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August 21, 2019
 

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Fumes


Tuesday
Apr012008

FUMES #439

April 2, 2008

IndyCar off to a strong start.

By Peter M. De Lorenzo

Detroit.
It was good to see last Saturday night's GAINSCO Auto insurance Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway go off without a major hitch. It was important for the well-being of the IndyCar drivers themselves, and it was crucial for the launch of the unified series. Some had predicted a high level of on-track carnage due to the former Champ Car drivers inexperience with the ovals, but fortunately that was not the case. Do the Champ Car teams have a lot to learn about oval setups? Of course they do, but the drivers used their heads, raced clean and they will get better with each oval race.

It was frankly an incredible sight to see that many Indy cars (26) take the green flag at Homestead, because a full field of Indy cars is something we're only used to seeing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May for the Indy 500.

And other than Tony Kanaan's on-track incident, which cost him a shot at the race win (not the fault of Ernsto Viso who was dealing with a flat tire), the race was interesting to watch and relatively caution free. It was also the fastest IndyCar race ever run at Homestead-Miami Speedway (a record race average speed of 171.248). Did we learn anything new? Not really. We knew that Andretti Green Racing, Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske would be tough all year, and the final standings last Saturday night confirmed that. And the drivers I mentioned last week, Dixon, Wheldon, Kanaan and Castroneves were - as advertised - tough and racy all night. But Marco finishing second was a strong indication of better things to come for the young driver's third full season in IndyCar, and Ryan Briscoe proved he's going to be a factor too - on ovals and road courses.

Next Sunday's St. Petersburg race is shaping up to be a battle, despite the fact that it's a funky course layout and the city has been giving AGR (the promoters for the event) fits in staging the event this year. As a matter of fact, look for St. Petersburg to be deleted from the 2009 IRL schedule in favor of a stronger event. I expect Champ Car teams and drivers to be ready to go in St. Petersburg, and the entire complexion of the series will change as soon as the IRL teams unload next weekend.

Is there a whiff of optimism finally in the air for major league open-wheel racing - and its long-suffering fans - here in North America? Well, perhaps just a trace of a whiff, but the fact that it's on the positive side of the meter as opposed to the negative side counts for meaningful progress at this point.

And it's about time.


Publisher's Note: In our continuing series celebrating the "Golden Era" of American racing history, here is another image from the Ford Racing Archives. - PMD

mtrsptshist_1822_HR1.jpg 
(Ford Racing Archives)

Le Mans, France, 1967. Mark Donohue exits the Ford MKIV he shared with Bruce McLaren during a pit stop at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. They finished fourth overall.