Auto racing at 160+ mph is something to see. It is literally a flash of color and sound and wind chasing the wings as they go by. Combine these speeds with a short track setting such as Richmond International Raceway and you get a 5g vertigo festival. It is fun to watch and definately a bit different from a NASCAR Sprint Cup race on the same track. The lighter cars allow for quicker acceleration so the Indy cars shoot out of turns like rockets while NASCAR cars are thrown out of a turn on sheer power and momentum. Another noticeable difference is that the nature of NASCAR racing puts more cars in the same space and sheet metal is bound to get banged up while IRL cars are wide open with all four wheels exposed. While “rubbing is racing” is expected in NASCAR it can be a race ending disaster in IRL. Touching open wheels rotating at these speeds can send two cars in a dozen directions – including straight up. That seems to be frowned upon…
This past Saturday (June 27, 2009) the SunTrust Indy Challenge sped through 300 laps at Richmond International Raceway. With few cautions to shake things up, the race resembled a high speed parade for the majority of laps. It is difficult to pass at Richmond anyway and these cars are so evenly matched the chances at passing on the Richmond track only grow slimmer. The lead changes were mostly taken care of with pit strategy and pit stop speed more than ducking under the inside diving at speed into the turns. Dario Franchitti even apolgized to the fans after race making a mention of the lack of excitement on this particular race day.
All that aside, this race was fun to watch despite tha lack of two-wide turns and chasing through the field. The novelty of the design of these cars in an area known for closed cockpit, left side driving is one thing. The sheer speed, acceleration and quick braking is another. The personality of the race is different, too, but that is harder to put a finger on. Better to go see for yourself.
I found the race, the facility, the fans and the day to be thoroughly delightful from the point of view of a racing fan. My only dissapointment is the same I have at every auto race that does not have a Gordon or an Earnhardt in it. Where are the people. Go to any NASCAR track for a Sprint Cup race and the stands are crowded and the midway is busy. However, put a different kind of car on the same track and the fan response is much different. I’ve said it before. If you are a racing fan, be a “Racing” fan and support as much and as many types of racing as you can.
At the end of this one, Scott Dixon took the checkered in the Target Chip Ganassi #9 while team mate Franchitti rolled in the 2nd spot right behind him in the 10. Graham Rahal took 3rd, Hideki Mutoh was 4th and Danica Patrick grabbed another top 5 and 300 laps were done. Check out photos by clicking here.