Road America Rear-view Mirror
There are two ways to talk about this race: from the perspective of someone who watched the race on TV, and from the perspective of someone who was at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wi. I did both.
Let me talk about the TV race first. It was boring, once you got past the pretty pictures. Like many events at Road America, the race is often decided, or heavily influenced, by qualifying.
In this case, Josef Newgarden qualified his Penske-Chevy on pole, and once it was clear no one was going to jump past him on the start, the die was cast. There was plenty of interesting stuff that happened behind him, but no one was going to overtake him.
So let’s talk about qualifying. Alex Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Newgarden had the fastest cars. Newgarden did the best qualifying lap. Will Power surprised everyone with his speed on his fast lap, and Rossi and Hunter-Reay both made mistakes on their pole laps. The main mistake that Hunter-Reay, Rossi, and Sebastien Bourdais made on the Fast Six session is that they, incorrectly, assumed that their first timed lap would be his best. So they sold out the first lap and ruined their tires for the second. The Penske cars, however, assumed that the second lap would be faster. They took it easy on the first lap and they stole the first and second starting spots from Hunter-Reay and Rossi, who had the fastest cars (and started third and fourth).
So what happened to Will Power in the race? He effectively blew a header at the start and Did Not Finish. Later in the week, we found out that this was due to a misfire in one cylinder, that lead to un-burned fuel exploding in the header and destroying it which led to a blown engine. More about the effect of this on the manufacturer points race later in my next blog.
At the start, Hunter-Reay moved past Will Power and neither Newgarden nor Hunter-Reay changed positions for the rest of the race.
There was lots of action behind them. Most of it involving Alex Rossi, who had run ins with Robert Wickens, Takuma Sato and Sebastien Bourdais. All the incidents happen at turns five and six, which was right in front of me. Further back in the field, Scott Dixon moved up from eighth to finish third and extend his points lead.
Later in the race, Rossi had an issue with suspension shims on the left front and finished 16th. Did this have anything to do with the rough driving earlier in the race? Well, the contact with CARS was all on Rossi’s RIGHT side. But there was considerable contact with curbs on his LEFT in those incidents, so maybe.
The good news about the race for those in attendance is it was fantastic in person. There was lots of action back in the pack, and the place lives up to its moniker as “America’s National Park of Speed”. The other important aspect is that there was never more than about a three-second gap from first to second. Most of the time it was less than a second.
Also, Road America is about the best place to witness the performance level of today’s Indycars. We watched near turns 5 and 6. A long, downhill straight leads into turn 5 at 180-to-190 mph. Then they slam on the brakes to get down to 40 or so for the turn before slamming the throttle and heading up a steep hill to turn 6, reaching about 140 on the way.
If you are a road race fan at all, you need to make this pilgrimage at least once. The track was carved out of the Kettle Moraine area of Wisconsin in 1955 and has not been changed since. There are none of the chicanes that have been added to modern tracks. Road America is often compared to Spa because of it’s four-mile length and vast elevation changes. But there are also hints of Monza, pre-chicane, from the aspect of pure speed.
There have been major improvements made recently. Many new indoor bathrooms have been added, and there is now a path that allows you to walk the entire length of the inside of the track (it used to be hard to get to areas such as “the kink” on the back stretch). There is a huge go-kart track. There is lots of camping space and many large LED TVs have been installed so that you can see the action on the rest of the track.
This year’s IMSA weekend is August 2-5. This will feature the Acura DPi and NSX GT3 cars. Next year’s Indycar race is the same weekend (June 23). There is a 4-days for $100 deal that expires in October.
Whatever race you go see, it’s worth it to see Road America.
In the driver’s standings, Scott Dixon has a 45-point lead over Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi, who are tied for second. Josef Newgarden is the highest-ranking Chevy in Fourth place, 50-points behind Dixon.
Dixon effectively has about a race and a half lead on the field. Winners get 50 points and finishing last nets you 7. So to make up a lot of ground in the seven remaining races, Dixon has to have a couple of uncharacteristic finishes, with another driver winning a lot.
We’ll go over this more next week. The two races where Dixon is most likely to have bad luck are the Iowa (next weekend) and St. Louis short ovals.
In the manufacturer’s Race, Honda lost 7 points, and maintains a 132-point lead. Unless Chevy gets some 1-2-3-4-5 finishes, this will wrap up relatively soon. More next week.