Monday, May 25, 2009

Helio Castroneves wins Indy 500; Button leads Brawn 1-2 in Monaco GP: Which race was the more entertaining?

Welcome back ladies and gentleman, as I sit here writing, its Monday early morning, its Memorial Day and yesterday was one of the biggest Motorsports days and the longest with the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600.

However, it was the day that while I had looked forward too for months now, it wasn’t what I expected, as a matter a fact, it was a little disappointing, between not feeling well, a rained out Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway for the NASCAR Cup Series that was postponed until later today (no fault of NASCAR), a sleeper Monaco Grand Prix and an ok Indianapolis 500, I didn’t feel it.

I think all racing fans have heard the slogan “races can’t be won on the first lap, but sure can lost on the first lap”, well that slogan does hold true in most cases, however that one can be up for some debut when it comes to what I watched early this morning, namely the Monaco Grand Prix.

Let me state the obvious, even though I am not a huge Formula 1 fan and only watch a few races a year, a Motorsports fans, I love watching the Monaco Grand Prix. The race is the most historical race in F1 (at least in my opinion), I don’t know what it is about the circuit, it could be the history, it could be the venue itself, I mean Monte Carlo is an incredible sight to see, that would be one place that I would love to visit in my lifetime, what a place or it could be the precision driving that the tight course takes to not only compete on, but win on.

Like I said, the Monaco circuit is the tightest and toughest racetrack on the F1 calendar, everything from the tightest hairpin that these drivers have to drop to a mere 30 MPH to make it, the close quarters that the circuit looks like you can only be single-file and of course the tunnel going under the Monte Carlo hotel and yet at times, it’s one exciting race.

However like I said in the beginning, “races can’t be won on the first lap, but sure can lost on the first lap”, and while that slogan does hold true, but in Formula 1, if you jump to the lead on the first corner or first few corners in the race, chance are no one’s going to caught you, because they are too busy trying to get around other drivers or your F1 car just doesn’t work in traffic or even better, you don’t have an diffuser or KER’s system that gives the drivers an extra 80 horse power (can I get one in my street car, that would work), whatever the reason, it makes the race a runaway victory.

On Sunday though, there were a few of those moments that just leave you saying damn and while I don’t watch racing for the wrecks, two of them just had damn written all over them, first when Vettel’s car hitting the wall just 17 laps into the race, it was interesting to see that while the corner workers where lifting the car, another F1 car came right under it with at least right side of the car, with the camera angle, that was close, I got a picture of that one off the tv.
And the second had to be the hard crash just before the entrance to pit road when Kovalainen’s car stepped out and smacked the inside wall hard, that nose was gone and yet no safety car, why, there was debris everywhere.

But like in so many races so far in 2009, the headlines read the Brawn GP cars start in the front, jump to the lead and can’t be touched all race long and Jenson Button wins his first Monaco Grand Prix and more so (that might be sweet to a few fans including me), Brawns GP 1-2 finish tops Ferrari’s 3-4 finish”, isn’t that sweet, someone other than Ferrari is winning. Wow, Ferrari is just going to go for victories now. So basically the Monaco Grand Prix was a sleeper. I remember watching last year’s Monaco Grand Prix, for some reason if it’s slightly raining during the race, it adds just that more excitement to it, driving now have another element to deal with and it really brings out the precision driving, it was a better race and it was Lewis Hamilton’s first Monaco Grand Prix victory.

Once the Monaco Grand Prix was over (keep in mind I DVRed it and watched it a 10am), it was only just over 1 hour before the start of the 93rd running of the Indianapolis 500. In the Indy Racing League, the IndyCar Series if you will, all of the cars are basically the same, no design differences, all the same engines from Honda, same everything, so there IROC cars if you will, so it’s in the drivers hand and for open wheel racing that is not always good, if you have the same as everyone else, it’s hard to have an exciting race. An exciting race has to include a lot of passing not only throughout the field, but for the lead.

The 93rd running of the Indianapolis 500 wasn’t one of the more exciting races I’ve seen this year, let along Indy 500’s that I’ve seen either, I know it’s the greatest spectacular in racing, but in 2009, it didn’t live up to all of the hype. However just like Monaco, the race did have its moments starting with lap 1. This is exactly what I meant when I said in the beginning, “races can’t be won in the first lap, but sure can lost on the first lap”, I guess Marco Andretti or Mario Moraes got together in I believe one of the corners. Marco was trying to go to the outside of Mario, Mario must not have heard high and they both hit the outside wall hard. This is a case of both drivers needed patients…Marco needs to relax, it was his fault too, he should have settled in behind Mario until the frontstretch.

Two of the most bone chilling hits I’ve seen in recent years had to be first the Tony Kanaan crash on lap 99, going down the backstretch alone, a part broke somewhere on the car and the car just went dead right (no fun intended) hit the outside wall, then went down into turn 3 and hit the wall harder again, what a hit, glad he is ok.

Even more, with 24 laps to go, Vitor Meira and Raphael Matos touched rear wheels and just went straight into the turn 1 wall, Meira slid on his side alone the outside wall, I heard both drivers are ok.

You know even after all that, I have to say that I was thrilled to see Helio Castroneves take the lead in the final laps, pull away and win his third Indianapolis 500 victory that was a great sight to see. A few notables, Dan Wheldon grabs second for National Guard and Panther Racing, Danica Patrick finishes third and Will Power, a man that is driving for a job with Penske Racing finishes 5th, all three were great runs.

Note: According to Robin Miller, Brian Barnhardt told security to hold Helio in his car, don’t let him get out on the frontstretch to climb the fence and instead go straight to victory lane, if this is true (which on video it did look like security was originally trying to keep him in his car), what is wrong with this picture, the last thing you want to do is hold a driver from celebrating with the fans, you know the fans that paid all that money for a ticket to go and watching the Indianapolis 500, that was joke to see that happen, Helio just not only won the Indianapolis 500, but he won the Indy 500 for third time, of course he want to be Spiderman, leave him alone and let him celebrate period.

By the way, which were the more exciting races? The Indy 500, but not by much…

Helio Castroneves wins his third Indianapolis 500,
Helio climbs the fence in victory. (Image by Michael C. Johnson)