Loudon Loop The Loop And Decisions For The Good Of The Game
Race 13 of 18 at the paperclip "oval" in New Hampshire looked to be like a phone it in affair through warm-ups and qualifications, all of the way to the drop of the Green Flag!
Dario Franchitti - in his new Nikon liveried Dallara from Target Chip Ganassi gained an extra point for capturing the pole position, bringing his IndyCar Series (ICS) championship points lead over his closest rival, Will Power, to 64 with every expectation of greatly increasing the season points lead by the end of the day. Will could only muster a P13 in qualifications and that put him way down in a very racy field.
Other notable drivers in the MoveThatBlock.com Indy 225 grid have positions 2-10 filled with Oriol Servia - Newman/Haas, Tony Kanaan - KVRT-Lotus, James Hinchcliff - Newman/Haas, Ryan Hunter-Reay - Andretti Autosport, Ryan Briscoe - Penske Racing, Takuma Sato - KVRT-Lotus, Helio Castroneves - Penske Racing, and Charlie Kimball - Ganassi Racing.
The quick reading on this stacking is that if everyone stayed out of trouble, it would be a long way to get up front on a tight one mile oval especially when last year's oval track champion (Franchitti) was out in front.
It was at this point a proposed title of most any posting would read - "Franchitti Closes Door On Challengers At New Hampshire Motor Speedway's Paper-Clip".
The loop the loop action began very early at the very beginning of the race when Service Central Ganassi Racing's Graham Rahal car took a spin and was out aided by Andretti Autosport's Mike Conway in the first lap (pictured above). This was notable because Graham was consistently one of the top two or three fastest cars all weekend in practice and pre-race warm-up but had to start from P23 due to a bauble and save during qualifications.
With this chance of a great car and driver looking to make some noise ... out of the running so early, it set the tone of the race that would end up having as many Yellow Flag cautions as maybe Toronto ... with almost as many retirements between the top drivers as anyone could expect.
Helio Castroneves spins on lap 6 bringing out another Yellow Flag caution.
By Lap 18 of 225, Franchitti was already catching up to the back of the field to begin to lap cars. First there was the Swiss Miss, Simona de Silvestra, then Ed Carpenter, Sebasttian Saavedra, and Ana Beatriz.
The march by Dario continued through to Lap 42 and the leaders are stretching it out with the top five being Franchitti, Servia, Hinchcliff, Hunter-Reay, and Sato. with Dario approaching Will Power and may lap him in about 6 laps.
Lap 48 has Hinchcliff pass Servia for P2. and Danica Patrick breaks into the top 10.
Lap 52 of 225 has Dario setting up just behind Will Power with only 20 car-lengths separating them. The skies are threatening to rain ... this might be a factor.
On Lap 55, the pole-sitter passes Will Power in P12 and puts him one lap down. Bye bye to Will Power's possible challenge to Dario Franchitti's repeat as ICS Champion for 2011.
Nikon liveried car of Dario Franchitti. Image Credit: Bret Kelley via IZOD IndyCar Series
Dario continues his charge in a dominating fashion through the pitstops around Lap 73 with a very fast and clean in and out until a Yellow Flag Caution for rain on Lap 76. At the time of the Yellow, the rain is very light.
Field reset with the top 10 on Lap 80 being Franchitti, Sato, Servia, RHR, Hinchcliff, Briscoe, Dixon, Hildebrand, Patrick, and Kanaan.
The drivers lapped around the track as the light rain passed by until Green Flag Restart on Lap. Scheckter and Kanaan get together with Kanaan's KVRT-Lotus flipping upside-down after hitting the tires lining the inside wall. Kanaan is OK.
Tony Kanaan goes upside-down in his GEICO KV Racing Technology-Lotus Dallara. Image Credit: LAT Photo USA via IZOD IndyCar Series
Marco Andretti was squeezed by Scheckter from the outside lane, breaks Andretti's suspension and this sets up the incident with Kanaan bringing out the fourth caution Yellow Flag period. Also, at Lap 113, the race is official due to passing the halfway point.
Lap 118 of 225 Green Flag Restart has Dario taken out by Takuma Sato with a tire tap spin sending Dario's black with yellow lettering car into the pitlane wall, and this causes a flat tire on Sato's car. Will Power escapes the accordion effect and gets his lap back. Fifth Caution.
Hummmmmmmm, spoke a little early. The top ten are reset as Ryan Hunter-Reay (RHR), Servia, Dixon, Hinchcliff, Briscoe, Patrick, Power Sato, Kimball (1lap down), and Viso.
Will Power, after being one lap down and as many as about 90 points down in the championship fight with Dario, is on the lead lap looking to take back some points against Dario's retirement.
By Lap 166 sees Dixon on pit in, with Will Power inheriting the lead.
Lap 167 sees Briscoe in the pits, Power will need to come in for fuel if the race goes the distance.
Lap 173 top 10 - Power, Sato, RHR, Servia, Dixon, Hnichcliff, Patrick, Briscoe, Carpenter, and Lloyd.
Power in the pits for fuel on Lap 178 and the rain drops begin to show up. Short fuel fill, new tires, Sato gets the lead.
RHR in turn 3 at Loudon New Hampshire. Image Credit: Bret Kelley via IZOD IndyCar Series
Top 10 reset on Lap 180 as Sato, RHR, Servia, Dixon, Hinchcliff, Power Patrick, Briscoe, Carpenter, and Kimball.
Rain still misting and not really posing a threat. Sato may need to pit for fuel on Lap 188. Carpenter in and comes out in P13.
Sato comes into the pits on Lap 190 of 225, comes out in P7. Top 5 are RHR, Servia, Dixon, Hinchcliff, and ... Power!
Ryan Hunter-Reay passes E.J. Viso. If this lead holds, RHR is on track to take his first oval win in the ICS on Lap 202.
Caution Flag out on Lap 206 due to rain ... a light rain based on complaints from RHR not being able to see out of his visor. If I were him I would have complained as soon as I took the lead!
Lap 208 the rain is almost a heavy sprinkle.
The signal is given from the flag stand that there will be one lap to go for a restart on Lap 215 ... a nine lap shoot out!
On Lap 216 - Green Flag is called off ... next Lap will restart.
Green, Green, Green! Lap 217, side-by-side eight laps remain. Will Power, Danica Patrick, Takuma Sato, spin ... with Power backing into the wall. RHR looses the lead, Michael Andretti was yelling at the officials on the fact the track was too wet!
The race is placed in a Red Flag situation - The restart will be disputed. Will Power was hit from behind when the cars were checking up on the Patrick spin. Will Power caught on camera freaking out on the officials.
As it stands on the track with the Red Flag out, the top five is set with Ryan Hunter-Reay, Oriol Servia, Scott Dixon, James Hinchcliff, and Danica Patrick ... WOW, with five laps to go.
In an interview, Will Power begged the race officials NOT to restart the race on Lap 217 and said that Barnhart should be removed because he makes radical decisions like this restart again and again. The TV played the radio communications of RHR saying that a restart is STUPID!
Checkered flag is flown from the flag stand and the race ends after much discussion.
RHR wins but stated that the restart was a wrong move on Race Control's part.
Brian Barnhart decides that the race should not have been re-started and insists that Race Control did not receive any communications from the race teams.
Race Red Flagged - Action Stopped. Image Credit: Chris Jones via IZOD IndyCar Series
The order will be set as they were at Lap 215:
Pos - Driver - Team - Time/Gap
1. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti 1h58m01.5843s
2. Oriol Servia Newman/Haas + 0.2361s
3. Scott Dixon Ganassi + 1.4839s
4. James Hinchcliffe Newman/Haas + 2.1750s
5. Will Power Penske + 2.8250s
6. Danica Patrick Andretti + 3.6173s
7. Takuma Sato KV + 4.1174s
8. Ryan Briscoe Penske + 1 lap
9. Charlie Kimball Ganassi + 2 laps
10. Vitor Meira Foyt + 3 laps
11. Ed Carpenter Sarah Fisher + 3 laps
12. EJ Viso KV + 3 laps
13. Alex Lloyd Dale Coyne + 4 laps
14. Ana Beatriz Dreyer & Reinbold + 5 laps
15. Sebastian Saavedra Conquest + 5 laps
16. Simona de Silvestro HVM + 6 laps
17. Helio Castroneves Penske + 13 laps
James Jakes Dale Coyne 176 laps
Alex Tagliani Sam Schmidt 137 laps
Dario Franchitti Ganassi 118 laps
JR Hildebrand Panther 118 laps
Tony Kanaan KV 109 laps
Tomas Scheckter Dreyer & Reinbold 109 laps
Marco Andretti Andretti 109 laps
Mike Conway Andretti 0 laps
Graham Rahal Ganassi 0 laps
(ht: chart via autosport.com)
In the post race interviews, Scott Dixon not totally happy with the changes in decision making on this issue ... Danica Patrick was also not happy that Race Control decided to Go Green but still apologizes for swinging her car out-of-control.
The race is called on Lap 220 of 225 with the official order to be that of Lap 215 before the Green Flag was thrown ... for the good of the game.
Will Power advances to being 47 points down from a race start of -64 points and still alive with only five races to go. Scott Dixon sitting third in points at -73 and only -26 to catch Power.
The next race (14 0f 18)scheduled to take place in two weeks is clear across the country at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, CA. Sonoma, North of San Francisco, is known for its In-N-Out Burger stop on the way to the track, elevation changes, many tight corners, and wheel rubbing action.
... notes from The EDJE
[Article first published as Loudon Loop The Loop and Decisions for the Good of the Game on Technorati]