge shock to anyone who's seen the turnouts at ISC tracks this season. But still - on the night that a very thrilling (and non-contrived) championship duel came to its conclusion, you'd have hoped for more than the seating capacity of a large discotheque or the ship's complement of an aircraft carrier. On the plus side, Jack's mic malfunction was probably only seen live by 50 people tops... so there's that.
Screw art. Have a watch.
Dario had plenty of polite Scots compliments for his new Ming-the-Merciless-riding-a-circus-bike trophy, but it's hard to see how he could be too excited about a piece of questionable recycled art when he got awarded a $100,000 diamond watch at the championship celebration Sunday night. No word on whether Ashley Judd was doing an interpretive dance in the audience to Culture Club's "Time" when Frico picked up that bad boy.
It takes a long time to clean up shards of championship hopes (and credibility) from the track.
Look, I'm not saying that the IZOD IndyCar Series isn't all about safety. But come on - the 15-lap yellow flag for Will Power's brush of the Homestead wall was going way overboard. I've heard a couple of excuses about the interminable caution period - mostly having to do with blowing the marbles off the racing surface - but is there really any question why it took so long? Hell, Ana Beatriz barely had time to get out of her demolished racecar before they went back to green, but Power's tiny scrape allowed the handful of fans in the stands time to not only use the restroom, but basically drive home to do it and get back before the restart. I know Race Control wanted to see if the championship tension could be prolonged, but geez... this was going too far.
Tony Kanaan is the most expendable driver at Andretti Autosport.
He finished best in class in the championship - the top driver not driving for Penske or Ganassi - and he was Andretti Autosport's team leader for years. But even a podium at the season finale wasn't enough to save Tony Kanaan's sponsorship. Even though Curt Cavin said that TK's job and sponsorship was "good" for 2011, as it stands Kanaan is a free agent - having been told he's free to look for other rides - and 7-11 is gone from the team. The good news for AA is that they have one driver confirmed for next season (Marco Andretti, who apparently let the team know he's got plenty of time in between trips to the exotic car dealership to do some racin'). The bad news is that everything else is completely up in the air.
Graham Rahal will have a full-time ride next year... somewhere.
Prior to the Homestead race, it was confirmed by Rahal's handlers that the young superstar-in-embryo will have "a multi-year spokesperson and sponsorship association" with the TBC Retail Group, the fine folks who brought you Big-O Tires, National Tire and Battery (NTB), Service Central and assorted other tire-based brands. This deal makes Graham their premier spokesperson and ensures that he will have a full-time ride with a team to be named later. I am assured, however, that Rahal is not a "ride buyer" and instead is "getting a great chance to prove himself." That's an important distinction, and you would be wise to remember that.
IndyCar Race Control actually does have the capability to wave off restarts. Just not starts.
Another race, another craptacular single-file "Barnstart." Honestly, it's hard to even be outraged at these anymore. All most of us feel is a sense of tired resignation. But WAIT! Midway through the race, apparently Brian Barnhart was in the can or something because they actually waved off a couple of restarts! Too bad there were so few witnesses around to see it.
Ladies' Night offered few surprises.
Danica finished second on an oval track after exchanging chop blocks with Tony Kanaan. Simona de Silvestro and Sarah Fisher tooled around at the back of the pack in tubs that are probably better suited for a museum than a racetrack. Ana Beatriz celebrated out-bidding Paul Tracy for the Dreyer & Reinbold ride by following a mechanical failure with a giant wreck. And Milka Duno, after spending the whole night dead last among the cars not officially out of the race, lost control of her car and turned the CITGO car into a crumpled soda can. It felt like I was watching a rerun.
Chip Ganassi is having a hell of a year.
Daytona 500 win. Indy 500 win. The Grand American Rolex championship. And at Homestead, his teams swept everything - the pole, the win and the IndyCar series championship. The only thing he doesn't have is a car in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup. Maybe next season.
A Pagoda-free blogosphere would suck donkey turds.
Say it isn't so, Roy...