The Middle of The Road

“the middle of the road, is no private cul-de-sac…”
– Chryssie Hynde, The Pretenders

As my tens of readers may or may not have noticed, there was no post last Tuesday. Due to a much-needed and enjoyable vacation week, I elected to enjoy my day at the beach and pool rather than stuff more content of questionable quality on the internet.

I found that, even on vacation, Indycar is never far from my mind. Road-tripping for 19 hours with my family to the sunny climes of Gulf-coast Florida, allows for copious driving time and the mind will wander, although auto-racing and Indycar is naturally very close to the surface.
The only major lament I’d have from this trip is that, while spending a vast majority of four days driving out of the last nine, a vast majority of people simply do not know how or do not care to know how to act while driving on a major interstate highway (RANT ALERT). There is ONE very simple rule on interstates that would ease SO many traffic woes:

It was observed that a goodly many of drivers from such great states as Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana, seem to be keenly unaware of the laws of most every state in the union with regard to interstate driving. 

Perhaps they’ve not heard the cautionary words of Chryssie Hynde.

Perhaps they’re unaware of the consequences of such actions.
Perhaps they simply do not care. 

Perhaps they’re rude and unchivalrous with regard to road etiquette.
I find it quite an unseemly commentary on our society actually.

Regardless, it is in the middle of the road, where you do indeed see the darnedest things, and yes, it is no cul-de-sac. Seemingly safe and comforting to be in the middle farthest away from those scary edges of the known. Unnecessary traffic snarls and semi-close calls belie that it’s actually a treacherous place filled with danger. 

Just ask Kevin Cogan. 

Or Ryan Hunter-Reay.

I cannot say to this day, with the highest degree of certainty that Hunter-Reay or Cogan were totally to blame.  The preponderance of evidence seems weighted against them however and often the precise facts of the matter rarely count in the court of public opinion. Both did harm to their reputations as drivers and both did damage to the image of the sport to some degree.

Even the sport of Indycar itself shows a proclivity for the safety in the middle of the road with its oft-compromised decision-making and white-washing of the history of the sport.

Maybe I’ve just become more sensitive or tolerant of the realities of life. As I get older, the middle of the road isn’t seen as a narrow balancing point but has come to represent a vast grey area that lies between the narrow lines of either extreme. For a great many days of our lives it is relatively safe there, but for the increasingly binary times in which we now live, for better or worse, it has come to represent a place lacking a sense of gravitas and especially at critical moments in time.  

Rick Mears’ famous outside pass into turn one at Indy in 1991, en route to his fourth and final Indy 500 victory, was in no way considered middle of the road.  The fastest race speed he would turn that day going into one, taking the most extreme line possible with no guarantee of coming out the other side cleanly is an example of not compromising at precisely the right moment in time.  

And such is the stuff of legend.

Race One, Race Won

Sao Paulo is in the books and despite the myriad many obstacles conspiring to obfuscate, the race itself was quite enjoyable to watch. I will summarize my fave part of the race and issue yellow flags (issues of concern), red flags (lowlights), and green flags (highlights) for other points of note.
It’s no secret that I am an oval fan primarily, but I was particularly impressed with the amount of actual passing and racing going on the track itself. The drivers and fans by most all accounts seemed to have the same opinion, leaving me with no choice but to be more open to street courses (properly done) as a viable venue for IndyCar. I much prefer the rolling and scenic nature of the road course to city streets, but not always are roads the best option for tracks that turn right as well as left (I will say that I plan to maintain great disdain for airport circuits, when American classics like Road America or Laguna Seca are not employed).
As for the track action itself, many interesting stories emerged, but to me the defining moment of the race was when 2nd place Ryan Hunter-Reay and 3rd Will Power (who was fighting to overcome severe hand blisters) applied enough pressure on leader Ryan Briscoe to lapse slightly in concentration and slide into the tire barrier at the end of the long back straight. Hunter-Reay lead for several laps following and then it was Power’s turn to make a classic pass under late braking for the lead with 2 laps to go.

Yellow Flags:

– Mario Moraes not coming out and admitting his mistake right away.
– Subpar TV production quality (some things out of VS control I understand, others like announcers talking over each other, not).

 Red Flags:

– Jack Arute trying to be funny. Just analyze, don’t try to be all things.
– Pop-up terrential thunderstorms.
– No back up power systems for race control.
– First lap, first corner wrecks.  Come on people.

Green Flags:

– Simona DeSilvestro leading for several laps.
– Seeing 7 different teams in the top 10.
– Brazil’s fans supporting and enjoying the race.
– Brazil’s track people working to grind the concrete deep into the night
– Everyone racing cleanly (from what I saw).
Enjoyable street race? Yes, I guess it was. 
Race won on the track and not in the pits? Awesome!
Mind opened slightly again? Yes.
The older I get, the less I realize that I know.