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Stewart’s Flip Was All Part Of Being Stewart

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, August 7 2013

Tony Stewart has always done his own thing. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

A couple of thoughts and opinions after a fairly full weekend-plus of racing:

Let’s see; 1,550 pounds or so, up to 900 horsepower, slick dirt track surfaces, walls without SAFER barriers, 140 mph open wheel to open wheel, a couple dozen cars on tracks as small as a quarter mile, and, 30-lap features that demand making your move right now.

Gee, what could go wrong there?

Well, for Tony Stewart Monday night in Iowa, smacking a backmarker, flipping, breaking to bones in his leg and, rather likely, missing the the Chase. All just three days after telling the world that while the wrecks look bad in sprint car racing, they really aren’t.

A lot of people are going to call Stewart a fool for racing sprint cars on non Sprint Cup nights. Mainly people who stand to make money off him, like sponsors and vendors.

Fans, though, should not. Stewart was doing what made racing such a popular sport to begin with. Chasing speed for thrills and fun and being a terrific ambassador for a sport which needs them in spades these days.

The thought here: Quarantining drivers from the fans and media has been one of the reasons racing has been losing, well, fans and media.

The grandstands are empty, the cars are ugly, the politics indecipherable  and the future uncertain for the IZOD IndyCar Series, yet the 2013 season has been quietly very good.

It’s a season that has been marked by compelling storylines, decent on-track action and competent television coverage.

Last Sunday at wonderful old Mid-Ohio, several of the things that have made the so good were delightfully apparent. Impossible not to root for Charlie Kimball, who won the race and he did it after a hugely exciting on-track moment.

Real-guy Kimball’s victory was a first – for him and for all those suffering from severe diabetes. It was such a thrill that his team owner, Chip Ganassi, parachuted off the pit-lane tarmac without a parachute after his driver took the checkered flag.

The on-track thrill came courtesy of Kimball’s late race fight with Simon Pagenaud, who took the lead when Kimball went in for his third and final pit stop. The Frenchman went in for his final stop a few minutes later and managed to emerge from pit lane with the lead as Kimball crossed the finish line at full speed just behind him. Pagenaud blocked Kimball’s initial attempt to squeeze by as they entered Turn 1.

But Kimball remained on Pagenaud’s gearbox and, using warmer tires, edged into lead the long straightaway exiting Turn 3 then had little trouble the rest of the way.

Kimball’s victory was as popular in the paddocks as it was in the grandstands. A large contingent of competiting drivers stepped to microphones to congratulate Kimball. And then there was Ganassi picking himself up off the pit road pavement.

Kimball was the fourth driver this year to earn his first victory in the series. He was the eighth driver to win a race in 2013.

There is a sizable handful of other drivers who appear quite capable of driving to victories who have not yet done so this year. Among those in that handful are former champion Dario Franchitti, perennial champioship contender Will Power, top-tier Marco Andretti and former Champ Car champion and Formula 1 driver Sebastien Bourdais.

Car counts are holding steady – for whatever reasons – at around 24. And NBC Sports has provided professional coverage.

The thought here: Despite all the well-publicized front-office bickering and inter-George family coups in recent months, some nice racing is taking place on weekend afternoons.

Counting the days until Google Fiber is installed at RT Global HQ. Looking forward to massive power and also telling Time Warner to hit the road.

ESPN channels on TWC went out half way through the Cup race on Sunday. Didn’t come back until, well, who knows exact time. Not by the start of the NHRA coverage.

Respect for the sport and its fans. That is what Tony Kanaan showed when, after leaving the pits with a wheel so wobbly he could not make it back to the pits, he rolled his car to a spot off the racing surface that allowed INDYCAR officials to keep the race going green.

Wonderful job, TK.

A new path to sorbriety: Try this – Play a drinking game in which you take a shot of booze every time Danica takes blame for one of the on-track incidents she’s part of. You’ll certainly be able to drive home after the race.

Blaming Kvapil’s side draft for her spin at Pocono was ridiculous. Cars were running side-by-side all day and with, like, only the one spin.

She kind of insists on making it hard to root for her.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, August 7 2013
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