The IndyCar return to Watkins Glen was even better than anticipated. Broken records, difficult to fathom speeds, and a Dixon sweep are just a taste of what we were treated to in New York.
If you’ll recall, and you might not want to, the Verizon IndyCar Series was originally planning to spend their Labor Day weekend on the city streets of Boston for an inaugural street race, but that did not pan out. And when it fell through the cracks just a few weeks before the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500, it felt like our monumental year was going to have a gaping hole in it.
Then Watkins Glen came back into our racing life.
The response from fans, teams, drivers, and media was seemingly unanimous – and it was nothing but positive. This really has been a comeback year of sorts for the series – with returns to Phoenix International Raceway, Road America, and now Watkins Glen. I still remember Tony Kanaan’s comments after the Road America race, so vividly:
“I think it’s just the entire environment. We just need to go find the places that people want to come and watch us. We have a great product. Some people say, well, what about your racing? Our racing is good, and we prove when we come to places like this, Indy, [and] Mid-Ohio that we have places packed.”
And we can most definitely add Watkins Glen to that list now. The series is listening to the fans, returning to the places that they want to see and that trend will continue in 2017 with the return to Gateway Motorsports Park in St. Louis, Missouri. With the addition of classic circuits in combination with date equity becoming a reality instead of just a goal, it’s safe to say that the Verizon IndyCar Series is headed in the right direction.
The IndyCar Grand Prix at the Glen gave us a four time winner and a sweep of the weekend by Chip Ganassi Racing driver, Scott Dixon. His victory on Sunday marked his 40th career trip to the top of the podium and a domination of a weekend that we haven’t seen in quite some time. He joked in the post-race press conference that the only time chart he didn’t top over Labor Day weekend at The Glen was the fastest lap of the race itself… and he intends to have a talk with Tony Kanaan over that.
The entire field broke the track record set back in 2009 by Ryan Briscoe, just in practice sessions. Dixon set the new track record officially (and by 5.6 seconds), when he qualified on pole with a fast lap of 1:22.5259 (147.008 mph). This was the 25th pole for Dixon and he tied Paul Tracy for 11th on the all-time IndyCar list.
Dixon’s company on the podium was Josef Newgarden from Ed Carpenter Racing and Helio Castroneves from Team Penske. The three Chevy drivers were all contenders for the IndyCar Championship coming into the Watkins Glen weekend, but with points leader Simon Pagenaud finishing P7, all three were knocked out of the race for the Astor Cup as the series heads into its finale race at Sonoma Raceway on Sunday, September 18th.
Second place in points is Will Power, who suffered a powerful contact with the wall during the race due to tangle with Charlie Kimball. The accident was under review by race control but ultimately no action was taken and it was simply considered a racing incident. Power was checked and released from the infield medical center but was not cleared to race due to concussion-like symptoms.
Pagenaud addressed the media after the event and confirmed that he did see Power after the race and commented on his impression of how his teammate was doing:
“He seems okay. I mean, it’s never great to hear any concerns on the head. Just glad he’s alright. I’m not a doctor, so I can’t say what’s next. But yeah, just glad he’s alright because I want to take this fight to Sonoma.”
Make no mistake, Pagenaud wants this Championship – but he is a racer. And he wants to earn it, every step of the way. We have to wait on word of Power’s medical clearance, but I certainly hope, as I think everyone else does, that we will get to witness one heck of a battle in wine country for the Astor Cup.
I mean, afterall, this is IndyCar… and the one thing this series is not, is predictable