Random Thoughts On St. Petersburg

After much buildup about how interesting the new unified body kit for the Verizon IndyCar Series was going to make things, my hope was that the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg would not end up being a parade. After all, when twenty-four cars have the exact same chassis and aero kit and the only thing separating them is the engine and the talent of the team and driver  – the possibility of a parade of evenly matched cars would not be out of the question.

I’m not sure if one race tells the story of how a chassis will perform over a seventeen race season; but based on what we saw yesterday – I’d say the folks at IndyCar knew what they were doing and the new car is a winner.

Speaking of winners, Sébastien Bourdais won his second IndyCar race at St. Petersburg in as many years – both times in dramatic fashion. Last year, Bourdais charged from a last place starting position to finish first. Yesterday, Bourdais started fourteenth, but had to pit just after the start for a tire going down thereby putting him at the back of the field.

But excellent strategy by Dale Coyne for the second year in a row put Bourdais up front and in position for an opportunity to win. That opportunity came on the last of eight restarts with two laps remaining.

Robert Wickens was leading, Alexander Rossi was just behind in second and Bourdais was running third; when Wickens and Rossi got together going into Turn One. What quickly turned into a nightmare for Wickens, suddenly turned what looked like a certain third place finish into a last-minute win for Bourdais. Rossi recovered and finished third. More on this incident later.

This wild finish capped off what looked like was going to be a crash fest in the early going. By Lap 39, there had been five full-course cautions. But after the first half of the race, things settled down and there was not another caution until Lap 102, when rookie Rene Binder found the tire barrier. There were two more cautions after that, before the race finished under caution on Lap 110.

This race was not a clinic on how to drive a race car, unless your name was Robert Wickens – who drove as close to a perfect race as anyone could before being spun into the Turn One wall. But to be fair – it would have been a surprise had it been a clinic. Drivers – veterans and rookies alike – were having problems all weekend figuring this car out on the narrow streets of St. Petersburg. It did not help that a powdered reflective coating was used to treat the white markings on the runway, making it like ice as the cars drove across it while heading into Turn One.

But making the car more difficult to drive was the goal and I think they succeeded. As the season moves on, the very talented drivers will figure this car out, while those less talented will struggle. Less downforce in the new car means more skill is required to drive it. This car will be figured out, but in the meantime – we will have days like yesterday, when the races aren’t always pretty but they are very entertaining.

TV Coverage: If you follow Adam Stern (@A_S12) on Twitter, you may have seen what he tweeted out a week or so ago. He is the motorsports reporter for the SportsBusiness Daily and he reported last week that barring a last-minute miracle on the part of ABC/ESPN, the IndyCar TV deal is going to NBC.

How do I put this kindly? I want to be fair because through this site, I’ve gotten to know a few folks at ESPN – one in particular, and I value his friendship. But based on the production I saw yesterday, it looked like ESPN is doing just the bare minimum to satisfy the terms of the current deal that expires at the end of this season. I’m thinking they know the jig is up and they are not going to do any more than they have to.

How else could you explain some of the things we saw yesterday?

First of all, this was the race that kicked off one of the most anticipated IndyCar seasons in years. ABC/ESPN doesnt do qualifying shows like NBCSN always does, or the occasional Friday practice shows; so they did not hit the air at all through the weekend until Sunday.

With that being the case, ABC/ESPN gave us a four minute pre-race show before the command to start engines. That was not a typo – that was four minutes. Just let that sink in for a second – four minutes. FOX gave the NASCAR kickoff two hours of pre-race on Big FOX after spending most of the morning warming up viewers on FS1. Now, I thought that was overkill on FOX’s part, but four minutes is an insult. It’s not like ABC had a lot of other things going on. When I turned on the TV thirty minutes early, our ABC affiliate was showing an infomercial on scuba diving in the Caymans. This was after having to dig deep into the ESPN website all through the weekend to find even a mention of yesterday’s race.

The four-minute pre-race show was followed by a non-existent post-race show. They were in such a rush to get off the air that they couldn’t even wait for Sébastien Bourdais to get out of the car before interviewing him. As soon as they wrapped that up, it was off to college basketball. Do you think it might have been interesting to hear what Robert Wickens or Alexander Rossi had to say about their tussle? Well, too bad! You’ll have to go dig that out on your own.

What went on between the pre-race and post-race was no better. I don’t know who makes the decisions for when to cut away for commercials, but unless it is an unpaid intern – ESPN is not getting their money’s worth. During the first two caution periods of the race – meaning not once, but twice – the cameras followed the cars around for a while under yellow, before deciding this would be a good time to cut away to commercials. In the side-by-side window, you could tell when the cars came off of Turn Fourteen that they were going back to green. After watching the cars speed down the main straightaway and into Turn One, the coverage picked back up. This happened two times in a row within the first nine laps of the race. Happening once was a very bad mistake, but committing the same sin on the very next caution period was inexcusable.

They did the same thing when critical green-flag pit stops were going on. They even acknowledged they knew they would be coming up at any time, yet some bozo thought that was the time to cut away to a commercial that was not in side-by-side mode. When they came back, we learned that the leaders had pitted and we were treated to replays of the pit stops, which is just not the same. I’m sure there are required hard breaks during a telecast that are not very flexible, but it gives viewers the appearance of either incompetence or apathy on ESPN’s part. Neither is good.

On the bright side, I thought Allen Bestwick did his usual stellar job. He is a steady professional and deserves much better than to be saddled with what he was stuck with yesterday. Eddie Cheever spewed his favorite cliché of “Catching him is one thing, passing him is another”. How original. Scott Goodyear did nothing bad, but he did nothing noteworthy either. Jon Beekhuis is an excellent reporter and shines on the technical side. To give him roughly sixty seconds to explain the differences with the new car, does Beekhuis and viewers alike a disservice.

The Bourdais Win: If you saw the video of the frightening crash that Sébastien Bourdais suffered at Indianapolis last May, most would have been happy just knowing that he survived it. I was standing on pit row when the crash happened. I’ve never seen a large facility like that go so silent, so quickly. Until we had confirmation that Bourdais had in fact survived the crash, you could have heard a pin drop inside IMS.

I was happy that we were able to see Bourdais back in the car before the end of last season. I knew he would be back in his car this year, but I’ll admit I questioned just how effective he would be. I don’t know that I’ve ever been so glad to admit that I was wrong.

To think back where Sébastien Bourdais was this time ten months ago to seeing him in victory lane yesterday is truly remarkable.

And don’t overlook the newfound strength of the Dale Coyne team now that Jimmy Vasser and James Sullivan are on board. As was the case this time last year, Bourdais and Dale Coyne lead the championship. This year, I hope they can carry the momentum through the season.

The Last Restart: I’ve already offended a couple of you who e-mailed me yesterday wanting my take on the Wickens-Rossi incident. So, I’m guessing many disagree with the way I saw it. I really had no rooting interest in the deal, since I had picked Graham Rahal to win last Friday – so I consider my viewpoint to be fairly objective and unbiased.

First of all, Robert Wickens drove a perfect race. He surprised me by winning pole, but I attributed that to the weather in qualifying. Now, I’m not so sure. After starting on Pole, Wickens led sixty-nine of the 110 laps. He was flawless on pit stops, restarts and always pulled away from the competition. He never put a wheel wrong and undoubtedly had the fastest car on the track.

But on the final restart, it looked to me as if Rossi got a better jump on the restart than Wickens did. Rossi had his nose tucked just behind Wickens’ gearbox as they went down the main straightaway. When Rossi made his move to pull even with him, Wickens seemed to move over almost the width of the car to block him before veering back to make room.

The two cars were side-by-side as they went into the corner. At that point, I really thought it was Rossi’s corner. Rossi’s right wheels actually went over the curbing, so you know he wasn’t making his car wide. But as everyone’s car was doing yesterday – especially on old tires – Rossi’s car started to slide to the left. At the same time, Wickens tried to take his normal line with Rossi’s car between him and the apex of the corner. The two touched and Wicken’s perfect day was scored as a very forgettable eighteenth place finish.

Here are two videos which show different angles of the incident, one in slow-motion.

Robert Wickens was understandably upset in post-race interviews (the ones we didn’t get to see on ABC). Anyone who had driven the race he had driven, only to end up in the fence would be upset. But I don’t think Rossi did anything wrong. He had one more chance to get past Wickens and he made a very calculated move. He didn’t dive-bomb Wickens, like what Scott Dixon did to Takuma Sato.

It’s unfortunate the way it came out, but had the result been the same as when Josef Newgarden side-bumped teammate Simon Pagenaud for the lead – everyone would be talking today about what a great move Rossi put on Wickens. Instead, he’s persona non grata today in some corners.

Wickens spoke afterwards of how surprised he was that Rossi would go that deep into the turn. Later on, Wickens was asked about the Will Power incident at the start that found Power getting turned around and left Power none too pleased with the Canadian rookie pole sitter. Wickens responded that he was surprised that Power tried to keep the nose of his car in that deep.

My thoughts? Robert Wickens impressed me throughout the entire weekend. What happened is unfortunate. It wasn’t his fault, nor was it Alexander Rossi’s fault. It just happened. It was simply a racing incident. Rossi ended up on the podium, while Wickens went back to the pits wondering what could have been.

But Wickens seems to be a savvy race car driver. This was his first time in IndyCar competition. He will learn not to be so surprised that IndyCar drivers go deeper into the corner than expected. He will learn from what happened yesterday and it’ll be a while before he lets it happen again. His day will come – sooner than later.

Based on what I’ve been seeing posted on social media, my opinion is not going to be Very popular with most people. Everyone is entitled to their opinions. We can all look at the same video and see it in different ways. I was impressed with Wickens all day yesterday and think he has a great career in front of him. But that’s the way I saw things yesterday.

Good Addition: Since ABC didn’t hit the air until Sunday, I spent the rest of the weekend watching practice and qualifying live on You Tube and IndyCar.com. The commentary from the IndyCar Radio Network is piped in and is always good. When it was announced that Davey Hamilton was stepping away to work with Carlin, it was easy to wonder if the quality of the broadcast would drop. It hasn’t.

Former Star Mazda and Indy Lights driver Anders Krohn was chosen to fill in for Hamilton. Based on his debut this weekend, he did more than fill in. He was superb!

I learned to like Krohn when he did fill-in duty in the pits last year on NBCSN. I liked him because he was not the smoothest or most polished, but he seemed very genuine. Best of all, he always had a smile on his face like he was having the time of his life.

Now he is paired with Mark Jaynes in the booth as the expert driver analyst. He brought a lot of insight and humor to the broadcast. This will be a very popular move with fans, as he grows into this role over the season.

Slow Trigger-Finger: I’m taking this as a hopeful sign of things to come. When Will Power was spun around in Turn Two of the opening lap, that was a prime opportunity to throw a full-course yellow. Fortunately, he was able to continue and the race stayed green. Then when Tony Kanaan spun later in the same lap and appeared to be blocking the track, I feared it was another opportunity for a full-course yellow. But race officials waited to see if Kanaan would be able to get going on his on. He finally did and the track stayed green. In years past, either incident would have brought out a quick yellow. I commend those in Race Control for not being over-anxious in throwing a yellow.

Quick Cleanup: Not only was IndyCar hesitant to throw out the yellow flag, when they did – it didn’t seem to stay out as long as in previous years. I did some checking and my hunch was correct. This year, there were as many as eight caution periods yesterday (all justified) for a total of twenty-five laps. That’s an average of 3.125 laps per caution period. Last year at St. Petersburg, the average was 4.0 laps per caution. The 2016 Firestone Grand Prix of St, Petersburg had a whopping eight laps of yellow per caution period.

If this was a conscious decision by IndyCar to get the race restarted quicker – my hat’s off to them.

A Sign of Things to Come? At least four times yesterday, I noticed that Alfa Romeo commercials were running during the race broadcast. There have been rumors out there for a while that another engine manufacturer could be coming on board in 2020, and that the new partner could be Alfa Romeo. Were the commercials a pure coincidence or a sign of things to come?

Drive of the Day:  Overlooked in all of the hoopla over the last restart and the emotional win by Bourdais, is the drive by Graham Rahal. While Wickens did a masterful job of staying up front most of the day – he started there. Rahal on the other hand, started in the very back of the field in the twenty-fourth starting spot and ended up with a second-place finish. He overcame problems early on and gradually worked his way through the field. He also overcame me picking him to win on Friday. That in itself earns Rahal my “Drive of the Day” award.

All in All: I thought this was a strong opening for the Verizon IndyCar Series. The new car performed as hoped and it looked great. There were seven rookies in the field and four new teams. Car count was increased by three over last year’s count and it was a fun race to watch. It was a little exasperating during the first half when the yellows kept coming out, but once things settled down – it was fun to watch.

And what about that ending? Whether you were a Rossi fan, a brand new Wickens fan or just a racing fan – it was a great ending to a hard fought race. Why was it so great? Because hours after the race, it was still trending on Twitter, even on Selection Sunday for March Madness. Trending on Twitter is he new way of saying that people were still talking about it long after the race had ended. That’s a good thing.

The bad thing is that there is not another race for four weeks. That’s too long. No matter how great this race weekend was or how long people are talking about it, there is no way on earth that IndyCar can sustain the momentum from this race for four weeks. Just as we get excited about IndyCar racing, we now have to go back into our winter slumber for another month.

If some of these races that people are wanting to come to fruition could be slotted into the weekend of March 23-25, that would give us eighteen races with no more than a two-weekend gap until summer. Something tells me that IndyCar is already working on this. They’ve been doing a much better job of presenting this series lately.

But other than that little down note, I’m excited. I was pumped going into the weekend, and yesterday’s race did not disappoint. I’m very curious to see how the new body kit performs at Phoenix, before the series goes to Long Beach and we attend our first race in person at Barber the weekend of April 20-22.

Something tells me that this is going to be a very fun season.

George Phillips

37 Responses to “Random Thoughts On St. Petersburg”

  1. James T Suel Says:

    No dout Rossi had to make a move. But that move was never going to work, because he lost the reared and slid into Wickens and spUn him. Then Rossi want to blame Wickens ,sorry that does not get it. No one said anything , but Scott Dixson made the biggest mistake I have ever seen him do! Should be a interesting season..

  2. Rossi had to try but I just don’t like how it was handled. Personally I am more upset at the trademark lack of consistency in penalties. You take a guy out like that, you should be placed behind them in the order. Will Power has been penalized for les sin the past. Helio lost a race for less.

    Also, please don’t give Wickens Fiance the Ashley Judd act, I think most agree that the constant shots of the wives gets annoying fast.

    Otherwise it was a great show, the broadcast was pretty good by those guys low standards. I liked how we missed restarts, pit stops, etc on ABC, just grand. I also noted that Helio was 100% more observant to things in his short time in the booth, picking up on a few things that Bestwick was missing.

  3. As far as Always Bad Coverage is concerned, the choir is nodding off. Hopefully we can celebrate within the next year of them being gone. I have grown so tired of the usual suspects that I am tempted to turn off the sound. I am not bad mouthing Bestwick, but the whole attitude by ABC by just doing the minimum is a slap in the face to IndyCar. It is tough to believe we have to wait for 4 weeks until the next race. It’s too long. Great race though.

  4. I agree with everything you said.
    I had not heard what Adam Stern said about the TV rights. That is so good to hear. The rights need to go to NBC.

  5. Bruce Waine Says:

    Wonder what the entire weekend would have been like were it not for the extensive evil “powdered reflective paint coating” on the “track at the end of the front straight which all drivers could not avoid?

    Wonder if the individuals who layed out the track configuration gave much (engineering physics) thought to the implications of vehicles at speed (let alone racing vehicles at speed) and the induced slippage (aka lack of traction) that this particular portion of the “track” has due to the extensive “powdered reflective paint coating”?

    Evidently not.

    Wonder if there was any concern for safety due to the inherent paint conditions?

    When driving on ovals, drivers well know to beware of the resultant consequences of driving low in a corner over the painted white line.

    Yet, given the alternatives that must have been available towards the end of the front straight, the individuals that layed out the track configuration at St. Petersburg cannot be commended for their superb course layout …. and resultant inherent race consequences.

    • You do realize that the race has been running on this exact configuration of track (minus a re-profiling of Turn 3 last year, which is now back to original profile) since 2003, right?

      Given that the painted patches are suddenly more of an issue than they have been for the last 15 years, I’m wondering if there was a new coat of paint on the runway this year. If so, yeah, that’s maybe a bit of a miss for IndyCar and the track builders, but even given the fact that there were three incidents during the race that involved drivers overcooking it into Turn 1, in part to the slickness of the paint (and one of those came in the semi-desperation of a last ditch attempt to win the race), there were also dozens of passes that occurred without incident in this same area. I feel like I’m more Mr. “Focus on Safety” than many, but to me, it feels like hyperventilating about safety when there were two wheel to wheel incidents and one “rear ender” incident in an area where we see quite a few wheel to wheel incidents every year (which is what happens in deep braking zones at every track everywhere) seems a little panicky to me.

      • Bruce Waine Says:

        Let us not overlook the numerous incidents that occurred at this same corner while racing vehicles were being driven on the track at speed over several days time prior to the actual race events yesterday

        Then compare the number of said events this past weekend to previous years.

        The conditions of the track surface at this particular corner at St. Pete are not equivalent, nor are they parallel, to the surface conditions which you describe (at every track) in your concluding sentence. In other words apples & oranges……………..

        Just returned from a visit with my physician and you will be glad to know that I had not been “hyperventilating” or “panicing.”

  6. Rossi’s attempt seemed very “Nascar” to me. It may be just racing, but its a shame to see the leader knocked out of the race at the very end by a move like that. And the guy who causes it all gets to finish third.

    I do like the more intelligent use of the yellow flag that was displayed yesterday.

    I was just happy the race was on network TV so I got to watch it!

  7. I was surprised, at first, by the drive that Robert Wickens was putting together, but when I remembered he was driving for Schmidt Peterson I knew this was another example of a “team sport” situation and I became a fan. I like this team and I like Wickens, too. This, will be a terrific year.

    By the way, Graham put in an excellent day of work as did a few others that I enjoy following.

  8. I think the no-call on Rossi was spot on. INDYCAR has been very consistent over the past several years that if a driver is alongside another driver in the corner and they make contact, it is NOT avoidable contact. Avoidable contact has consistently been called when a drive simply drives into the back of another driver (i.e. chrome horns him) or barely gets a wheel up to another driver (i.e. LF to RR or RF to LR) and spins him out – basically what Dixon did when he tried to pass Sato from about 15 car-length back entering T1. In this case, Rossi was completely alongside Wickens going into the corner. It was truly unfortunate they made contact and Wickens came out on the short end of this one. But it really was a racing accident that didn’t warrant a penalty.

    • Alan Stewart Says:

      Thank you for typing exactly what I was going to post … though I was going to throw in the comparison about how Sato felt like his only shot to beat Dario at Indy was in T1 and how everyone praised him for the guts … what happened yesterday was different only in that it wasn’t the passer that crashed, but the pass-ee (???). The moment a driver doesn’t do all that he can (within his limits and within the car’s limits) to win a race is the moment that driver needs to reconsider his profession.

  9. Ron Ford Says:

    Rossi has a great future in Nascar. As other drivers learned during the race, if you are going to stick your nose deep into a corner, learn to control the car. Learn to drive the car. How the penalty review board could allow Rossi to finish 3rd and Wickens way back in the field is beyond my comprehension. No comprendo!

  10. I enjoyed the race. Wickens was surprising as were other rookies such as Jordan King, Matheus Leist and Zachary Claman De Melo. I like the look of the new car and thought it seemed to race decently.

    There were a definite lack of cameras as Bestwick had to apologize a few times as they couldn’t find very good video of various incidents. A few static cameras strategically placed would have helped.

    Overall a good start to the season but have to agree that once they start, there should be no more than two weeks between races.

  11. Oh yeah, wanted to add that you shouldn’t be able to take out the leader like Rossi did and still keep your position. I’d have wanted him to be sent to the back of the line.

  12. According to the Indy Star the pace car driver (Sarah Fisher?) forgot to turn off the lights. Wickens had been told over the radio but the pace car confused him and he didn’t get his best re-start. Understandable for someone in his first IndyCar race.

    • billytheskink Says:

      We NEED Scott Goodyear’s commentary on this, followed by Cheever ribbing him.

      That’s probably the only endearing thing either of them have going as broadcasters, Goodyear wincing at pace car issues and Cheever mocking him for it.

  13. Good points, George. ABC was pathetic yesterday. They missed so much! I do hope NBC does earn the TV contract. ABC already is acting like short timers.

    I am still miffed that Wickens didn’t win yesterday. He had been able to restart quickly all day, but with the pace car confusion Rossi had the better edge. No, I don’t think it was a NASCAR move per se from its last race, but still an unfortunate one. If Rossi had won I may be singing another tune today. On the plus side seeing Sebastien win again was indeed a pleasure.

  14. First up, I’d like to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the race itself, with the new and more challenging to drive cars, rookies of all sorts largely showing well for themselves, a great mixture of teams at the front (refreshingly, with Penske and Ganassi having no larger a presence in the top-10 than any other team), great wheel to wheel racing and a variety of strategies all converging at the end to a great finish. Like several folks have mentioned here, while I wasn’t pleased that Robert Wickens did not receive the result that he very much deserved, I was OK with the penalty “no-call” at the end. I didn’t love Graham Rahal not getting a penalty for whacking into Spencer Pigot, but it didn’t bother me a ton, and I think Scott Dixon’s penalty was well merited (unfortunately for him, he might not have known that Takuma Sato was in front of whichever car he was passing, but the result was him basically assaulting Taku, which is not OK), but Rossi was basically front-wheel-to-front-wheel when the contact was made with Wickens. Sure, Rossi was going a few MPH too fast to make the apex of the corner, but he hadn’t made the attempt from a mile back, and he was also dealing with a slight loss of braking power caused by Wickens forcing him to make a late change in line (by the theory of the friction circle, making a lateral move will make braking force reduce, and making such a late line change likely made Rossi miss his intended braking point by a few yards, which likely made all the difference in the result being contact with Wickens). Whatever the case, to my eyeball, this is about as close to a 50.0000% / 50.0000% “racin’ deal” as you can draw up, and while it sucks to see the aggressor come out so much better in the results than the victim, well, sometimes that’s racing.

    With all of that out of the way, my main beef, like for most folks, was the TV coverage. I’ll lead this part of my thoughts with saying that I’m actually not all that upset with the super short pre- and post-races. If you’re trying to shoehorn an IndyCar race into a 2 ½ hour time block on network TV (apparently, that’s all that was available, as local affiliates depend on those infomercials for income and NBA pregames probably pull higher ratings than any IndyCar race outside of Memorial Day weekend), the first thing that’s gotta go are extended non-race segments. I’d have liked more like a 10-15 minute pre-race instead of just 4 minutes, but, maybe getting right to the action helps pull in folks who tuned by at the top (or bottom) of the hour (I guess we’ll see when the ratings numbers come out in a day or two). And the post-race, well, the race ran long, and I’d rather the race go the whole distance with a 2 minute post-race instead of a shortened or timed race with a 10 minute post-race (YMMV, but I like watching cars go fast over people talking about going fast). On the other hand, missing one re-start completely and re-joining from commercial as the cars hit the braking zone for the VERY NEXT RESTART NOT 10 MINUTES LATER is something I’d expect of a network just taking on racing coverage, not one that’s been doing this for 30+ years. The race direction around handling pitstops continues to be horrific (I wrote a two piece blog post about this on my old site in freaking 2009, after ABC butchered the critical moments of Justin Wilson’s win at Watkins Glen, and it seems like they haven’t learned much of anything in the ensuing 9 years), and the presence of a single person in the truck who can watch Timing and Scoring and coax the director’s attention to things other than the leader(s) would be greatly appreciated. Off the top of my head, things I saw on T&S that we saw little or none of on screen: Graham Rahal struggling on old tires near the end of the race and getting reeled in by James Hinchcliffe and then Ryan Hunter-Reay, Scott Dixon slicing through the field after not just his penalty for the Taku incident but also a pit lane speeding penalty; also Gabby Chaves ran in the top-10 for a new single car team for about 3/4ths of the day and we heard his name literally one time, Spencer Pigot had a strong top-10 run going on a very favorable strategy until late pit stop problems dropped him down the order, defending Series Champion Josef Newgarden magically appeared in the top-10 at the end, with basically no mention, Simon Pagenaud was the most invisible day-glo race car driver possibly in history, with zero mention all day, and on and on.

    ADD IN to all of this, what was apparently a problem localized to my Tulsa ABC affiliate (as corroborated by one other local here, and not noticed by any other person I have interacted with or seen comment from), various microphones on the coverage dropped in and out all day long. Three of the 7-8 occurrences that were most troubling: Jon Beekhuis’s pre-race bit about the new car/aero package dropped out after about 5 words, with only ambient track noise to be heard, the announcers’ mics dropped out entirely at one point (again, you could still hear the ambient sound of the cars) and when they came back on, it was inexplicably Helio Castroneves speaking on air with no introduction, and, most crucially, when the booth guys threw to Sebastien Bourdais in victory lane, I heard quite literally ZERO words out of the Frenchman’s mouth (I could see Seb was extremely emotional, but got no idea of what was actually going through his head). Again, from what I’ve gathered, this was limited to the Tulsa affiliate, but it wasn’t a good look for ABC, with all of the other issues added in.

    Whatever the case, “Good Race, Crummy Coverage, Part 254”. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season, and even better, hopefully a 2019 with races only handled by NBC/NBCSN. It’s good to have IndyCar back to live racing to talk about again, and thanks, George, for keeping us all going through the off-season.

    • It is unfortunate that ESPN doesn’t offer the pre and post race shows in support of ABC. That would be a plus. Did you notice that F1’s first race is on ESPN 2? We at least were on the main network yesterday.

  15. billytheskink Says:

    I will be curious to see how the penalties and non-penalties affect penalties in races going forward. Precedent set isn’t always precedent followed in this series. I didn’t find the Rossi-Wickens incident egregious (same with the Rahal-Pigot no call), so I didn’t struggle with the lack of penalty, but I also would not have struggled with a penalty being called (well, I would have in the Rahal incident, because I’m biased).

    ABC’s issues were almost funny to me, because of how completely expected they were. I was mad about missed restarts (inexcusable is right), of course, but much of it was like watching Driven just to mock it. I won’t fault them for the lack of post-race, the race ran over its broadcast window and the NBA’s contract with ESPN undoubtedly and understandably supersedes Indycar’s. That’s just business. Had the race been 10 laps shorter, we would have gotten more pre- and post-race coverage, but I’ll take giving paying fans at the track their full 200 miles of racing over the generally fluffy non-action elements of a race broadcast.

    Still, I watched Sunday’s race (as well as NASCAR at Phoenix) with a racing neophyte, and they were consistently irritated with ABC’s coverage, particularly with the announcers (hey, at least they got into the race enough to care about this). Indycar did not come off looking great compared to NASCAR in their eyes, and the broadcast was a significant factor in that.

  16. Well, boogity, boogity, boogity.

    Just run the leader into the wall at the end of the race and that’s OK. After all, go at it boys. There ain’t no rules in ‘NASCAR without fenders’.

    Y’all lost all credibility and respect.

    Now if Joe New was run into the wall ………….

  17. There have been drivers over the years who could stick their car deep into a corner, tiptoe around the apex, and keep their car under control. Clearly Rossi is not or was not one of those on Sunday. Saying that this was one of those racin’ deals or that Rossi was wheel to wheel with Wickens ignores that fact. Certainly Rossi was even with Wickens in the turn, but he was out of control and sliding toward Wickens at the same time.

    • Bruce Waine Says:

      A from drivers like Andretti, Foyt, Mears, Parnelli Jones, Franchitti, Castroneves, or Power would they have taken the same line as Rossi?

      • Bruce Waine Says:

        From Paul Tracy sourced from RACER

        “….I’ve known Wickens a long time. And I feel bad for him the way it ended.”

        “But in reality, it looks like he didn’t get a great restart, didn’t protect the inside, left the door wide open, and I can see it from Rossi’s perspective. ”

        “If it was me, I would have drove it down the inside as well. You could’ve driven a Mack truck through there. ”

        “I would have been disappointed in Rossi if he didn’t go for it. ”

        “Rossi went for it, ultimately, they banged wheel to wheel, and he hip-checked Wickens out of the way. But the door was left open and that’s what racing is.”

      • Ron Ford Says:

        While the drivers you mentioned may well have taken the same line as Rossi, I am saying that they likely could have prevented their car from getting out of control and hip checking Wickens as Rossi did.

  18. Just wanted to comment on the broadcast. I used to think folks were too hard on Cheever and Goodyear. No, they are right. Why? Because when Helio joined the booth and he and Bestwick did all the talking for 10 minutes, the quality of the broadcast went up 100 percent. Helio brought energy, as expected, and I even felt like Bestwick seemed more excited talking with him. Once HCN left and the doldrum brothers took back over, I instantly found myself less interested. Eddie and Scott are probably nice guys and total gentlemen, but they’re simply not interesting. Can’t wait for some PT and Bell!

  19. ABC’s IndyCar race coverage was terrible but not as bad as Selection Show

  20. Mark J Wick Says:

    Good review George. I don’t have TV so I followed T&S and listened to the radio broadcast. Anders Krohn is a really great addition to the radio team. I really knew what was happening and why throughout the whole race.

  21. ed emmitt Says:

    If anyone thinks Rossi didn’t have the right to go for the win needs to watch some other sport. Racing is racing just ask our friend PT.

    No pre race or post race interviews was lousy on the part of ABC but overall I thought the coverage was find. Better than nothing.

  22. Shyam Cherupalla Says:

    Now if they can bring in Standing Starts at all Road and street Courses and keep the pits open during yellows, I won’t have anything more to ask from Indycar

  23. All I will say is I am sure glad most of these posts are not in Race Control. That was the best race ever at a course that is apathetic at best. Normally a yawner, this race had it all. Thanks to Jay Frye and his team for what they have built. 30+ Posts/responses tell me the 1st Race was a success. IndyCar is alive and well, plus a 1.0 or 11% increase is a nice start to the season.

  24. BrandonW77 Says:

    I’m shocked at so many people pointing the finger at Rossi. Give any driver in the field the run Rossi had with two laps to go and I guarantee every one of them would have gone for it just like he did. I sure as hell would have. Wickens knew people had been getting loose there all weekend, if he’d been smart he would have left an extra car length (plenty of room to do that in turn 1) instead of slamming the door which would have prevented the contact and he probably would have still held the position, at worst would have finished P2. This wasn’t a NASCAR-style incident, this was two drivers racing hard for the win. I’m disappointed with the outcome but the incident has a lot of people talking about IndyCar which is ultimately a good thing.

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