Monday, June 13, 2011
Purity, controversy blend at Twin 275s
By Eddie Gossage
Two big thoughts -- one requiring more discussion than the other -- stand out after the historic Firestone Twin 275s run this past Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway.
First, both races were about as pure as they come, with only one caution occurring in a combined 204 laps of racing. The second race was run entirely caution-free. Most racing fans absolutely loved it, particularly with the high-intensity level seen in the second race considering that the starting positions were set by a random draw placing some of the championship contenders in the front of the pack while others were way in the back. The skill of the Indy Car drivers never ceases to amaze me.
Which brings us to the big discussion ...
Second, the controversy over the random drawing to select the starting positions for race number two. Dario Franchitti, the winner of the first Firestone Twin 275 and a championship contender again this year for the Indy Car title, voiced his displeasure with the concept.
Franchitti makes a great argument (and, despite some reports, did so to me personally after the races in a friendly, calm, professional, unemotional conversation in which both of us discussed the merits of a number of concepts). Will Power, the current Indy Car points leader, drew the third starting position Saturday night while Franchitti wound up starting 28th. Franchitti's point is if both he and Power started closer together near the back of the pack in a complete inversion of the starting lineup, it would be much fairer since they would effectively have the same chance. Both drivers agreed the move of the race was Power's fortunate blind draw of such a great starting position.
Franchitti's suggestion has one potential flaw, however: sand bagging. Inverting the starting lineup is a standard fare in all kinds of racing, from the weekly short tracks to some of NASCAR's most popular races. The big winner in the season-long Indy Car points race Saturday night was Scott Dixon. By finishing second in both Firestone Twin 275s, Dixon scored more points than anyone. By sand-bagging, a driver can find a way to score the most combined points.
Both Franchitti and Marco Andretti passed a stunning 21 cars in the second race Saturday night. it was sizzling to watch the two slice through the field with precision and abandon.
So I understand Franchitti's thoughts. Completely. As a competitor working hard to win another series championship, every point counts. I don't blame him for recommending the complete inversion for the second race.
So we'll kick around what, if anything, should be done. Despite reports crediting me with the random selection concept, I don't make the rules for Indy Car races. Maybe I missed something since it's being reported in so many newspapers, blogs, columns and fan forums that I created the concept. I do like it. But I also like inverting the entire field. I'm open-minded on discussions for 2012.
But I am only one voice. Franchitti is also one voice. At the end of the day, the Indy Car folks will make the decision, just as they did this year. That's their job and I defer to them. Rightfully so. They do a great job.
I thought Saturday night's racing was incredible. And terribly interesting.
And people around the country are talking about Indy car racing this week.