Thursday, May 28, 2009

Some thoughts about the Indy 500, ABC & passing or lack-thereof

Apologies for the delay, but I'm sure you were able to get all your proper post-race analysis from the many, many blogs out there. So I'm going to keep this concise. Here are some interesting notes from the race:

Firstly, for those following us on twitter, you'll remember we kept noting similarities to last years race; how much so?

2008:
  • Polesitter wins Indianapolis 500 by 1.7498 seconds.
  • Panther National Guard #4 is second place car
  • AGR car finishes in third place
  • Graham Rahal crashes in 4th turn on lap 36
  • Tony Kanaan exits race in 3rd turn incident on lap 105
  • 8 cautions for 60 laps
  • No green flag pit stops for the leaders
2009:
  • Polesitter wins Indianapolis 500 by 1.9819 seconds.
  • Panther National Guard #4 is second place car
  • AGR car finishes in third place
  • Graham Rahal crashes in 4th turn on lap 55
  • Tony Kanaan exits race in 3rd turn incident on lap 97
  • 8 cautions for 61 laps
  • No green flag pit stops for the leaders
Creepy at all? Maybe not, but I did notice a lot of people out there proclaiming how horrible the car formula is and that there is no passing. I will agree that there wasn't a whole ton of passing in the final laps; but people, don't just look at Helio's dominance in the final laps:

1- Alex Tagliani started 33rd finished 11th.
2- Tomas Scheckter started 26th finished 12th
3- Townsend Bell started 24th finished 4th.
4- Dan Wheldon started 18th finished 2nd.

Those guys were passing many cars all over the course of the race, not just in the pits. I think the "no passing" epidemic is actually caused by ABC's horrid coverage; which basically runs on the formula: ABC RACE COVERAGE = LEADER + DANICA

Many of us had hoped that after ABC had seen what VERSUS was doing with the same time and equipment that maybe they'd get their kick in the ass to do better... but no. I can;t tell you how horrible a booth Cheever, Goodyear & Reid are. Reid simply gets worse and worse, incorrectly identifying drivers/cars and constantly heading every conversation towards Danica, you almost feel like he's been watching Todd Harris' work from 2005 for inspiration.

Now Goodyear I think is the one ok piece, but he's like tofu in that he becomes whatever he's around; which is why he was better in 2008 for the race when he was with Bob Jenkins and then horrible with Reid. Cheever... man I just don't get Cheever, he has some very great points and the knowledge, but I've never seen someone who seems so annoyed to be there. whatever the reason, he's clearly not happy in the booth and it affects the rest of the crew. He also starts fights with Goodyear, but not in an entertaining way like Beekhus-Buhl or Posey-Unser; Cheever's fighting seems mean-spirited, kinda like a cool kid in school who is forced to do a project with the nerdy guy.

I don't know a person out there who isn't begging to get back to VERSUS coverage, I mean Townsend Bell ran in the Top 10 and then Top 5 for half the race without ever getting mentioned until there were like 10 laps to go. And I guess Dan Wheldon's camouflage worked too well because he also went unnoticed until the final laps even though he was actually the runner up.

Its not just a viewer issue though, many, many sponsors jump on the cars to get coverage; I heard from more than one person specifically that Patron was waiting to see what kind of notice/coverage they got with Sharp so they could feel out the possibility of returning to the IRL. Correct me if I'm wrong but I saw Scott Sharp on screen ZERO times; and I'm sure Patron isn't the only sponsor who feels they may not have gotten the bang for the buck as far as the TV coverage goes. In 30 minutes of post-race coverage VERSUS covered twice as much of the field as ABC did in 4 hours. I'm stopping here because words can't describe just how shitty ABC's coverage is and its a topic we've run into the ground here in the past.

Here's just hoping beyond hope that somehow the IRL can quit their abusive boyfriend in ABC and see their way to NBC (who does great coverage of Olympics, Kentucky Derby, NHL AND ALMS as it is) along with VERSUS.

Now as for the passing; yes there was less, but I don't believe it has as much to do with aerodynamics as people think. There was plenty passing in 2006 and 2007; so what's changed since then. We've had no green flag pit stops for the leaders; which means all strategy has been negated. There was no-one even mildly attempting to go onto a different fuel strategy, and there was never traffic to help mix things up.

Its partly a mix of guys crashing a little often, but in order I'd say its caused by 3 major factors, the first being caution periods going much longer than necessary; second with some boneheaded driving from time to time (if Matos was on fuel strategy, why in the world was he trying to pass Vitor!?), and Thirdly and mostly its poor officiating which roots back from Brian Barnhart.

Robert Doornbos tapped the wall, and got squirrely and we had no yellow; yet for some reason when Nelson Philippe touched the wall with even less force we get 7 laps of caution... wtf? To complicate matters we get very odd non-calls. I know he finished the highest but I don't feel Alex Tagliani was the Rookie of the Year, he got in a car that qualified better than 33rd and took it up many places.

Mike Conway was the rookie of the year, he was aggressive and careful in the right way, passing many people on the right opportunities and was on a huge roll of momentum when Tagliani put on the biggest dive-block I've seen since Helio almost took Danica out in Nashville last year. And worse, Tags did it on live camera, so we know the teams all saw it, which means we've now set another stupid precedent. Luckily for Tags, Conway (even though being a true rookie) was the smarter driver and backed out of the coming collision. Tags should have received a black flag, no doubt, and Conway would have kept his momentum into the Top 10 instead of losing 4 positions because he had to slam on his brakes.

And don't forget Will Power was gaining and ready to make a move for the lead late in the race only to, I feel like a broken record with this race, a yellow flag came out and he lost his position in the pits.

Then we get the many... non-calls on Helio Castroneves on the start and restarts. We know Barnhart sucks with consistency as it is, but why the 2nd race start was perceived any better than the first is beyond me. They both sucked... and why did they suck, because Helio kept trying to get an advantage on everyone hitting the gas a full turn before everyone else.

What made it worse was the final restart, Helio again jumped out on the field and somehow didn't get called. Many people missed this because ABC was too busy with logos over the screen, but Helio had over a second lead after 1 lap of green, I'm sorry, that doesn't happen with a fair restart; I just don't understand why that didn't get waved off, especially considering the circumstances. (and lets not even bring up the call to try and shove Helio back into the car after he won...)

But lets not forget that it was still a highly entertaining race, minus the final 30 laps because everyone's strategies got thrown out the door and Helio was basically allowed to pull out ahead; Helio is a gracious, honest and nice guy; and a great race-winner, but don't let people tell you that the cars suddenly suck and that there is no passing, because there was plenty, but also don't let them tell you ABC did ok, because they didn't, they do suck.


Pictures via indycar.com

2 comments:

Goose said...

It is true that ABC/ESPN did its usual mediocre job getting teams exposure and covering cars who were making moves. The frustration of slight wall brushes or spins leading to FCYs (whether it be the IRL or elsewhere) is high, too.

Having said that, I do think that there appears to be at least a subtle difference in racing. Obviously, observation has its flaws and there's certainly confirmation bias with regards to opinions like that but the fact that the cars are so refined from years of massaging that some change wouldn't hurt to get it back to how it was from a few years ago or even something different.

Allen said...

Oh certainly the length of time in the current chassis has something to do with it; I just don't think the problem is quite, as bad, as everyone was making it out to be.

I'm hoping for a new chassis/engine design/competition to come sooner than later, simply because I don't think its a spec series that makes racing good, its options (just like options in fuel strategy) but as Townsend Bell said last night on Trackside, he could pass, but the problem is that they never got to the end of full-tank runs which is generally where drivers become more of a factor and one would start making passes.

Whatever the reason it seems a lot of people just fell off to much at the end of runs and crashed.