Sunday, June 28, 2009
Franchitti: Richmond 'awful, awful race'
RICHMOND, Va. -- Scott Dixon described the IndyCar Series race at Richmond International Raceway as "a bit of a procession, unfortunately," and said the 300-lap event was frustrating because the lack of passing made it more closely resemble a parade.
And he made those comments Saturday night after ending up in Victory Lane.
Teammate and runner-up Dario Franchitti apologized to fans for an "awful, awful race," while Graham Rahal said he only passed two cars all night while finishing third.
One year after a 26-car field produced what Danica Patrick described as a "carnagefest" on the shortest track on the series, with 103 laps of caution and a dozen accidents, the latest visit was quite the opposite. Twenty cars spent the night speeding single file around the D-shaped oval, with none of the drama fans are accustomed to seeing in NASCAR country.
On Tuesday, IndyCar Series officials and those of International Speedway Corp., which owns RIR, will meet to continue discussions about whether the series will return in 2010.
Track president Doug Fritz declined to speculate Sunday on how those talks will go, but did nothing to mask his disappointment with a race that was missing what fans come to see.
"I wish we had seen more passing and more lead changes and more side by side racing," he said in a telephone interview. "We'd love to see better shows and from our perspective as it relates to the fans, we're as disappointed as the fans are and as the drivers are, as well."
Dixon suggested the cars in the series are part of the problem, and he and others spoke all weekend about how having them all engineered so similarly can stymie the competition.
It hasn't stopped Dixon and Franchitti from Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe from Team Penske from dominating the series through eight races, but pit stops and fuel strategy seemed the only ways for cars to make gains Saturday night.
When Dixon passed Franchitti on pit road just before the midpoint of the race, he was followed back onto the track by Franchitti, Rahal and Andretti-Green Racing teammates Hideki Mutoh and Patrick. When the checkered flag flew 160 laps later, the top five was the same.
Terry Angstadt, president of the Indy Racing League's commercial division, said his specialty isn't the competition side of racing, but he's heard the car issue discussed.
"There's actually some things that can be done [to the cars] that [engineers] feel can help in promoting a little bit closer racing," Angstadt said, referring to aerodynamics.
Angstadt, who has been working to add a date in Brazil to the series, said the series will go to Tuesday's meetings hoping to return to Richmond next year, and for years to come.
"I'm hopeful that we'll have good conversations," he said. "We're having it on Tuesday, so we're going to know relatively soon if it's going to work out, but we hope so."