Excitement and thrills are some of the best words to describe all the racing action that took place at Loudon, NH and Toronto, ON, Canada for the NASCAR and IZOD IndyCar Series this past weekend. Just how amazing was it? Well, considering that a familiar face made a return to the winner's circle at New Hampshire Motor Speedway while a two-time champ in IndyCar racing served notice to prominence once more at Toronto, there's no time to waste in recapping the action. Let's get started!
Isabelle's Double Take on Toronto
Holy. Man. What a weekend for IndyCar racing. This week was the doubleheader in Toronto, and it was the most action-packed week I think I’ve seen since the Indy 500. If this had been my first weekend watching the series, I think this would’ve gotten me hooked.
In the first race, there was supposed to be a standing start, which got aborted because Josef Newgarden stalled and came to a stop in turn 5. The course eventually went green on lap four, and Dario Franchitti was the race leader. Sebastien Bourdais soon took the lead, and was dominant most of the race. Early in the race, Tristan Vautier and Graham Rahal made contact with each other, leading to Rahal being basically out of the race and Vautier getting a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact. Somehow, Ryan Hunter-Reay stalled during both his pit stops.
On lap 65, there was an accident in turn five involving Ryan Briscoe, Sebastian Saavedra, Charlie Kimball, and Justin Wilson. Briscoe got a broken wrist out of it with an expected return of Mid-Ohio and Justin Wilson received a drive-through for avoidable contact. Within the last few laps, Will Power attempted to pass Dario Franchitti but ended up into the wall.
Franchitti received a penalty for blocking but it was later rescinded after the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing team met with race control. It was there that the No. 10 team provided evidence that the line Franchitti used was the same one used by all drivers throughout the course of the race.
Post-race excitement was at a high for Bourdais after finishing second while he was doing donuts on track, but during podium ceremonies, his trophy fell and broke. Coming out of all this on top was Scott Dixon, winner of race one.
In the second race, there was a standing start, much to the excitement of the fans since it was the first one in IndyCar history. Sadly, James Hinchliffe had to start from pit lane due to a stuck throttle and Ed Carpenter stalled on the main stretch. Close to the halfway point, Tony Kanaan hit the wall in turn 11 and eventually pulled off the track.
With 21 to go, James Jakes hit the wall at the exit of turn five. There was soon an attempt at a restart, but it got waved off quickly because a sweeper was still on track. Then, at the end of the race, there was an accident involving Ed Carpenter, Takuma Sato, and Ryan Hunter-Reay. The race ended under yellow, and the winner?
Scott Dixon was the man of the hour, with his third win in a row. Helio Castroneves came in second, and Sebastien Bourdais came in third.
So quick disclaimer: I was unable to watch the second race this weekend, since I was flying back to campus after a weekend home. Unfortunately, that means I’m sticking to an opinion on the first race because you can’t have an opinion (or at least too much of one) on something you didn’t watch, right? Right. Anyways, here we go.
Over the weekend, Sato was placed on probation. FINALLY. Thank you, IndyCar. He pulls one more thing and he gets in trouble, as if probation weren’t enough to keep someone in line. Watch as he pulls more ridiculousness, though. He obviously has talent since he’s up in IndyCar, but he’s just gotten reckless to the point of danger, and ain’t nobody got time (or money!) for that. So here’s hoping he calms the fudge down.
I’m super happy with the podiums for both races. Scott Dixon deserves three in a row, he’s a really good driver with 32 wins (including the past 3 in a row), 20 poles, 105 top fives, 149 top 10s, and over 4,000 laps led. With those kinds of numbers behind him, he earned and deserved it. Sebastien Bourdais is a phenomenal driver, with experience in Champ Car, F1, 24 Hours of Le Mans, sports and touring cars, and now IndyCar. After a rough couple of seasons, he also earned and deserved his second and third place results (along with the donuts – I think it’s awesome that he did that).
Helio Castroneves is in the lead for the championship, going for his first one (shocking that he hasn’t won one yet, right?), and has 28 wins, 38 poles, 111 top fives, and 176 top 10's. And Dario Franchitti is Dario Franchitti - three championships, 31 wins, 31 poles, 117 top fives, 165 top 10's. Need I say more?!
I’m kinda upset they even gave the blocking penalty to Dario in the first place. That was a perfectly clean line, what the hey were they looking at?! I mean, c'mon now - unless race control saw something that the cameras did not catch, then sure, why not? That or they thought they saw something that looked like a block that we couldn’t see.
It's unfortunate that Ryan Briscoe broke his wrist and that he’ll be out for a while. I’ve heard a rumor or two floating around that he might be the full-time replacement for JR Hildebrand. I’m extremely happy if he is, because he deserves it and I want to see him back in IndyCar after being let go by Penske Racing in the off-season.
However, it was very, very cool to see Carlos Munoz brought up by Panther Racing. With his last win in Indy Lights being a clinic – he won by 16 seconds for those who didn’t watch – he should be brought up to IndyCar, and soon. He’s got the ability, after coming in second in the Indy 500 and a 17th place finish in Race Two of the Toronto doubleheaders. It’s just a matter of sponsorship and who takes him.
Well, I guess that’s it for Toronto. See y’all after Mid-Ohio (August 4th at 3 pm on NBC Sports)! Now here's Rob with Loudon.
Rob's Not So Macy's Magical Moment Take On Loudon
As LL Cool J once famously rapped, and perhaps fittingly with the case of NASCAR racer Brian Vickers’ race on Sunday at Loudon, NH, “don’t call it a comeback.” Instead, call it a new chapter for the 29-year-old talent, as he raced on to a popular victory in Sunday’s Camping World 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway at Loudon, NH. After making his first Chase “playoff” in 2009 and seemingly at the peak of his career, Vickers had a long road back to the top with some health setbacks in mid-2010.
Returning back to full strength in 2011, it was a trying season for Vickers, whose No. 83 Red Bull Racing Toyota team would ultimately race in its final year. The talented driver, whose balance between cunning and aggression sometimes clashed, netted in an uneven season. Despite scoring three top-five results and seven top-10 finishes, he placed a distant 25th with an uncertain future in Sprint Cup racing.
With Red Bull Racing effectively closing its doors (eventually leading to the inception of BK Racing), Vickers would find himself searching for a ride in NASCAR during the 2012 season. Eventually picking up a “part-time gig” with Michael Waltrip Racing’s No. 55 Toyota group, he’d impress his peers and critics in his eight starts. Scoring three impressive top-fives and five top-10’s, including three consecutive top-10’s, he’d impress Joe Gibbs Racing enough to land a full-time NASCAR Nationwide Series seat with his No. 20 team.
Additionally, Vickers returned to the No. 55 MWR collective, continuing his strong performances with the Aaron’s team with an eighth at Bristol, 11th at Martinsville, and a 13th at Sonoma before starting from “lucky” 13th at Loudon, NH on Sunday afternoon. A steady flat track racer, he’d climb his way into contention with a solid, fast Camry that just ran faster, handled better, and ultimately had the total effort to guide the 2003 Nationwide Series champion back into Victory Lane for the first time since August of ’09 at Michigan International Speedway.
Vickers’ victory wasn’t the “completion of a comeback,” “redemption,” or “proof that he hadn’t forgotten how to drive a racecar.” Nope, instead, it was a statement that said “I am Brian Vickers, a NASCAR winner and I belong in this No. 55 ride for 2014.” To say the least, the past couple of seasons with Michael Waltrip’s team have served as an audition for a full-time gig, with Mark Martin also driving a balance of the races. Ultimately, Vickers holds the edge and should he truly earn his seat with the Aaron’s Dream Machine, he’ll make his “return” into a total reality.
For now, Vickers is chasing down a second Nationwide Series title with a strong Toyota team in Joe Gibbs Racing. Hoping to duplicate his Cup feat with a win in that division soon, namely the STP 300 at Chicagoland Speedway this coming Sunday, it’s been a remarkable year to be the pride of Thomasville, NC. It seems like more folks are taking notice that he’s not just the ex-Hendrick Motorsports driver or the first Red Bull Racing NASCAR winner – he is Brian L. Vickers, a name that’s looking to enter the winner’s and champion’s column for many years to come.
Authors' Notes: The above was our opinions and express those of Rob Tiongson and Isabelle Beecy, who both love racing, enjoy the action, and are looking to realize our motorsports dreams! If you want to get more of our thoughts, check back each week for our race recaps and if you have any suggestions, comments, or ideas you'd like to share with us, tweet them to us at @ThePodiumFinish and @indyfan1994!