LOUDON, N.H. -- With the last 10 scheduled laps of the MoveThatBlock.com INDY 225 lost to wet weather Sunday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, it only seemed fair that you – the devoted Granite Stripe readers – get back a little of what you lost.
That being said, here are 10 impressions from the IZOD IndyCar Series much-anticipated return to New England.
Just for you, they're numbered in order:
LAP 216 – Better than advertised: There were more than a few things we were led to believe about the IZOD IndyCar Series here in the heart of NASCAR Nation.
The cars don't pass. The field gets strung out quickly. The drivers are all vanilla prima donnas who put NASCAR drivers to shame in the being-a-vanilla-prima-donna department.
The great part about Sunday was that none of that proved true. There was a ton of activity on the track, from battles to position, to gambles on pit strategy, to side-by-side racing. Anyone who saw Thomas Sheckter drive from the 18th starting spot to third over the first 15 laps of the race knows that.
And thank God for Will Power. You can't say these guys are boring anymore, nor can you say you've never heard of anyone other than Danica Patrick. Even the most casual sports fan is going to remember Power's double-handed salute to IndyCar officials after today.
LAP 217 – The crowd was good: When NHMS general manager Jerry Gappens told reporters on Thursday that there were roughly 25,000 tickets out and and about for Sunday's race, people groaned. A number of those surely were comped, and the weather forecast for race day was bleak at best.
Still, some 30,000 people attended the race, according to Gappens, enough people to fill many of the venues IndyCar annually visits. Don't make the mistake of looking at the crowd on television and assuming "nobody showed up." It wasn't true. A 95,000-seat stadium has a way of looking empty – even if everybody from a Patriots playoff game at Gillette Stadium were to show up here all at once.
LAP 218 – Vapor trails are cool: Watching the moisture in the air – and there was plenty on Sunday – collect as a wispy trail of vapor off an Indy car's wing is a tremendous visual.
LAP 219 – Dario Franchitti was wrong: Even though Takuma Sato took the high road and blamed himself for the wreck that ended Franchitti's dominant performance in the MoveThatBlock.com 225 just short of halfway – and Franchitti blamed him openly in a television interview – it was Franchitti who caused the wreck by sliding over in front of Sato on a Lap 118 restart.
Plain and simple.
LAP 220 – Breathtaking starts: The initial green flag Sunday was an exilharating visual experience. The cars accelerate so quickly, their virtually immediate tendency to fan out and make passes was impressive to see.
And it was like that on every double-file restart from there on it. High drama, every time.
LAP 221 – Extend the distance: I'd rather see a 250-lap race when the IndyCar Series returns. The 225 seems too much like a "test" distance, and without weather delays the race would have taken far less than two hours to complete.
Fans drive a long way and spend a lot of money on tickets and travel. I think a 250-lap event is a fair return.
LAP 222 – Push to pass is a funny concept: If it feels a lot like pressing the 'B' button on a game of Wii Mario Kart, that's because it probably is.
Even in explaining it to the television audience, ABC analyst and former driver Scott Goodyear said that it was very much like playing a video game. Need a power boost? No problem, buddy. Hit that button on your steering wheel and for 12 seconds, you'll feel like a superhero.
Personally, I love it. While drivers had plenty to complain about Sunday, one thing they couldn't say was that "it was tough to pass out there." Bingo. It's a winning formula.
LAP 223 – Rules package: Apparently, there's some disagreement on the IZOD IndyCar Series rules. Some drivers claim there's a rulebook, some claim the series sometimes chooses to actually follow it, and still others said it didn't seem like there was one at all.
Scott Dixon was so confused by the restart/no restart/these laps never happened scenario at the end, he claimed, "Today, I don't even know why we have a rule book. We aren't USAC racing on the dirt... It isn't make-things-up as you go racing. It is IndyCar racing with rules."
One thing is certain, whatever the rules are, IndyCar officials have to stick with them. It's not only important for the competitors and fair play, but it's important for the fans to operate under an assumption that they understand what's taking place on the track.
LAP 224 – No iron-fist ruling here: Drivers and owners up and down pit road were openly critical of the work done by IndyCar Series race director Brian Barnhart, the most obvious being Will Power's obscene gesture to the tower.
Power called the officiating "disgraceful" and said Barnhart "makes such bad calls all the time." Andretti Autosport team owner Michael Andretti called it "the worst officiating I've ever seen." Oriol Servia said the enforcement of rules was "confusing sometimes."
Forthcoming penalties or not, one thing is certain – IndyCar competitors feel like they can speak their mind. Sometimes right, sometimes wrong, but that's irrelevant. The fact they express themselves and speak their unfiltered minds is great for the sport of auto racing – and it's clear that they feel they can do it without major repercussions from the sanctioning body.
LAP 225 – Brian Barnhart stole the show: It doesn't matter in the least to me if IndyCar made the right call to try and restart the race on Lap 218 or not. What matters most – and will be, for me, the lasting legacy of this MoveThatBlock.com 225 – is that literally moments after the race was declared official, Barnhart was in the ABC television booth both owning up to his mistake and trying to right a wrong.
He didn't wait for three days with a stock "results will become official on Tuesday, per usual" and he didn't make excuses by trying to use big, fancy words to try and "describe" how policy or procedure or a 12-person jury of peers "forced" him to make a decision he didn't want to make.
Barnhart was wrong to try and restart the event. But he stood up and faced the music for his mistake, and as quickly as he could tried to salvage what he could of the entire mess.
Kudos to him, and kudos to IndyCar.
It was a heck of an eye-opening return to New England.