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Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden won from pole for the first time at Elkhart Lake on Sunday, scoring his tenth career triumph in a paltry parade round a track unworthy of hosting a major league race. So what does IndyCar do, hot on the heels of being dropped from Phoenix, one of a few, dwindling oval tracks left? They reward Road America with a three year extension. Great. Meanwhile, in the utter dumbing down of the sport, ovals are being systematically eliminated from the schedule.
Newkid led 53 of the almost agonizingly boring 55 laps, with what little engaging entertainment there was emerging deep in the field or, in reality, when the tipsy though not unattractive blonde crashed Josef’s champagne spraying party in victory lane. His patting her ass is epic, especially in this age of outrage assassins. Otherwise, the highest drama occurred when race control was reviewing several on track fracases, usually involving Rossi and in every single case – except those involving the pits – offering no action whatsoever. Just exactly like the racing.
The Penske front row didn’t last long as Power dropped like a stone once the green flag flew, shouting “engine!” into his mic. Turned out to be a header issue and precisely as we predicted the unlikable Aussie failed miserably, first out of the race. Ryan Hunter-Reay advanced to second as a result, where he would ultimately finish making it an all American 1-2.
In a move he’s become infamous for, particularly against Robby Wickens, Rossi practically forced him off track after the Canuck rookie cockily tried to prevent the 500 winner‘s inside pass, to no avail. The ordeal was highly reminiscent of St. Pete – or on another level, the War of 1812 – though the ending was different. Karma’s king in Wisconsin, as the Canadian rookie enjoyed the upper hand finishing fifth to Rossi’s sixteenth, due to a late race steering problem.
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RHR challenged Newgarden early, though not very convincingly, followed by Rossi, Sato and Bourdais. Like Rossi, the Frenchman and former winner SeBass’ car had issues, costing him a potentially strong showing. If it weren’t for mechanical failures, the entire field would have wound up approximately where they started. If that’s not a sure sign of a lousy race course, then one doesn’t exist.
In the absence of any cautions and therefore restarts, the inertness of the green flag stops was even more noticeable. It was about this time that Daffy Leigh Diffey uttered the dreaded phrase “fuel mileage,” which is simply Aussie-talking-head-speak for tedious times at the track. Turning the merely bad into farce, NBCSN’s lap counter was at first non-existent, then incorrect for the entire first portion of the race. Talk in the booth of “bad data” continued throughout most of the afternoon, or what we could stand to pay attention to, at least.
As is often the case on regrettable road courses, it became a race terribly in need of a yellow and concomitant restart, though alas none was forthcoming. Chatter from Townsend, et al turned to soccer, an always telling – and lethal – sign during an American sporting event. In a rare display of aggressiveness on a dull day – once again from Rossi – Takuma “don’t touch me!” Sato was forced off track following contact and the door being rudely slammed shut on the Japanese, just as it was on Wickens earlier. Also like Wickens, Sato outperformed Rossi in the end. The sequence was reviewed, but of course no action was taken.
One mildly interesting incident did occur on pit lane, just as some of the wiser fans were inadvertently shown on camera headed towards the exits. Who can blame them? Wickens and Pags nearly collided as the Canuck ill-advisedly exited his pit cutting across the oncoming Frenchman’s nose. The rookie was waved out directly in front of a short stopping Pags, and thanks to Simon’s quick reaction disaster was narrowly averted. Again the mishap was reviewed, again with no action taken. Pags lost two spots thanks to the heedless SPM crewman’s actions, but got them back in the end, finishing seventh after starting fourteenth.
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The final dozen or so laps dragged on like a commencement ceremony, only with fewer mortar boards. Also as we predicted, the Zachs battled fiercely til the end, as Veach skillfully got around De Melo, who slid off course threatening a badly needed caution. Unfortunately for the racing – and thanks to the huge confines of the gargantuan track – he had enough room to rejoin the fray and did so, in the end edging his namesake and fellow rookie, who like his teammate Rossi encountered steering problems, by a spot.
In addition to little speed or opportunities for passing, the race had zero cautions and absolutely no action, certainly not compared to oval races, or even the odd decent street course. The pole sitter was never in doubt of winning, which is precisely what road courses breed: boring processionals rather than riveting racing. Post race, Diffey even admitted to “little overtaking,” while Hunter-Reay all but apologized: “I was hoping to make it more interesting for the fans. I just couldn’t catch up to Josef.”
Meanwhile, the fans sit back and take it as the most exciting tracks on the schedule – ovals from Michigan to Kansas to Phoenix to California – are being steadily obliterated. Just like the so called competition on redundant and tedious, turn and brake happy road courses, including Road America.