Sunday at the Races
- September 3, 2008
- Automobile Cool News
- Posted by admin
- Comments Off on Sunday at the Races
Ah, Labor Day weekend. Forget your family barbecues, your trips to the lake, your hazy last days of summer – I’ll take a $5 hot dog, the Detroit River and the smell of ethanol exhaust (Better than the old methanol fumes!) any day.
Thanks to my clever narrative device and subtle logo placement, you’ve probably guessed that I spent Sunday at the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. Assuming you knew there was a Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, that is; I had a pretty major facepalm last week when a friend of mine said, “Oh, there’s a race out there? I wondered what those stacks of tires were about when I went to my softball game.”
Yeah, yeah. Belle Isle’s very pretty. Let’s race.
My mom and I got to the island around 10:30 a.m. and spent some time drinking in the sights, watching the (already drunken) people and generally having some mother-daughter bonding. She grew up in Indiana and cut her teeth on the Greatest Spectacle in Racing; I grew up in Michigan wondering why the hell we couldn’t ever do anything but go to Indianapolis for Memorial Day weekend. But as an adult who can finally understand things like fuel strategy and reaction times and track temperatures, I’ve come around to her way of thinking.
Speaking of track temperatures, holy cats was it ever hot out there. The humidity was like walking through a wet blanket, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky to block the horrible rays of Earth’s yellow sun. I sat in the grandstand half melting off my seat and watching the Firestone Firehawk mascot prance around the infield shooting t-shirts into the crowd with a high-velocity air cannon. The Firehawk is a perfectly good mascot as mascots go, but watching someone in a mascot outfit dance on a 90-degree day sort of saps your enjoyment of the event, much the same way a bologna sandwich is less delicious when you really start thinking about what goes inside bologna.
There is a real live human being inside this costume, praying for death’s release.
Anyway, the race. While it was nothing like last year’s bumper-car derby, it had more than its share of weirdness. With Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves locked in a points fight for the series lead, there already was more of a behind-the-scenes chess game going on than one might expect for the penultimate race of the season. Then Dixon’s people brought him in for an ill-timed pit stop, throwing him back in the field, and Helio looked ready to run away with it.
Next thing you knew, rookie Justin Wilson was right up on Castroneves’ back wing, and Castroneves was on the receiving end of a penalty for blocking and ordered to let Wilson around and into the lead. (Incidentally, I thought “Keep the other guy from passing you” was one of the cardinal rules of auto racing. I wonder how Roger Penske feels now that the blocking ban – once a pet of his – has bitten his own team in the ass?)
For a while, Castroneves was putting some serious pressure on Wilson, edging closer with each lap, but a miracle pass never materialized…
…and then it became clear that the race was going to run longer than its ABC timeslot, so it was cut short at lap 88 of 90.
Wait, what?! This is hardly the first time a race has turned into a timed event at midstream, but I’m going to go ahead and stay bitter. Football games – even blowouts – never end with 10 seconds on the clock because the local news is about to start. TV might cut away, but the contest goes on. Seriously: What. The. Hell.
Well, it was nice while it lasted.