Sunday, June 28, 2009

SunTrust Indy Challenge Race Reactions

Richmond Race Reaction

The IndyCar Series completed their eighth race of the season at Richmond International Speedway on Saturday Night. Scott Dixon took home his third win of the season and moved to second in the point standings. Scott also tied Sam Hornish Jr. record of 19 career victories in the IndyCar series. Rounding out the top five were his teammate Dario Franchitti, Graham Rahal, Hideki Mutoh and Danica Patrick. IndyCarGarage breaks down five race reactions from the SunTrust Indy Challenge.

1. We have a new point’s leader

Dario Franchitti is now the new series point’s leader with his runner up finish behind his teammate. Dixon is a close second, trailing only by a point. The Team Penske cars are third and fourth with Ryan Briscoe dropping from first to third and Helio Castroneves fourth. Andretti Green Star Danica Patrick is now fifth, but is now 60 points behind the leader. The oval racing this season has been lukewarm at best this season, but the point’s championship is very exciting to follow through each race. Let’s hope the IndyCar Series has the passing problem figured out by August 1st at Kentucky.

2. The IndyCar Series needs the lucky dog format that NASCAR uses

Five drivers finished on the lead lap in Saturdays SunTrust Indy Challenge. Throughout the course of the race several of the leaders had to make green flag pit stops and caused them to go a lap down. In order to help the drivers get back on the lead lap and spice up the race, the IndyCar series needs to adapt some sort of lucky dog format that NASCAR uses. I won’t call it the lucky dog as NASCAR does, maybe the comeback car award, but by allowing more cars to stay on the lead lap it would spice up the racing and give drivers more of a chance to comeback after a bad start to the race.

3. Andretti-Green Racing = Lots to talk about

Andretti Green Racing had a horrible pre-race with only one of their four cars qualifying in the top nine. The race itself was completely different, as all four drivers finished in the top seven. Hideki Mutoh lead his first career IndyCar laps, as he was in control for 74 laps early in the race. Mutoh and Danica Patrick had pit strategy to win the race, but caught a horrible break as Dixon, Franchitti, and Rahal caught a yellow right before they were about to cycle through for green flag stops. This would have possibly allowed AGR to sweep the first four spots, as Mutoh finished fourth, Patrick fifth, Marco Andretti sixth and Tony Kanaan seventh. Overall, the fans of AGR had to be happy with a rebound from qualifications, in the bigger picture, they just missed a break to have a huge night at Richmond. This team will be under the microscope for the remainder of the season for several reasons. First, the Danica drama surrounding her possibly move to NASCAR or to another team. Second, Mutoh’s possibly sponsorship could not be renewed with the Formula Dream package looking at all its options. Third, Marco Andretti possibly exploring F1 options and possibly forming his own team with grandfather. Fourth, Tony Kanan has not had the season he hoped for after signing a multi-year contract this past off-season.

4. Graham Rahal career best finish on an oval

A young American driver on a podium finish, that’s great for the IndyCar Series and Graham Rahal. While clearly the race didn’t factor into Grahams decisions to try for a win at the end, it was a good finish for the 20 year old driver and hopefully gives him momentum into the upcoming road courses. Graham and Marco Andretti are the future of the IndyCar series, and like their fathers, will make or break the longevity of the IndyCar series itself. For all the American drivers in NASCAR, a Rahal and Andretti making news in the IndyCar Series could be great for the series. The ultimate race is a Rahal and Andretti battling at the end of the race for the win, hopefully that is in the future of the 2009 season.

5. Team Penske – What happened?

Team Penske had an unusual race as Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves finished 17th and 19th respectively. Both drivers suffered similar fates, just in different stages of the race. Briscoe was very disappointed after the race, as he seemed to be happy about the car during qualifications. This was the first race all season that we saw both Ryan and Helio be non-factors in the race. With three straight road courses on the IndyCar series schedule, it will be interested to see if Briscoe and Castroneves can bounce back and get back in the championship hunt.

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