Thru Noggles Goggles .::. July 10th
As Mr. Goldsmith was preparing to return home and the group to return to the track for the second night’s racing program, a phone call from Gene Crucean, who had already gone to the track across town to begin his USAC photography duties, informed us that the Saturday night program was cancelled due to the extreme heat. (Could it also have been due to the small attendance the night before?) Here is the official announcement from the USAC website:
Temperatures continuing in the 105-degree range expected to adversely affect engines and track conditions and creating extreme heat in northern Indiana have forced cancellation of Saturday night’s USAC portion of the “Plymouth Palooza” at the Plymouth Speedway. The USAC Mopar National Midgets are scheduled to compete on Sunday night at Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie, WS, while the next scheduled appearance of the Midwest Ignite Midgets is July 13 at the Gas City (Ind.) I-69 Speedway.
Despite the heat, it was a weekend long to be remembered.
How about that R-H-R? Three in a row? Guess that’s not been done since A.J. Almendinger in ChampCar in 2006. Here’s more from Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star:
About an hour after winning a third consecutive IndyCar race and taking the series points lead from Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay dropped a point to remember moving forward. He’s in a contract year. With that, he smiled. He knows a pay raise could be coming.
Hunter-Reay’s boss, Andretti Autosport owner Michael Andretti, took a deep breath. He’ll probably have to sign that larger check. Maybe Hunter-Reay will receive IndyCar’s big trophy, too, as he is looking like the first American champion since Sam Hornish Jr. in 2006. He leads the standings by 34 points with five races to go. But the prize Sunday was the satisfaction of completing an impressive three-race stretch against a strong field.
The first of Hunter-Reay’s wins this season came June 16 at the Milwaukee Mile, a short track as flat as Washington Street and as busy as I-465 through the northeast corridor. Next up was the June 23 race at Iowa Speedway, which has big-oval characteristics. Laps take fewer than 18 seconds, and Hunter-Reay navigated them perfectly. Sunday’s victory came on the most troublesome street circuit in IndyCar. Six cars were involved in three separate crashes on the same lap of the Honda Indy Toronto. Hunter-Reay was ahead of it all.
“It is very satisfying for me to know that boom, oval, oval (wins),” he said. “Even last week people were starting to say, ‘Isn’t it weird that your past three races are wins on ovals and you’re supposed to be a road course guy? Then to get one at Toronto, it’s nice, for sure.”
Hunter-Reay now has four wins in the span of about 11 months, only one fewer than Will Power and three more than Dario Franchitti. Hunter-Reay’s website proclaims him as the winningest U.S. driver active in open-wheel racing, with more combined wins in IndyCar and sports car racing. Sunday’s win ran his career IndyCar total to eight. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., resident also has six more wins than his Andretti teammates, Marco Andretti and James Hinchcliffe, combined.
Hunter-Reay won this race by qualifying well enough (sixth), staying out of trouble, benefiting from a timely caution, driving away from the field in the second half and jumping Charlie Kimball and Sebastien Bourdais, the four-time Champ Car champion, on the final restart. He led a race-high 32 of the 85 laps. The bigger picture is the season title to secure.
Power felt he had the strongest car Sunday, but he made contact with rookie Josef Newgarden, breaking his left front wing. When it finally snapped off, Power’s tire got cut, forcing him to pit. He soon lost a lap and has left four consecutive races disappointed. He hasn’t finished on the podium (top three) since winning in Brazil in April.
Franchitti got yet another dose of bad luck, too, and in this case, he got two doses. He missed his pit box stopping point because the Ganassi Racing team had his sign in a different position. The crew had to manually move the car so the fuel hose could reach the intake valve.
On the final restart, Franchitti was helpless as Ryan Briscoe moved into his path. They made contact and both bounced off the wall, ending their races. Franchitti was slotted 17th in the final order and stands 105 points out of the lead for a fifth series title.
With Scott Dixon having yet another engine failure — he’ll exceed the series maximum of five engine changes during the July 22 race in Edmonton, drawing a 10-starting spot grid penalty — Hunter-Reay’s path to the title is clear. Beat Power.
“Don’t get me wrong; I’m not getting ahead of myself,” Hunter-Reay said. “The whole thing could change next weekend and we could be struggling. We just need to really enjoy (this). It’s nice to have realized that we’re in this position and this is what I’ve always wanted. Now we have to take hold of it and go get it done. To beat Will, Dario, Dixon, a lot of these guys, it’s going to be tough week in week out to do it. It’s going to take something special from us, maybe something more special than we’ve already done.”
If that happens, the accolades, along with the extra money, will follow.
The TNG “Most Improved Award” for Toronto goes to Charlie Kimball with a +13 (15th to 2nd). It was also a career- best finish for the Californian. It is also the second race in a row with Americans finishing in the “Top Two”. Second-best improved finishers with a +11 each was a tie between Oriol Servia (16th to 5th) and James Jakes (19th to 8th). Jakes’ finish was a career-best for him as well.
Fourth-best with a +10 was another tie between Mike Conway (13th to 3rd) in the ABC Foyt car and JR Hildebrand (17th to 7th). For the record, Oriol Servia now has a total of 98 improved spots this season !!
The “National Speed Sport News” staff reports on Toronto:
- [Michael Andretti (left) is hoping his driver Ryan Hunter-Reay can continue to ride his wave of momentum all the way to the IZOD IndyCar Series title. (Photo Courtesy IZOD IndyCar Series)]
Andretti Autosport principal Michael Andretti has sound advice for Ryan Hunter-Reay with five IZOD IndyCar Series races left. “Don’t do anything differently,” he said after joining Hunter-Reay in victory circle for the third consecutive race.
So maybe it’s not necessarily deep or inspiring, but it’s wise in its own right for the new championship leader. Hunter-Reay’s victory in the Honda Indy Toronto on July 8, combined with Will Power’s 15th place, vaulted the driver of the No. 28 Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda car into the front-runner’s spot by 34 points. It’s another 12 points back to Helio Castroneves in third.
Next up is the Edmonton Indy on the City Centre Airport course July 22, then three additional road/street races before the Sept. 15 season finale under the lights at Auto Club Speedway.
Andretti forecast Hunter-Reay as a championship contender entering the season, noting that he doesn’t believe the Florida resident has a weakness on any style of racetrack. Hunter-Reay’s wins have come on diverse racetracks – the flat Milwaukee Mile, the .875-mile Iowa Speedway with compound banking and on the narrow canyons of the 1.75-mile, 11-turn street circuit.
“As a team owner, that’s something we liked about Ryan, that we could be competitive on all types of tracks,” said Andretti, who won at Toronto seven times as a driver (the first in 1989) but picked up his first as an owner this time at Exhibition Place. “We’re looking forward to the next how many races we have. I don’t think there’s a weak track for him.
“I don’t think Ryan should do anything differently. I don’t think the team should do anything differently. We should just continue to do our job. If everybody does their job, we should be OK. If there’s no mistakes made the rest of the year, I think we have a good shot at winning the championship.” The last American series champion was Sam Hornish, Jr. in 2006, and this is Hunter-Reay’s first time in the driver’s seat.
“The only nerve-wracking part about the championship chase is that you don’t want to come under anybody else’s mistake,” said Hunter-Reay, who finished third the previous two years at Toronto. “It’s not so bad if you take yourself out of the race. That’s your own fault. If somebody just cleans you out, that’s what you worry about most. To beat Will, Dario (Franchitti), (Scott) Dixon, a lot of these guys, it’s just going to be really tough week in and week out. It’s going to take something special from us — maybe something even more special than we’ve already done.”
Did any local TNG readers catch the 11pm Sunday night news on Ch. 8 TV? Recent “Race Chaser” luncheon guest J. Douglas Boles, VP of Public Relations for IMS and Hulman & Co. was interviewed discussing the coming “Super Weekend at the Brickyard” with the Nascar group and the sports car set, using both the oval and the road course. This is the first year that the Speedway has used a support race for this event. As expected, Mr. Boles came across very well and said much in a short time.