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Following a decade long absence and two run of the mill races since its return, IndyCar’s upcoming foray to Phoenix could make or break the series there.
Fully swathed in the spirit of dazzling open wheel oval track racing – and knowing the series’ crucial need of more of it – here’s our interpretive soothsaying for the season’s first egg shaped track.
Critical – from the Latin criticus, referring to a disease related crisis.
Photo from jewishjournal.com
Our special prediction is when the Saturday night race finally does arrive, no matter how it goes, the racing will be criticized. If it isn’t the drivers apologizing all over themselves again, it’ll be the so-called writers. If not them, then the segment of fans who somehow find fault in every single oval race will do the disparaging. Hell, it may well be us – last among the defenders of danger in racing – if it’s another dud. The series had better damn well have Phoenix figured out the third time around, or we fear they never will.
With the loose Lucy new cars, a “roval” type course at ISM and such a dearth of experience in the field, the pick for pole points predominantly to Penske. Yeah Sato, RLL and Honda were tops in the February open test, but – vitally – this isn’t a test. Besides, Penske just swept the most recent one at Barber. The Cap’n’s crew took four of the top five positions in qualifying at Phoenix last year before Pags and Power strode atop the post race podium like pompous prima donnas. One of them will likely be on pole again, so we’re going with Power for meanness’ sake. Hopefully pole position’s not so pivotal this all important time around.
First out is a difficult choice, as there’s just so dang many rookies to choose from – and that’s on top of Taku (or is it Dixon these days?). Thankfully there’ll be no meddling Russkies to blame this year after Mikhail’s mindless first lap pileup involving five cars in 2017, sparing us that unattractive ordeal. But a third of the field is made up of greenhorns, so expect plenty of yellows and – like last race – considerable carnage. In that vein, we’re going with A.J. Foyt Racing’s nineteen year old Mattheus Leist, again. Not to get too analytical, but it worked exceedingly well last time.
The biggest surprise of the race will be a pleasant one, as NBCSN takes over the coverage from the Always Being Crass network. Expect fundamentally better coverage, though what’s coming next is decidedly unpleasant. Inexplicably – other than ratings – quals won’t be aired at all this year on television; at least none are currently scheduled. If this holds, it’ll be a first in modern IndyCar history. So much for all those positives the series brass has been blathering about.
On a happier note, Disney’s child recently announced they were out following the season, bringing huge sighs of relief if not outright cheers from many critics -er, fans. For our readers, it was a foregone conclusion. Won’t it be great to have Paul Tracy’s elucidating and explanatory skills back in the booth? As color man, the cutting Canuck‘s definitely the critics’ choice.
Winner of the Phoenix Grand Prix will be someone we’ve been critical of in the past, which narrows it down to about two thirds of the field. But it’s also a driver we’ve picked before. Despite a strong urge to go with Graham Rahal after his showing at St. Pete as well as Phoenix last year, it’s not to be. Defending champ Josef “apparel line” Newgarden will certainly go critical at some point this season, so why not with a bang in the desolate desert southwest? It just seems fitting.