(If you’re looking for the Formula One blog entries, including the video of Nelson Piquet’s crash, just scroll down. Meantime . . . )
Scott Dixon won a surprisingly dull Indy Racing League 300-lap race at Japan’s Twin Ring Motegi today (last night in our part of the world) and set the stage for a championship showdown in three weeks at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida.
Dario Franchitti, who went into the Honda Japan 300 in second place in the standings and finished it in the same position, was second in the race while Graham Rahal was third.
Danica Patrick, who made history a year ago by winning this race and becoming the first woman to win an Indy car race, started sixth and finished sixth.
And that last sentence pretty much wraps up what this race was all about: single-file, follow-the-leader stuff with very little passing. It was almost enough to put a fellow to sleep (which happened from time-to-time - it was, after all, after midnight!)
The IRL did all sorts of things to spice up the oval racing following the disaster that was the Richmond race earlier this year when even the drivers were apologizing afterward for the lack of excitement.
One of the things introduced was the old Champ Car "push-to-pass" system, where the drivers can push a button on their steering wheels that gives them a 12-second boost in horsepower up to 20 times a race.
Well, after the Motegi race, you can rename it the "push-to-prevent-passing" system because most of the drivers used up their supplies by keeping attacking drivers behind them.
Which made for two things: a) dull racing and, b) back-to-the-drawing board for series officials because that sort of stuff just isn’t cutting it.
Ryan Briscoe went into the race leading the standings and was in a position to wrap up the championship when a very strange thing happened. As he peeled out of his pit after taking on tires and fuel, his back wheels (the tires were cold) lost traction, throwing him sideways, and he brushed the inside guardrail at pit exit. Although he kept running, he finished 18th and dropped to third place in the standings.
So Dixon won his fifth race of the season and leads the standings going into the last race with Franchitti and Briscoe right on his tail. On paper, it looks like it should be a barn-burner of a finish to the season in Miami. In reality, if the race turns out to be like Motegi’s, it will just be a bore.
Postscript 1: During the pre-race show, there was a flashback to an Indy car race in Japan in 1966. Jackie Stewart, who won that race, was shown receiving the trophy. But what caught my eye was a close-up of another driver, a fellow in the cockpit putting on his gloves. It was none other than our own Billy Foster of Victoria, B.C. I was thrilled.
Postscript 2: Vision Racing, owned by Tony George, left three crew members at home but included them by having life-size cardboard cutouts of them "standing" in the paddock area. Cute. The symbolism, however, is that Vision Racing will close its doors at the end of the season – one of who-knows-how-many IRL teams expected to do that.