The Day After: Battling a Power Hangover

This was as good a look as anyone else in the field had of Will Power's Penske Dallara during his domination of the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

You know those mornings after an all-night bender when you spend your moments alternately watching your shoes come out your mouth into the toilet and trying to keep the weapon of mass destruction in your forehead from killing you outright?

That's probably how the rest of the IZOD IndyCar Series field feels right about now after Will Power broke the back of his competition (zing!) during yesterday's Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma.

Power went to plaid on the field, leading every lap and at times racing in his own zip code en route to the victory. Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti rounded out the podium but it was clear that they were basically there to keep the stage balanced while Power accepted his accolades like an Aussie-accented Roman emperor.

Some stray observations - mostly non-Power-related - after the jump...

So how crazy was that start anyway?
It was a Brian Barnhart classic - a green flag where the most desultory attention was paid to getting two-abreast in Turn 11 before everyone immediately strung out into single file. Apparently, that's how Barnhart likes it - it's less hazardous (and less of a display of racecraft) and it gives the leader what he has earned, which is to say the lead.

Unfortunately, things didn't work out so well midpack, where apparently not everyone got the memo about getting into parade formation so soon. Dan Wheldon, assuming his place in the parade line, crossed over in front of Bertrand "Breadman" Baguette, who it seems was intent on actually passing Wheldon at that point. Wheldon clipped Baguette's right front, whereupon the National Guard Dallara went tits up and turned into the world's most expensive children's top - pirouetting madly on the roll hoop while the rest of the field flashed past (and, much later, Milka Duno puttered by).

Wheldon was unhurt - his ego, of course, was a different story. But at least he knows he accomplished something important for his team and sponsor even if he didn't complete a single green-flag lap: the highlights of his wreck are going to be played non-stop on snarky sports shows across the world from now on. That's activation, people!

Milka. Again.
I suppose I could devote yet more column space to Milka Duno's status as a fish out of water in IndyCars. Or maybe I could wonder (again) why the IZOD IndyCar Series even bothered to put Milka on probation at all, considering that she's violated her probation in every single race since it was issued by spinning, blocking, running at pace car speeds, yada yada yada.

But the thing about Milka is that just when you think her situation's gotten predictable, she'll pull something out of her firesuit pocket that amazes you anew. This week, it was her radio - more specifically, her non-functional radio. Apparently, at the start of the race Milka's radio was discovered to be faulty by her team. Eventually, they had to ask race control to black flag Milka to get her attention so she could pit and let them fix it. That, friends, is a special kind of lack of situational awareness. You have to wonder whether at some point she would have realized on her own that, "Hey, it seems awfully quiet in these earpieces I'm wearing."

At any rate, Milka's radio eventually got fixed and to the crowd's delight she was back on course. She then proceeded to spin out again on her own - fortunately for her, however, nobody really minded much because her spin brought out a full-course caution, which eliminated Will Power's three-week lead on the field and bunched up the running order again.

We're back to ovals for the season's stretch run, so I'm sure we'll see less spinning from Ms. Duno. But we'll always have those terror-inducing moments of total obliviousness when she appears like a spectral snail-paced nightmare in front of the leaders - that's always good for some entertainment.

A rough day for the ladies
Everyone's favorite Swiss Miss, Simona de Silvestro, looked like she was poised for a great day yesterday. Then the race started.

Simona's woes certainly weren't limited to people using her name by accident in describing the track. To the dismay of her fans, she was involved in several incidents - including one where she punted Raphael Matos hard enough for him to put on a Joie Chitwood display in the chicane - and eventually finished 13th.

Danica Patrick, meanwhile, looked simply awful. She finished 16th after late-race contact with Mario Moraes (which prompted a DP diva moment on the scanner) but in reality she didn't even run well enough to merit that high of a finish. Her team's strategy had her on the cusp of a top-10 spot in the order at one point, but clearly the ovals can't come fast enough for Danica as her road racing woes continued.

VERSUS delivers a genuine WTF moment
So after Will Power spent the better part of the 75 total race laps demolishing the field, there was a late caution that resulted in a restart with less than 10 laps to go. Scott Dixon had gotten around Dario Franchitti for second place and, armed with as much Push-to-Pass as Power, represented the last gasp of any sort of competition for the Aussie.

Just after the race restarted, Dixon was climbing all over Power's rear wing. The Iceman, it initially appeared, had something left in the tank for Power and was making things exciting up front for the first time in many, many laps.

And then, with five laps to go, VERSUS went to commercial.

In a season where the TV coverage has (rightly) been lambasted as inconsistent at best and indifferent at worst, this was one of the biggest gaffes to date. And it happened on Terry Lingner's watch, too, which makes it all the more confusing.

Sure, they stayed "side by side" which at least let the viewers see the continuing action in a tiny window, but then following the break VERSUS went to a full-screen, 20-second bumper on Will Power that completely shut out the racing action for what seemed like an eternity.

It was a disheartening decision from a network that has prided itself on doing IndyCar broadcasts right all season. Cynically, I can even understand the logic, since that point of the race is one guaranteed to have the most interest from the viewers. I can only hope they rethink their strategy, because that was definitely not a way to win friends and influence people.

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