Nowhere are NASCAR and IndyCar more pronounced in their differences than what each series provided this Sunday.
IndyCar had the early start to the day – an 11 a.m. ET race from Sao Paulo, Brazil. The race was the third of 10 street course races that make up the 19-race 2013 calendar, and is already being hailed as an instant classic.
You’d have to go back to “The Pass,” Alex Zanardi’s legendary move on Bryan Herta through Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca’s “Corkscrew” at the 1996 IndyCar race in Monterey, to find a last lap pass on a road or street course with such magnitude, gusto and guile as what James Hinchcliffe did to Takuma Sato in Brazil.
In terms of an entire road or street race, Sao Paulo’s plethora of passing, varying strategies and drama until the last corner of the race, events such as Long Beach 1998 (another Zanardi comeback) come to mind off the top of your head. But it’s hard to think of many quite of the caliber of what was witnessed at Sao Paulo.
By contrast, NASCAR was in Talladega, home to the inevitable “big one” accident, and a marathon for all involved given it was a 500-mile race to begin with, then interrupted by a three-and-a-half hour rain delay.
Denny Hamlin, who made his return to the cockpit after his injury before yielding to Brian Vickers, said in FOX’s Hollywood Hotel before the final “big one” of the day that with hot tempers, dark skies and barely more than a dozen laps to go, that, “This is a disaster waiting to happen.”
Hamlin was proven correct. Once Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and J.J. Yeley made contact, it precipitated the latest massive accident that so frequently occurs in restrictor plate races.
An upside of the restrictor plate races is that if you do survive the carnage, as an underdog team, you can get a decent result. Front Row Motorsports will steal this week’s early headlines with its shock 1-2 finish for David Ragan and David Gilliland, but Michael Waltrip (second start of the year), Regan Smith (underfunded Phoenix Racing) and Scott Speed (underfunded Leavine Family Racing) also scored top-10 finishes.
If you’re a connoisseur of both types of racing on offer, good on you. Right now, though, IndyCar’s street course product is hard to beat. Meanwhile, in Darlington next week, NASCAR returns to an oval where racing, rather than crashing, should take precedence.