The sense you got from this weekend's race at Edmonton was that it was desperately trying to be Toronto - or, at least, that the people involved desperately wanted you to believe it would be like Toronto.
I don't know enough about Canada to know whether Edmonton has an inherent inferiority complex with regards to the True North's biggest, most cosmopolitan city. I do know that there is plenty of resentment from other Canadian metropolises towards Toronto, very similar to how New York City is at once admired and resented in the United States.
But it certainly felt that way - the duality of "Pfff, this is Edmonton, not Toronto" and the desire for the Edmonton Indy to be as unpredictable and talked-about as Toronto.
The plain truth is that Edmonton wasn't as compelling as Toronto, no matter how many times everyone on TV tried to convince us about how much more awesome the new layout was. Sure, there was some Toronto-esque jackwagonry, but there was precious little exciting race action to counterbalance it.
See, the thing about Toronto was that, when the IndyCar drivers weren't acting like soccer hooligans beating each other up on the pitch, they were putting on a pretty entertaining show where the outcome was in doubt right up until the end.
Not so in Edmonton. In between the mayhem of the hairpin turns were interminably long stretches of single-file follow-the-leader driving. Gaps measured in double-digit seconds were the norm. And even the end of the race - with first-, second-, and third-place separated by fractions of a second - was an anticlimax because nobody could make a pass without a hairpin divebomb.
It was bad enough that a significant piece of debris - a wing endplate from Ana Beatriz' Dallara - was left in the middle of the track just outside of the racing line for the balance of the race. Apparently, nobody believed that the cars would ever widen out enough for it to get in the way.
The track layout itself gave off the vibe of an 80s-vintage Malibu Grand Prix track or a temporary parking lot circuit built in a Wal-Mart. The trains going by the final hairpin lent a bit of blue-collar appeal to the proceedings, but overall it seemed drab. With the new layout curtailing the IndyCars' top speeds, it just seemed like the whole event was out of character for the series.
The City Centre airport will be turned into a residential development in two years. My suggestion is that IndyCar and the event's promoters do not wait that long to figure out a new strategy.
- Will Power rebounded nicely from his disappointing Toronto with a victory. But it was a qualified victory, as Dario Franchitti - with whom he shared a "wry" bit of eye contact as a way of dealing with his post-Toronto harangue where he called the Scot a "princess" - finished third. Maybe that's why Power's "kangaroo hop" off the sidepod was half-hearted at best.
- Hey, Helio Castroneves didn't hit anybody! And he finished second! Maybe Penske Racing should keep him in that yellow livery for the rest of the season - his performances in cars with other sponsor designs this year have been disastrous.
- Dario Franchitti seems predestined to win the championship. I just wish he'd realize what is so obvious to the rest of us - maybe then he'd stop worrying about double-file restarts and the disaster he keeps predicting that has thus far failed to materialize and kill his chances this year.
- Danica Patrick finished ninth after starting 22nd, incredibly making her the hardest charger of the race. On a road course. Hey, maybe that means she might stay in the series next yeaHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
- Tony Kanaan was the highest-placing non-Penske or -Ganassi driver in the field... again. KV Racing have been undergoing a renaissance since signing Kanaan, with Takuma Sato pulling off the near-impossible and winning his second pole position of the year by beating Will Power... on a road course. Zowie.
- Look, folks! It is indeed not only possible to do a double-file start/restart with the whole field lined up properly, but to do it multiple times! And whaddya know - there IS someone awake in Race Control!
- Alex Tagliani is going to have a hard time dodging the "wanker" epithet if he keeps drilling people from behind heading into slow-speed corners.
- ...and the same goes for Ryan Hunter-Reay, whose sob story about qualifying and how Oriol Servia held him up and about how all those other meanies are keepin' him down rings pretty freaking hollow when he spends his track time nerfing other cars. Poor Taku...
- Welcome back, EJ Viso. We had begun to wonder if someone had replaced you with a secret twin who possessed a bit of patience. False alarm.
- Attention Graham Rahal - we get that you had some bad luck in Edmonton, but heading to the booth to try to be the next Dan Wheldon is not a good idea if you're going to use it as a bully pulpit to complain about it.
- Canada just doesn't seem to be a great place for Canadians to race. Paul Tracy didn't even last a lap this week; James Hinchcliffe stalled his car trying to keep from punting an early-braker late in the race; and I think we already mentioned Tags.
- The pre-race ceremonies were a disaster. Late cues, the power going out during the singing of Oh Canada, Robin Miller cutting guys off during his "grid dash," Stanley Cup winner and Edmonton native Johnny Boychuk's command to start engines totally missed by the broadcast - all of that and more added an unwelcome tinge of wankery to the proceedings.