The Buzz Is Back
March 29, 2008 | 10:59 P.M. EST
A good turnout was on hand for Saturday’s season-opening Gainsco Auto Insurance Indy 300, with many press room veterans impressed with the crowd in the paddock on race day.
On the surface, it might not have sounded like the most competitive race, with only four drivers on the lead lap at the finish.
Of the eight drivers on the teams transitioning from Champ Car, the top finisher was Oriol Servia in 12th, five laps down. Two ran into each other on a restart early in the race, while two others were involved in incidents late in the race that cost Marco Andretti the lead and Tony Kanaan the race. A ninth driver – Graham Rahal – didn’t even race, after crashing in Tuesday’s testing.
Yet, it will get better.
Watch for the former Champ Car teams to be even more competitive next weekend on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida – where the Champ Car drivers will be on friendlier turf.
“We haven’t given the other guys a fair shot,” Dixon said in his post-race interview.
By Indianapolis, with the month of May to prepare for the classic, we should have the most competitive Indy 500 in a dozen years. At least drama is guaranteed for qualifying days, with bona fide bumping returning to the Brickyard.
Press room wags were predicting a crashfest Saturday night.
However, there were only three cautions – one for debris – and plenty of story lines down the stretch.
Dan Wheldon started last and worked his way to the lead, looking for his fourth straight victory here.
Once Marco Andretti took the lead, there was the young gun with the famous name ushering in the new era.
When he bobbled in traffic, Kanaan took over. The Andretti Green mentor, the unsung hero in recent years while Wheldon, Danica Patrick, Dario Franchitti and young Marco took the Andretti Green headlines.
That wasn’t to be when Kanaan brushed the spinning car of Ernesto Viso. Kanaan, running on three wheels, stayed out, hoping the race might end under caution.
Then, Dixon – who lost the 2007 title to Franchitti on the final lap of the season – took the lead on the final restart with three laps to go and went on to win.
The buzz is back. Strap in, it’s going to be quite a season.