Monday, August 27, 2012

INDYCAR: The Long and Twisty Sonoma edition

Sausalito’s J.R. Hildebrand negotiating the new chicane at Sonoma Raceway - where The Panther Racing squad campaigned San Francisco 49ers themed-livery during the Sonoma IndyCar race weekend. Photo by Bradley Gray. (Source: marionscope.com)
Although I do recall watching a very sublime, dare I say it? Boring race at Mid-Ohio - it seems like it was eons ago... As really, a lone solitary pass for the lead in the Pits in a duel of refueler’s; YAWN! Thus, it seemed like I’d been waiting ‘N waiting for the Champ-PEE-onship battle to recommence... In fact it’d been so long,  that I had to look it up via Zed Internetz - as I knew it was gonna be at the Wine Country racetrack many have taken to calling “Snorhoma,” which for Mwah will forever be known as Sears Point Raceway...

Thus coming into the weekend’s event, according to the IndyCar pundits, along with thee ‘OLDEST IndyCar blogger Geo. Phillips, there were allegedly four Musketeers left battling for this year’s Indy Car Series cup; Err championship crown. Those being in alphabetical order: Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power, with Power leading the points; five ahead of ‘BULLY-RAY! (Hunter-Reay) 17 clear of teammate ‘HULIO and 28 ahead of Scot Dixon.

And I guess the only thing keeping this a four pony affair is the fact that the season  finale is on Fontana’s 2.0-mile Oval-track and is 500-miles in length, otherwise I’d seriously doubt George’s driver ‘HULIO had nary a chance with ‘BULLY-RAY on the outside looking in, as I personally see the title fight as a two jockey affair between Power and Dixon, hence another Manu e Manu between the series Goliaths: Penske and Ganassi, which seems to be a yearly theme...

Yet, as in years past - I’m still rootin’ for my number two driver Will Power to finally break Dashley LePew’s (Dario Franchitti) stranglehold upon the championship... As at least whoever wins this year won’t haveda pick up that Naked Man on thy Unicycle, right? Hya!

As I’ll agree with George’s procostination that my Numero Uno ICS driver Justin ‘BIG UNIT Wilson is definitely outta duh hunt this season; hence I didn’t feel too faraway on my predictions upon hearing both Mark ‘Graveley James & Mike ‘Yippee-Aye-eh! King putting their poker chips upon Dixon to win this year’s title fight, albeit surely Power has gotta break his Oval “slump” sometime, eh?

Practise-1
As I actually lucked into Friday practice via Zed Internetz around 3PM Pacific, which I believe is 6PM NY/Indy/East Coast time, right Dave? Dave’s NOT Here; Hya! As it was  fun listening to how damn hard everybody was pushing in the lone Friday practice session coming from The Raceway at Sonoma, huh? Guess I-finn-ion is gone?

As it was nice hearing le ‘Hamburgular’s named called out in P1 for a change - as Jake “the Riddler” Query tried interviewing team boss Jay Penske, but he declined as soon as Jake sez he’s gotta ask him ‘bout his Nantucket escapades...

Yet, I was most happy to have the No. 12 of Will Power wind up P1, followed by Ryan Briscoe and Simon Pagenaud; with ‘SeaBass falling to sixth, bumped down there by Dashley LePew (Franchitti) and ‘Rubino (Rubens Barrichello) respectively.

Scotty thee “Iceman 2.0” Dixon settled for seventh fastest whilst CastroNervous was a lowly 16th and ‘BULLY-RAY a further 3-places adrift in P19; as I think I’d read that Power, Hunter-Rey and Helio are all on their fifth and last engine of the season, whilst Dixon is already on engine number six; hence anybody changing from here on out will incur the wrath of the draconian 10-grid spot penalty.

Meanwhile I’d say its pretty safe to assume that ‘Symone Pagenoe (Simon Pagenaud) has already locked-up this year’s R.O.Y. (Rookie Of the Year) crown with his outstanding driving performance, and thus I won’t Toot my own horn too much by saying I’ve known for years now just how AWESOME “Symone” is; hence making him my No. 3 driver! Although I really thought the Studly Joseph Newgarden would give Pagenaud a better run for his money - as these were the only two true contenders for the rookie title this year, since unfortunately thy Leggy ‘Juan, nee Katherine Legge is simply in a different Zip code... As I do hope she returns for a full season sophomore campaign. Although I’m not sure if Jay Penske is the right type of owner for her?

As it was also discovered by Mwah when Nick “Scuba” Yeoman interviewed Symone’s team manager Rob Evans Friday that an eighth place finish would wrap-up the R.O.Y. title for the affable ‘Frenchie on Sunday...

Practise-2
Thus continuing this new found IndyCar craze - notably due to being able to listen to I-T via Zed Internetz on duh first try... I promptly tuned-in for Saturday morning practice; which for the bulk of the session saw Team Penske running 1-2-3 line abreast with Power at the sharp end of the triumberant, followed by Briscoe and Castroneves. They in-turn were pursued by Ganassi’s red-dot Boyz Dixon & Franchitti, whilst Bourdais and Pagenaud nipped at their heals.

And I suppose they’re just trying to stir up some good ‘Ol controversy; BUTT! I found it a bit premature to be likening will Power to the Buffalo Bills Jim Kelly; CRIKEYS MATES! If Power does indeed somehow manage to not win this year’s title - with it instead going to Dixon & Co. and garnering thee ‘Cheepster five consecutive championships; URGH! Although surely The Captain has more titles overall then ‘Cheep, right? Although certainly NOT during the IRL-Post Unification Indy Car Series seasons...

And perhaps the practice was waning Mark James & Mike King’s interest as they seemingly spent great time blustering over Football, with King even being bold enough to say he hoped for a diecast version of J.R. Hildebrand’s DW12 paying homage to Panther Racing co-founder Jim Harbaugh, who wore the No. 4 during his NFL playing days - with its Oh, So Sharp San Francisco 49ers paint scheme...

Also noted was how Richard Hammond of the original BBC Top Gear version was performing duties as Thy Leggy ‘Juan’s right side tyre changer this weekend; believe they said right front? As King thoroughly lambasted the Top Gear USA spinoff version as TRASH; YOUCH! Ease up Mr. King,  as I actually quite enjoy the three amigos on that show; but Query noted how the 22-people following him were probably more of a concern then him actually changing tyres for the British ‘Tart; Hya!

And while at the end of the session it was still Power on top, Dixon had jumped up to P2 with Briscoe dropping to third, Franchitti fourth and Bourdais rounding out the top-5. Sixth-place went to Castroneves, followed  by Hunter-reay, Graham Rahal, Tony Kanaan and Justin Wilson finishing off the top-10 runners, as I now await the day’s Fast-Six ‘qualie Shootout...

Qualifying
Round 1 - Group 1
With just two ‘My-nutes to spare, I hastily ran to the closet ‘N pulled out my brand spankin’ new Will Power T-Shirt in order to give him some No Fenders Feel good Mo-jo...

Following the first two groups of Round-1 qualifying, I think Nick Yeoman talked to a disappointed Joseph Newgarden, who mocked happiness over their ‘Qualie performance - having failed to advance to Round-2; as it was noted somewhat later that Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing is not only running Angie’s List sponsorship but a message remembering departed team member Carey Hall who succumbed to ALS recently.

Both women - Katherine Legge and “Symona-Symona,” nee Simona de Silvestro were in Group 1 - both failing to advance, with Legge out qualifying de Silvestro’s recalcitrant ‘Luddi lump...

There were NO takers to the track until the halfway point of the session when cars finally ventured out with nary 7:30 remaining in the  ‘Qualie session; as Ryan Briscoe wound-up P1 followed by Dario Franchitti, Helio Castroneves, Sebastian Bourdais, Justin Wilson and James Hinchcliffe all advancing to the next round. Others such as Sebastian Saavedra - running a “One-off” for AFS Racing, Joseph Newgarden, J.R. Hildebrand and Graham Rahal failed to advance.

It was interesting to hear Saavedra’s comments about using the new carbon fibre brakes for the first time on a hilly road course, as he’s done a fairly decent job this weekend - as I can envision him as the fourth wheel at  Andretti Autosports next year, funds pending; just a guess, eh? As that’s obviously Saavedra’s goal...

Round 1 - Group 2
Another bit ‘O trivia was thrown out by the IMS Radio Network Booth boyz - noting how four of the races six past winners were lumped together in Group 2: 2005 winner ‘TK “Follow-your-Schnoz” Kanaan, ’06 winner Marco Andretti, ’07 victor Scott Dixon and reigning two-time 2010-11 champion Will Power; who gave Mwah a tiny scare by throwing his first  ‘Flyer away and languishing in 11th before promptly vaultin to the top of the time sheets...

As Power would park it early in the Pits and finish P1 in the session followed by title rival Ryan Hunter-Reay, Simon Pagenaud, ‘TAG, (Alex Tagliani) Scott Dixon and ‘Rubino. (Rubens Barrichello)

Failing to advance were the likes of ‘Taku-san (Takuma Sato) typically a “Twisty-master” and EJ “What, Me Worry!” Viso, although I don’t recall them getting much Airtime... (OOPS! Not sure which of the first two groups they were in...) Also failing to advance were other B-I-G Names such as “MarkyMarc,” (Marco Andretti) Mike “Ice-Ice, Baby” Conway, ‘TK and Oriel Servia - who’s running a Salvador Dali tribute motif this weekend; as that’s the diecast I’d spring for...

Round 2 - Doughnut Holez
Six advance - Six depart... As Briscoe topped his teammate Power, with the Penske’s chased by ‘SeaBass, ‘HULIO, Dixon and Dario to the stripe... As the first “Domino” fell, as I did a Happy Dance jig over poor BULLY-RAY! Failing to make the top-6, having to settle for seventh instead; boo hoo! As RHR was followed by TAG, “symone,” JW, The Mayor of Hinchtown and Rubino - lining up in Rows 4-6 respectively.

Yet earlier in the session it was noted that Saavedra, Sato, Wilson and de Silvestro were all making “Unapproved” engine changes and hence will incur the wrath of 10-grid spot penalties...

Round 3 - Fast-6 Shootout
All my notes say for Power is PHENOMINAL! As the “Toowoomba Toranadoe” set a wickedly blistering pace en route to his third consecutive Pole position at Sonoma, and 28th overall. Briscoe was second quick with SeaBass interrupting the Penske-Ganassi intramural scrum with his best ‘Qualie position of the year in P3. Next was Helio followed by Dixon and Franchitti, uncharacteristically opting for the “slower” black primary rubber... Hmm? Perhaps he was doing a little testing work for his teammate ‘Dixie, eh?

Nick Yeoman pointed out the fact that not only had the fastest six from the day’s practice advanced to the Fast-Six shootout, but also occupied the top-six finishing positions in last year’s race.

He also noted that Power’s Pole gives him the first selection for Pit-stalls at the upcoming Baltimore race - advantage: DJ WillyP;” nice job buddy. (Where Art Thou Mr. Innucci?)

Two trivia facts were brought up via IMS Radio Network’s Stat-guru, the first being a nod to le Hamburgular, aka Sebastain Bourdais’s staggeringly impressive wins/races started tally. As it was noted that SeaBass has won 31-races in his first 93 starts; actually it was much higher percentage-wise before he went to Formula One and then has struggled to find a competitive IndyCar ride. Yet the interesting caveat was that for drivers win ratios during their first 100-starts, bourdais is number-one! Higher even than ‘SuperTex’s (A.J. Foyt) 29 and Mario’s 26; Aye Karumba!

Also was unaware that there’d been a lone USAC sanctioned race at the track on April 7, 1970 - won by Dan gurney before the roar of turbochargers fell silent for 35-years before the Indy Racing League returned in 2005. As there are a total of six winners in the field - the four mentioned in Group-2 plus Castroneves in ’08 & Dario in ’09...

Race
Ah, the best laid intentions ‘O Men ‘N Mice... SHEISA! As I CANNOT believe it happened to Mwah! ‘Whale actually I can... As it all began sometime Saturday afternoon when I inadvertently HIT duh buttons on my talking clock, unknowingly trigger the annoying Cock-uh Doodle Du-du alarm which conveniently went off at midnight; URGH! Then apparently when resetting the alarm time I ‘buggered the time and thus whilst awaiting the race’s start, sat down and read a few more pages of a book I’m slowly meandering thru... And it’s funny how your gut instinct works, eh? As I got a knawing feeling and decided I better check duh time, as “Tokyo Rose” said it was only 10:31 AM; Huh? Oh FUCK! As I’d magically LOST 4hrs somehow; WTF? As it was really 2:31PM instead as I raced over to thee ‘Telie grousing out loud to myself...

Thus obviously I missed the start of the race, dropping in on lap-39 with Will Power holding a 6.2-second lead over Ryan Briscoe, who seemed leaps ‘N bounds ahead of everyone else, as I caught Power pitting on lap-40 as Bob Jenkins proclaimed it was the halfway point of the race, albeit it went for 85-laps in total.

Thus, mind wanderin’ - and thy talking clock still not properly adjusted, I just sat kinda dumbfounded over this malady - Oh Whale; it’s just a FREAKIN’ motor race, right? And thus I didn’t really pay too much attention to what was going on whilst trying to make a late lunch instead...

Although I did enjoy le Hamburgular’s squirrelyness while trying to hold off Dario for third place; yet Penske’s ‘Oz boyz continued  shredding the field, while Dixon tried doin’ the bump ‘N run on Hunter-Reay, ending up with a skewed nose... (NO TK jokes here; Hya!) Which would ultimately lead to his 13th place finish.

And then there was that NASTY looking accident between Bourdais and Newgarden, who was definitely an innocent victim as SeaBass even admitted later he was at fault since he didn’t get the car turned; BUTT! What a NARLY looking collision with the tyres/retaining wall for the Sarah Fisher driver who thankfully walked away! While Bourdais told ‘R (Robin Miller) that the car had broken into two pieces and the gearbox had hit his shoulder; YIKES!

Then I burst into spontaneous exultation - as the ‘TAGmeister, nee Alex Tagliani did his bestest Mont-royale Doublewide impersonation while applying a liberal dosage of chrome horn appliqué to BULLY-RAY’s chassis... Before RHR duly stalled I-T; HURRAH! Oh, did I mention I’m a huge Will Power fan? And speaking ‘O Willy-boy what happened on the Pitstop when the yellow came out? As a bungled tyre change plus slow traffic under the full course caution gifted the lead to Ryan Briscoe...

And Briscoe would hold off Power a further two restarts while RHR got a drive-thru for running over EJ Viso, which is pretty rich, eh? And thus Power followed Briscoe home - who hadn’t won in two years, since Texas, 2010. Although Franchitti nipped at Power’s heals the whole way home before settlin’ for the third podium spot with Rubino garnering his best finish to date in P4, with Rahal rounding out the top-5.

And I still DON’T understand how Power’s 8.3-second advantage got wiped out, but overall it was a very good day indeed, as he’ll take a 36-point lead over RHR, who wound-up 18th to Baltimore. ‘HULIO, who apparently had brain fade on lap-1 finished sixth and slipped 41-points behind Power, while Dixon was the biggest loser of the day, dropping 54-points adrift of the leader. But I’m very happy for Briscoe - who needed the win and got a nice surprise when some “Trophy-girl” named Nicole greeted him in victory lane... 

Aftermath
Alas, I’ll be away from le Telescreen over the Labour Day weekend - unless I can convince my hosts to dial up the penultimate race in Baltimore, albeit I’m not sure if they get the Versus; Err, Peacock-lite (NBC Sports Network) channel - OOPS! Swore my TV guide originally said it was on duh Diznee Shoppin’ Networks with ‘Doublewide ‘N Somenex in the booth... But now NBCSN teased the race during Sonoma, so we’ll see... On Monday morning my TV guide had the race listed on ABC at 2PM; BUTT! Also listed on NBCSP at 11AM; Hmm? Perhaps ‘somme-thun to do with the switch during the Olympics? Oh Never Mind!

Or more likely I’ll be at the beach instead with The ‘Bitches... So, like George sez; I DON’T wanna jinx ‘DJ-WillyP; BUTT! I’ll take my No. 12 Power T-Shirt with Mwah & model it for my Hosts & Crew... In hopes of bringing him some further No Fenders Feel good Mo-jo en route to his first ICS crown...

GO WILL POWER!  

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