Classy Madness-free Indycar Championship Trail XIX
Round the penultimateth: Sonoma Raceway, California
Lap length: 2.39 miles
Turns: 12, they go this way and that
Previous winner: Will Power (oh shit), Penske/Chevy
Back to California. This weekend the Indycar circus makes its second visit to the great state of Jerry Brown, Philip Marlowe and Pets.com. Surprisingly little has changed since Long Beach – not too surprisingly when you consider that despite that being Round 2 and this being Round 17, it's only four months since Dallaras were frolicking among the fountains and pornography shops of West Anaheim. Will Power is still the man with all the speed, Castroneves and Pagenaud are still consistent finishers, and the midfield still sends representatives to race at the front almost at random. Ryan Hunter-Reay turned in a similar year to 2013, although in a tribute to the Boston Consulting Group (or possibly 1997) he did take care to finish his season at Indianapolis.
But now the season's nearly at an end, which means you're all obligated to pay attention since in three months' time this race will be all you can remember about Indycars. Here in the UK the summer ended last Tuesday and all we're left with is this soggy mockery of an August Bank Holiday with only a West Coast Indycar race to take the sting out of the declining evenings.
Sears Point Raceway: also available in brown
Pay attention to this schedule
Friday: support classes. Little open wheelers, Pirelli World Challenge and 10 Firestone Indy Lights cars (and 40 Firestone Indy Lights tyres).
Saturday, 23 August
10.00-10.45: Indycar practice 1
12.15: Indy Lights race 1
13.15-14.00: Indycar practice 2
14.35: Pirelli World Challenge race 1
16.35-17.45: Indycar qualifying (I think this actually counts as Sunday in Europe)
Sunday, 24 August
10.00-10.30: Indycar warmup
11.00: Indy Lights race 2
13.40: 85 laps of Indycar racing
16.40: Pirelli World Challenge race 2 (it's just like TUSC minus the infighting and for that matter any drivers that you've heard of)
News and excitement
* Top of the bill on Indycar.com right now is the admittedly earth-shattering news that AC Slater, nineties heartthrob and star of NBC Saturday mornings, is sitting in Marco Andretti's racing car. Can't confirm whether this is some childish prank at the expense of
Josef Newgarden Zack Morris but I expect this isn't the last we hear of this story.
You thought I was lying? I thought I was lying.
* Yesterday evening I took my hazel twig for a walk around a field, hoping to find a source of enthusiasm for the race this weekend. I didn't find a spring or leyline worthy of the name. You see, Will Power's about to wrap it all up. Sonoma is a “classic” American road course, which means that the quickest driver usually wins and we get to spend most of our time looking at racing lines and pretty scenery. Jks he's not really going to wrap it up. He's just competing for the honour of having his engine blow up at Fontana and Helio winning the title on the double points rule. Seriously the finale of a racing series is the WORST place you can put a double points race. I get the feeling that for all the hype, it's all going to go off without a hitch in F1 and it's Indycar that's going to be left an asterisk champion.
* Update from the 2013 machine: this time last year Lucas Luhr became the American Andre Lotterer and didn't achieve very much. Will Power won his first Indycar race in almost a decade but only after the dominating and title-hungry Scott Dixon had mown down his (Power's) pitcrew. Alternatively Will Power's pitcrew committed sati at the Ganassi vehicle as it left its pitbox in a futile attempt to keep Helio Castroneves's championship alive. Pagenaud finished fifth and Saavedra crashed.
The place where the magic happens.
* Having made a net 109 places up from starting positions this year, Charlie Kimball is the runaway … I can't say leader … in the chase for the Tag Heuer Don't Crack Under Pressure award. Indycar's worst qualifier wins 25 grand but not a Tag Heuer watch, presumably because Tag Heuer doesn't wish to be associated with Indycar's worst qualifier.
* James Hinchcliffe is probably racing for his job right now, or more to the point, his next job. His last season-and-a-half has fluctuated between colon-closed-bracket and semicolon-underscore-semicolon, so the sake of our sanities let's hope for a good result from everyone's favourite off-track/on-track charisma deficit.
* Other driver market probablies? Mike Conway is probably racing in WEC next year, so FishCarp Racing is probably looking for a replacement road course driver. Right now FishCarp is being koi about next year's engine supply, so with Josef Newgarden probably sticking with Honda, they're probably scouting for two drivers. As Simon Pagenaud is probably taking his collection of desk ornaments to Andretti Autosport next year, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports will probably have a very competitive seat open for Josef Newgarden, James Hinchcliffe, Jolyon Palmer, Jean-Eric Vergne, Nigel Mansell or indeed AC Slater.
Edited by Risil, 22 August 2014 - 22:39.