Brits dominate American racing weekend…and some Colombian guy

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While F1 slumbers, not by it’s own choice, we look for other racing to keep us entertained during the August break. That’s not easy when you live in the US. You have NASCAR, which saw Juan Pablo Montoya claim victory at Watkins Glen on Sunday. Yep, a road course for the mobile marketing machines and of course Montoya shines. No surprise there but we will leave NASCAR coverage to those who still “believe”.

The most likely substitute was that “other” open-wheel series known as Indy car, it’s feeder-series called Firestone Indy Lights and the terrific series know as American Le Mans Series. Both racing series raced at Mid Ohio this weekend with the endurance crowd taking Saturday while the open-wheel folks had Sunday. Guess what? Brits swept the entire weekend!

Martin Plowman claimed his first win in the Indy Lights series charging from pole position:

“It’s been a long time coming,” Plowman deadpanned after driving the No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers/KEP Printing entry for AFS Racing Andretti Autosport to Victory Circle in the Mid-Ohio 100. “To finally get it after so much hard work … I’ve got such a great team behind me in AFS Andretti. Michael (Andretti), Gary (Petersen) and Stu (Kenworthy) my engineer. But also my parents and all of Team Plowey that couldn’t be here today. They are working hard to get me into IndyCar next year.”

Then we had the big leagues. The “greatest spectacle in racing” crowd. The anxiety-building series that is Indycar…(signal has come for starting engines…row one hot, row two hot and so on…sigh). At least we got to enjoy anoth3er victory for Dario Franchitti, a real driver in American open-wheel racing, and we all held our collective breath as Takuma Sato seemed to be heading for a great result but ended up heading into a tire wall.

Dario said:

“Quite a lot of things running through my head right now, getting to that quarter century, doing it here at Mid-Ohio, a place I found almost every way to lose a race,” said Franchitti, who started second and recorded his second victory of the season. “Twelve years ago it was my first pole here. It’s very satisfying.

“I think the key to the race, obviously, was the Target car was very fast. I drove every lap like it was a qualifying lap today, whether I was behind Will or ahead of Will. But the key was that first pit stop by the Target boys to get me out ahead, especially a 35-foot pit box. It’s the tightest we run. In practice, we couldn’t get the thing out of the box with Will parked in his or get it in properly. But when the race win was on the line, it didn’t seem quite as difficult and managed to pass him. I think that was the key today, because we were incredibly evenly matched on the track.”

The ALMS race was a real cracker! Fantastic racing in every class and it was the high water mark for the entire weekend. Dyson racing took Mazda to their first outright victory with Highcroft’s Simon Pagenaud and David Brabham only a half second behind. All classes had terrific action and even the GTC winners recovered from a first lap spin.

The Indy Lights race was relatively processional and left Indycar fans anxiously awaiting the real race to start. It did but here is the problem:

The idea of running ALMS and Indycar at the same track on the same weekend makes a lot of sense to me (road courses of course) and it seems to make sense for the racing fans as well. A good weekend filled with racing and a real value for your money. The problem is, ALMS ultimately exposes Indycar’s for the troubled series it is. The racing is nonexistent and the series is in dire need of an overhaul. Another spec series like ALMS can come in a literally clean Indycar’s clock with the same track, track conditions and 100 times the excitement.

Perhaps that is what sports car racing is really all about and it’s hard to pick on open-wheel versus sports car. Even F1 has a hard time putting on a good show close to Le Mans or ALMS at times but that is also indicative of what troubles F1 is facing as well. Open-wheel racing had better get it’s act together or they may find the new ILMS, ALMS and LMS are eating from their feed bag and winning the hearts and minds of racing fans.

What is intended to be a real value for racing fans, and I do appreciate that, has become an indictment of Indycar. Let’s just hope the Le Mans boys don’t decide to show up on F1 weekends or I might be saying the same thing in a different context.

Congratulations to the Brits for a terrific weekend of racing even if the only good racing was in ALMS.

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