There's just no getting around it some weeks. You have to write about a race that was truly as dull as dishwater.
Certain races on TV are nothing less than insomnia cures. This week, both IndyCar and NASCAR provided us with plenty of snooze-fodder - the former at the technical and nearly-impossible-to-overtake-at Mid-Ohio, the latter at the YOU'VE-GOT-TO-BE-JOKING-WITH-500-MILES Pocono.
Dull. Dull dull dull dull dull dull dull dull dull dull dull dull dull dull dull. Remember the scene in The Shining when Shelley Duvall finds Jack Nicholson's giant novel full of gibberish? I imagine that's what Pressdog's post-race post will look like.
Yes, Mid-Ohio was certainly Dullsville. I mean this in fan and spectator terms, and mostly for those pinned behind televisions. The thing is, from a driver's perspective, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is a technical, momentum-based challenge and just really fun to drive.
Barreling down the short frontstretch, you pass under the bridge and lean into the G-forces as you negotiate the high-speed sweeper of turn one. Then you run pell-mell up the hill to the infamous Keyhole, braking hard on entry and then convincing yourself to stay patient enough not to get on the gas too soon for the run down the backstretch. You take a few breaths as you cruise past the Kink, because everything from turn 7 on is a serpentine, technical rhythm section. Turning left up the hill at turn 8, your stomach drops out as you dive blindly downhill to turn 9. Then, back on the gas, over the rise at turn 10, then hard on the brakes again for another blind hill in 11. Your left sides all the way onto the rumble-strips, you mash the gas for the run up to the Carousel complex, which is another low-speed turn that seems to take forever. Then you're back on the frontstretch, a completed lap under your belt.
That summary totally belies just how precise you have to be as a driver to wring a good lap out of Mid-Ohio. The blind rises, the hills, the downhill acceleration zones where your car is light and on the cusp of spinning, the hard braking zones... it's a test of driver skill and consistency.
Sadly, that just doesn't translate well to viewers. All viewers seem to see is lap after lap of single-file racing except for the odd pass on a restart. After a while, it gets crushingly boring - at least for IndyCars.
It's different for sports car racing because in the low speed sections you can really root a guy around, lay some door on him, and muscle your way past. But in the skittish, no-contact IndyCars... well, it's just an extended tire test, really.
Mid-Ohio isn't going anywhere, either - its proximity to Akron, the way that Green-Savoree, the promoters, keep filling the joint with fans, the history of the place, it all conspires to keep the track on the IndyCar schedule. So you've basically got two choices - either learn to appreciate the track from a driver's perspective (try iRacing), or find something else to watch on race day.
- Scott Dixon dominated the weekend, winning the pole and leading most of the laps. It was an inspired performance, which is a good thing because his pregnant wife was in attendance. You do not disappoint your pregnant wife. No indication of whether the happy couple celebrated the victory with pickles and peanut butter.
- Dario Franchitti... well, what can you say? Either he's got a whole town full of leprechauns locked up as hostages or he got hit in the face by the biggest lucky horseshoe ever made. Short of the International Space Station falling out of the sky and creaming him, it's hard to see him losing the championship at this point.
- Look at you, Takuma Sato - a strong fourth at a track that actively requires you not to overdrive your race car. There's some hope for you yet!
- I don't know anyone who needed an 11th-place finish more than Charlie Kimball. The poor guy has had a monkey on his back the size of Spain since Indianapolis, and a solid, if unspectacular run was a welcome change.
- Ryan Hunter-Reay laughed off his IndyCar-mandated probation and took another podium spot this week.
- Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti, Oriol Servia, and Vitor Meira all charged from back in the pack to finish in the top third of the order.
- Sebastian Saavedra quickly learned the downside to divebombing into the Keyhole, beaching himself in the kitty litter and finishing dead last.
- That enormous lucky horseshoe that Dario Franchitti carries around slammed into Will Power's nutsack this weekend; Power got caught by an ill-timed yellow and finished 14th, giving Franchitti an even wider gap in the points.
- James Hinchcliffe was forced off the track early and lost a ton of positions. That's the bad news. Then he pitted, and then the yellow flew a lap later, giving him the lead after everything cycled through. That's the good news. Then he spun in the Keyhole late in the race, dropping himself to 20th place. That's the bad news. There's no more good news.
- Helio Castroneves' Fun Time Happy Circus keeps rolling along - he lost another nose in a multi-car incident out of turn 11, then tooled around at the back of the pack for an eventual 19th place finish.
- EJ Viso. Again.
- Then there was Danica Patrick and Graham Rahal. The two top contenders for the "Most Overhyped Driver in IndyCar Award" got together in the Keyhole. Hard to tell if Graham didn't give Danica enough room or if Danica was simply practicing her new NASCAR skillz for next year. Anyway, the Grahamboni ended up beached and yet again holding up his hands to the sky in frustration. Seriously, the kid needs a deodorant sponsorship - the promotional opportunities are simply too perfect.