Monday, June 25, 2012

Race Day Diary: Iowa

My experiences pertaining to what I heard, saw, and overall thoughts after another glorious race at Iowa:

Looking back at this past weekend, I can honestly say that it was one of the funnest weekends I have ever had. My parents and I made the trip down to Iowa on Friday to catch the duels for Indycar qualifying, and also to watch the USAC races, where I cheered on my friend Jacob Wilson, who eventually ran out of luck due to an engine issue, and then race day on Saturday to catch Star Mazda, Indy Lights, and Indycar.

So over the two days, here are some of the people I had the privilege to meet and my thoughts on them.

  • EJ Viso- EJ went out of his way and gave my parents and I credentials, which basically means we got to go wherever we wanted, which was amazing! We first ran into EJ right before he went out to qualify. Awesome person, very easy to talk, and extremely nice. The personalized autograph EJ gave me was lost by my dad, so on race day, EJ gave me an old visor signed by him! His last words to me were, "Don't led your dad touch it." Too funny! Shame his race got ruined as he had an amazing car.
  • Connor De Phillippi- One thing I wanted to accomplish at Iowa was meeting my main man and another one of my favorite drivers, Connor De Phillippi. The Star Mazda driver was fantastic in the race, as he gained five places on the first lap! He finished third after a great run. But I still hadn't gotten the chance to meet him, until a last minute Hail Mary on Twitter led me to him! We talked for a solid 10 minutes! Everything I thought about him was confirmed (not that I had any doubts), and I was grateful for the opportunity to meet and talk to him. I am very excited to see his future pan out. 
  • Bobby Rahal- Met him on Friday, said people who are from Iowa is the best, where I added that I was from Chicago, and he said them too! Like this guy, big legend. 
  • Ryan Hunter-Reay- Top three nicest guys in the paddock, as he was friendly to all who came to say hi and ask for an autograph. Nice guys apparently finish first, as the last three races have been won by RHR and Wilson.
  • James Hinchcliffe- Hinch has a far larger fan base then I thought, as he was swarmed wherever he went! He has the flashiest signature ever, as it is just regular letters saying "Hinch". I approve! 
  • Bryan Clauson- Was standing next to him on race day whilst it was pouring rain out. Congradulated him on his great run in USAC the night before and asked him about his Indy 500, where he said him not hitting the wall after his spin was "all luck", which I replied to as BS. He is very good at handling questions from rookie fans, as the lady next to me didn't understand the point of the feeder series.... Very nice guy.
Connor De Phillippi has been having a fantastic
season, one that may yield him a championship

Those are just some of the people I met! Also bumped into Pagenaud, Servia, Wilson, and Legge. 

As far as the race goes, it was the best race at Iowa to date in my opinion (I've been to all six races), right up there with 2011. The cars were very close together, but didn't stay locked for more than four laps, which is ideal. No mindless racing with 100% throttle where nobody moves. Very close racing. Slow cars made it interesting and it seemed like the leaders were always fighting with lapped cars. So in the future, I expect a lot of cars to be running more downforce on the front wings based off the traffic they will encounter throughout the race. 

Throughout the race, the cars and drivers that were the quickest (which at Iowa, is easy to tell who is fast): Hunter-Reay, Andretti, Hinch, Hildebrand, Viso, Tags, Wilson, Pagenaud, and TK. Cars that looked to be a handful were driven by Dixon, Rahal, Kimball, Conway, Newgarden, Sato, Jakes, and Legge.

Thoughts on a few drivers:
  • Pagenaud had the best race out there, and he was a lap down early, fought back, passed the field, and finished fifth. 
  • Andretti seemed to do more harm than good at the end when Dixon was pulling away and Hunter-Reay was trying to catch him. Marco kept trying to make a move even though he was the slower car. 
  • Newgarden did a terrific job on the restarts, using the outside to his advantage. But his car seemed to have some terrible understeer. The incident between him and Briscoe is 50-50 in my opinion. If Briscoe was really going into the pits that lap, he should have been glued to the yellow. Josef, with the newer tires, was so much faster, that he couldn't react in time.
  • Hildebrand and Viso had two of the fastest cars, but both crashed out which was a bummer. 
  • Conway got passed by Simona, nothing else needs to be said. 
  • Castroneves needs to learn how to start a race. One to go, Helio stands on it, and the first three rows were the only ones lined up. Yellow flag, so let's try it again. Rather than slowing down, Helio sped up, and the grid was terribly lined up again. Finally someone told him to slow the hell down, and we got a good start to the race. But seriously, I have never in my 8 years of being an Indycar fan seen Helio execute a restart by the books.
Viso had a rocket before an incident with Power. But Power
did admit his mistake, a classy gesture on his part

The race was fantastic, and it was another great day for Indycar. The racing was spot on! I guess it wasn't such a bad thing, that being the race starting at 9:00pm central time, because the rain would have pushed it back to that time anyways. NBCSN had that time already allotted, so it wasn't the worst thing to ever happen! Walking in the pouring rain to go meet Connor was definitely worth it, although I was soaked for the rest of the day!

Thanks to Iowa for the hospitality, the Corn Growers for sponsoring the event (even though their pre race speeches can put anyone to sleep), Indycar for the great show, and to everyone who made my weekend one to remember!

Let me know what you all think.

-Matthew Hickey 

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