FIRST IMPRESSIONS: 2013 Firestone 550

First Impressions, IndyCar — By on June 9, 2013 12:43 pm
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The first-ever prime-time IndyCar race on ABC at Texas Motor Speedway is complete. Here, the More Front Wing crew offers up our first impressions of the 2013 Firestone 550.

PAUL’S IMPRESSIONS:

This won’t go down as one of the most exciting of the 25 IndyCar races at Texas Motor Speedway, but when the checkered flag flew the most dominant driver climbed the fence and fired the pistols.

IndyCar fans and detractors are already weighing in on the perceived lack of action during the race. However, I felt that we got exactly what many people have been asking for for a long time — racing that allowed a faster car to actually pull away, cars that were difficult to drive, and tires that actually required teams and drivers to chase the car throughout the race. It wasn’t necessarily a barn burner, but I didn’t think it was a bad event.

The knee-jerk reactionists will be (actually they already are) bemoaning that IndyCar went too far with the aero changes and took away a lot of what made last year’s race so phenomenal. To an extent, I agree with them. After what was one of the best oval races in many years last year, I don’t actually think IndyCar needed to make any changes, and the changes they did make didn’t seem to improve the product. I’m hoping that they will reevaluate their constant need to keep changing regulations seemingly just for the sake of changing them. With races coming up at Milwaukee and Iowa in the next two weeks, both tracks that presented incredible racing last year, let’s hope IndyCar takes a conservative approach to aero changes going forward.

And yes, the TV coverage was absolutely appalling. I’m sure we’ll discuss it (again, sadly) on this week’s podcast.

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STEPH’S IMPRESSIONS:

I don’t think it will come as a surprise to many people that Texas isn’t my favorite track on the schedule. Regardless, I always do my best to go into it with an unbiased and open mind.

That said, I was pleasantly surprised by a few things last night. For one, despite the fact that a Penske car won an oval race in a runaway, which is never particularly shocking on its own, the victory by Helio Castroneves still added a new driver and a new team to the list of winners in 2013. And through 228 laps, not a single car ended up in the wall despite a modified aero package that had everyone on the edge all night long. Pretty amazing stuff.

But I also came away from this one with some concerns. I’m worried that North American audiences have been so brainwashed by flashy graphics and gimmicks that they no longer have a tolerance for racing in its purest form. I’m worried that a night race in prime time on ABC might have attracted some new viewers who left just as quickly as they arrived because of the poor production values and lack of engagement from the booth talent. (They didn’t even bother to inform us that crew members had been injured in the explosion in Scott Dixon’s pit until after the checkered flag flew, for Pete’s sake.) And I’m worried that the aero changes were taken just a little too far and that the drivers were unhappy enough that the swing back to win their favor will render the superspeedway formula too conservative.

All in all, it was a good but not great race that could have been portrayed as a better product had the focus been in the right place. Sadly, it wasn’t, and another opportunity to make gains in audience has been lost.

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CHAD’S IMPRESSIONS:

Yeah… we need aero kits.

Listen, that was racing in its purist form. A long green flag run allowed a dominating leader to almost lap the field. Sorry, there are no Lucky Dawgs here. To have only four cars on the lead lap at the end of the race was great. Helio worked his butt off in those last 130 laps and deserved to have that huge lead.

Great performances by Tony Kanaan, Ed Carpenter, Josef Newgarden, and Takuma Sato, who came all the way from the back. Sneaky good finishes for Dario Franchitti, Will Power, and James Hinchcliffe. I’m still waiting for Graham Rahal to find something, but I don’t know if that is going to happen. Another great drive by his teammate James Jakes, though.

Any IndyCar race at Texas is great, and the greatness is only magnified with it being under the lights and not involving any type of pack racing. The tire deterioration really put this in the driver’s hands, and for none of them to put it in the wall was a credit to their talent. That’s a good thing, too, given that they’ll be running another race in less than a week. The stands should be packed in Milwaukee and for good reason. Let the big ball of momentum keep on rolling.

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JOHN’S IMPRESSIONS:

Judging from Twitter I may in the vocal minority on this one, but I thought last night’s race was what oval racing should be about. Managing the tires, setting up the car, and working to get the power down sooner than your competitors.

I like to see winners on oval be deserving, and I thought this formula gave us that. Helio and the Penske Racing team were the fastest car last night consistently, and they deserved to take home the win.

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