(Originally posted by Steph to Planet-IRL.com.)
Could we have asked for a better season opener?
Yesterday’s track issues were sorted out perfectly (with thanks due to Tony Cotman and the team at NZR Consulting), and the IZOD IndyCar Series responded by offering up drama in spades — albeit with a bit of help from Mother Nature.
The street-course haters have been forced to relent: once the cars could actually get down the Sambodromo straight on the throttle, this turned out to be a very well-designed track with several solid passing zones. And the Brazilian fans turned out in droves, refusing to be deterred even by monsoon-like conditions.
This event unquestionably belongs on the schedule, and it will be no surprise to see it remain for years to come.
Today’s race left us with some fascinating storylines — some new, some recurring, but all certain to be worth watching as the season unfolds:
- The comeback kids. How great was it to see not one but two of the drivers injured in horrific accidents in 2009 end up on today’s podium? In a press release, Will Power was quoted as saying that he was in tears as he took his cool-down lap. To go from lying in a hospital bed wondering if he’d ever race competitively again to winning his first race back is a feel-good story for the ages. And now that he’s got reason to be confident, we can only expect him to get even better.Vitor Meira’s story is just as inspiring. Speaking of Vitor…
- AJ Foyt Racing makes the podium. Not one person would have predicted that a) Vitor would come back from his injuries at Indy last year and finish as the top Brazilian in his home country’s first IZOD IndyCar Series race, and b) AJ Foyt Racing would start the season with a podium finish — and on a street course, no less! AJ has been extolling Vitor’s virtues for what seems like ages and has been completely dedicated to him throughout his recovery, all of which now looks fully justified. It would be very surprising if this was a flash in the pan — out of nowhere, this is suddenly a team to watch.
- Taku spawns mayhem. As my Planet-IRL colleague Paul stated on Twitter at the time, it looked an awful lot like Taku forgot that he didn’t have F1 brakes when he tore through several cars with his unfortunate late-braking move in the first turn. Perhaps he’s got more of a learning curve to tackle in the IZOD IndyCar Series than we thought.
- Mario and Marco: resurging shades of rivalry. That was an extremely scary incident, and one should never make light of a car landing on a driver’s head. But Marco’s quote in his interview on IMS radio was too telling to ignore. When asked what went through his head when he felt the hit, Marco responded, “Moraes.” Punny but revealing: this could be an interesting rivalry indeed if it ever panned out, and today’s incident is unlikely to leave Marco’s thoughts any time soon.
- FAZZT Race Team makes an explosive debut. Regardless of one’s opinion of Tag (and it seems that everyone has an opinion), it’s impossible not to feel good about the future of this team after today’s incredibly strong showing. As it turns out, Marty Roth’s equipment was capable of some speed, and Alex proved it by putting the Bowers & Wilkins car on the front row of the starting grid right out of the gate. An unfortunate DNF through no fault of Tag’s ended his day early, but it’s hard to imagine that we’ve seen the last of this team at the front of the field.
- Briscoe stuffs it into the tires. And thus, he starts the 2010 season in much the same way that he ended the last. It seems that Lauren George has some strong feelings on Ryan; after the incident, she tweeted, “Surprise, surprise. Typical briscoe brain fade! Saw that coming!!” It’s tough not to feel gutted for him, but yet another gaffe under pressure does force the question: how much longer will the Captain tolerate such inconsistency (out of a driver who has yet to win the Indy 500, at least)?
- Ryan Hunter-Reay demonstrates his worth. He drove the wheels off that race car today and with good reason: he’s only funded through May at the moment, and he knows he has no choice but to prove himself. If he keeps it up and the folks in the IZOD marketing department are watching, securing a bit more activation funding to keep him on the grid should be an easy sell.
And yet, perhaps the most important point of all is that, having gained all of these stories out of one eight-hour day at the track in Sao Paulo, we are unquestionably in for one heck of an IZOD IndyCar Series season in 2010. Bring it on.