Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Auto racing 2011: A few hits ... and misses

Sacramento, California – The 2011 auto racing season is just about wrapped up, except for a fairly meaningless Formula One race in Brazil this weekend, so it’s time to check my personal scorecard of predictions put down early this year.

On the NASCAR Sprint Cup front, here’s what I had to say in February:

As for me, I’m looking at Carl Edwards as the most likely driver to end (Jimmie) Johnson’s streak. Edwards can drive short, long, medium-fast and super-fast tracks at a high level. It’s just a matter of time before he puts a consistent campaign together. This could be the year.

Well, Edwards fell short by one pass for position and a superhuman drive by Tony Stewart (pictured) in South Florida last weekend. Let me chime in by saying that Stewart’s Sunday drive was the most incredible single-race effort that I’ve seen in more than 40 years of following the sport. He was like a wolf among sheep. The only near-wolf running in the same pack with Stewart was Edwards, but the latter came up just short.

Edwards had his chances and optimized them to the max. Stewart just beat him with an otherworldly effort. Edwards said as much on Sunday. I can’t argue with his analysis.

Before the first IndyCar Series race of the 2011 season, here was my call:

Defending 500 winner and Indy car series champion Dario Franchitti remains the top contender, but I kind of think the Roger Penske team is out for redemption after seeing the last two season titles snatched from its grasp due to uncharacteristic team mistakes. Look for Penske pilot Helio Castroneves to claim his fourth Indy 500 victory in May and then finally put together a solid season to take the series crown as well.

That was a huge swing and a miss on my part. Castroneves was not even close to being a factor in either the Indianapolis 500 or the IndyCar Series championship. It was left to Castroneves teammate Will Power to carry the Penske banner to the last race of the season. And for the third year in a row, a misstep on a pit stop cost a Penske pilot the championship in favor of Franchitti.

In May, just before the centennial running of the Indianapolis 500, I did name Dan Wheldon as my dark horse pick to win the race. In storybook fashion, he did precisely that, leading the last few hundred feet of the race after rookie leader J.R. Hildebrand crashed in the fourth turn, within sight of the checkered flag.

I’d give back all my predictions and some prized possessions if that would bring Wheldon back. The incredibly talented, two-time Indy 500 champion crashed to his death in the year’s most horrifying crash in the IndyCar Series finale in Las Vegas.

Rest in peace, Dan. We’re missing you already.

What will 2012 bring? Check back with me in February.

No comments:

Post a Comment