HPD Blog

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Paddock Report 11 – Watkins Glen


-Dan Layton

Last year, the Watkins Glen race generated one of IndyCar’s “feel good” stories of the year, as Justin Wilson shocked the field with a victory for perennial mid-field [and that’s being kind] team Dale Coyne Racing. I called it “the day the minnow ate the sharks”.

But this year, order was restored, and the sharks dined mightily. Scoring his third win of 2010 – no other driver has more than one – Team Penske’s Will Power firmly established himself as the man to beat for the title. Two other Penske/Ganassi drivers, Ryan Briscoe and Dario Franchitti, filled out the podium, leaving the rest to fight over table scraps.

This was the sixth time the IZOD IndyCar Series has run at The Glen, and Scott Dixon has won three of them. But not this year, as Dixon’s just slightly over-eager move on Helio Castroneves in the chicane during the early laps sent both to the pits: resulting in a flat right front and damaged wing for Dixie, and a flat right rear for “twinkletoes”. That ruined the race for both and was probably the only thing preventing a 1-2-3-4-5 for the BTT (Big Two Teams).

This was Will Power’s weekend, and that’s been a bit of a trend this year (see also Ryan Hunter-Reay@Long Beach, Dixon@Kansas, Franchitti@Indy, Briscoe@Texas, etc). Here, Power started from the pole, led over half the laps, and basically looked to be in command pretty much from start to finish.

After nine races this season, we’ve had seven different winners, which is way cool. But only one of them – the Aussie from the little town with the weird name of Toowoomba – has more than a single victory.

So here we are, halfway through the 2010 season and this much is obvious to me: With three wins so far, Power’s my somewhat obvious tip to win it all this year. Not too bad for a guy who was rideless 18 months ago … a part-time driver 12 months ago … and nine months ago, was held together with pins and screws after a back-breaking crash at Infineon.

Other Stuff

In addition to IndyCars, we also had Indy Lights, the SCCA World Challenge (see my blog on another RealTime GTS class win) and a pair of F2000 Championship Series races on the holiday weekend schedule at The Glen.

On the “Light-er” side, “JK” Vernay expanded his championship points lead with a narrow victory (two-tenths of a second) over his closest title challenger, James Hinchcliffe. Two other possible challengers – Charlie Kimball and Stefan Wilson (Justin’s younger brother) – were eliminated early with engine problems.

Besides the battle at the front, where “Hinch” led early, but was eventually chased down and passed by Vernay, the highlight of the day was watching the series debut of Anders Kohn. The F2000/Star Mazda graduate started mid-field and had an entertaining day, dicing with Wilson (before the latter’s DNF), Martin Plowman and James Winslow until a late off-course dropped him back to 10th.

Over the last five laps, Hinchcliffe gave it all he had, usually trying to pass at the “Inner Loop” chicane, but could never quite pull it off. Sebastian Saavedra, winner in Iowa two weeks ago, rounded out the top three finishers.

The F2000 Championship Series is NOT the US F2000 Series that is part of the "Road to Indy" ladder system. But it does have large fields (32+ for two races at The Glen) and some truly talented young drivers at the sharp end of the grid.

This weekend, Aussie Dan Erickson (who - full disclosure here - drives for the Quantum Mechanics team where I have an FF partnership) won both days, just ahead of quick American Chris Livengood. On Sunday, it was 18-year-old Brazilian Victor Carbone who finished second, while another US kid to watch, Cole Morgan, held off Livengood for third. Great races, both days.

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