When the IZOD IndyCar Series went to Barber Motorsports Park in 2010 the overwhelming concern was the lack of defined passing areas due to the width of the track and the lack of a high speed straightaway transitioning to a slow corner. Unfortunately, last year’s race did have a certain lack of passing and excitement. However, this year’s version in my opinion was much more exciting.

Although the predictable outcome of Will Power winning his first race of the 2011 Season in dominating, robotic-like manner occurred, the race behind him was quite eventful.  A product of the double file restarts, there was plenty of action in Turn1 and especially Turn 5.  There were numerous “incidents” involving the normal cast of characters. KV Racing, KV Racing, and KV Racing…Ugh. I really like these guys and they are going through a rough patch not seen before in professional sports. $3 Million in crash damage last year and now they’ve had 6 incidents in 2 races. Patience has to be wearing thin with E.J. Viso. He’s shown flashes of brilliance, but there’s no control there. Racing is about speed, but controlled aggression is required. He’s just not showing it.

However, a spirited run from the back of the pack by Tony Kanaan continued his fairy tale beginning of the season with KV Racing giving Mssrs Kalkoven and Vasser some reason to not pack everything in. TK is in 3rd place in points which is about as shocking as not seeing Power’s Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe in the Top 10.  Another poor race by Castroneves, by his standards, has left him in deep points hole. He really needs the ovals (Did I just type that?!?!?!) to get his season straightened out.  Ryan Briscoe was running a strong race and was keeping pace with Will Power but was caught out on the Firestone prime tires and a questionable move by Ryan Hunter Reay. RHR had a great run on Briscoe and looked like a pass was going to happen. It surely would have happened later in that lap or the next. But Hunter-Reay pushed the issue and bounced off the inside curbing and rocketed into Briscoe’s car pitching him into a sand trap with a broken right rear suspension.  The Ryan’s disagreed with the way the incident went down. I’ll side with Briscoe this time.

One of the biggest surprises was the performance of Simon Pagenaud who was filling in for an injured Ana Beatriz who broke her wrist at St. Petersburg.  Simon is a regular driver in the HPD LMP-1 for Highcroft Racing in the American LeMans Series. Highcroft may be coming to IndyCar at Indianapolis and most likely in 2012. So this was a great chance for Simon to get back into an open wheel car. Something he hasn’t done since 2007 when he teamed with Derek Walker’s Team Australia in the Champ Car World Series. Simon drove his Dreyer & Reinbold Dallara to an 8th place finish by staying out of trouble early and making some safe, smart passes near the end of the race. Hopefully this will lead to more open wheel performances for Simon but definitely not at the cost of races for Ana Beatriz.

Next up is Long Beach where I’m sure the double file restarts will continue to be a topic which shouldn’t be a topic. Moving the restart zone back a little, not as much as I’d like to see, did help in Turn 1 at Barber. However, on the long run down Shoreline Drive into the tight left hander we may see some more problems. Here’s hoping that the IndyCar drivers do continue to play nice and give us a great street race at one of the most fabulous venues on the schedule.

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