The second edition of the Desert Diamond West Phoenix Grand Prix was not an improvement over last year’s single file parade. Once the race settled in, it very much resembled last year’s event. The evening got off to an inauspicious start when Mikhail Aleshin spun just after the green flag. He slid up the track and pinned points leader Sebastien Bourdais to the wall. Graham Rahal, Marco Andretti, and Max Chilton also were victims. Ryan Hunter-Reay had minor damage and was able to continue for the time being.
The smoke and spinning cars gave me a Vegas flashback for a second. Fortunately, everyone was okay. The cleanup took 20 laps, really long, especially on a short track. A red flag was probably appropriate. Some people mentioned tv windows as a reason they kept yellow, but the extensive length of the post race tells me a red flag would not have been a problem.
I thought the start should have been waved off. No one was lined up and Helio Castroneves got a huge jump, as he usually does. That may have prevented the incident.
Pit stops determined the final result of the race. Castroneves, Will Power, and J R Hildebrand had just come in for their routine stop when Takuma Sato hit the wall. Simon Pagenaud was scheduled to pit the next lap. This gave Pagenaud the lead and put virtually the entire field a lap behind. He cruised to the win from there. The only drama left was whether Hildebrand could catch Power for second.
Indycar made a huge mistake keeping the same package as last year for Phoenix. It didn’t work at all last year. Why did they think it would this year with the aero kits frozen? I hope next year’s new car style will help improve this race. It needs to be on the schedule. From the looks of the crowd, it appeared to show no improvement from last year.
I really like Will Power’s suggestion of lower downforce and the speedway wings on the cars for this track. I hope someone is listening to him.
If they use the same package for Gateway, I am concerned we will get basically the same race we saw last night. RANT OVER
Positives from last night:
Pagenaud won for the first time on an oval and took the points lead from Bourdais. He had the lead heading to Indianapolis last year as well. The next race, The Grand Prix of Indianapolis, he practically owns. He has won two of the three GPs with two different teams.
J. R. Hildebrand made a nice recovery from a broken hand to finish third. It was his second top three finish in Indycar.
A J Foyt Racing made some positive steps forward last night. Carlos Munoz finished tenth. Conor Daly was in position for a good result until gearbox issues dropped him to fourteenth, 70 laps down.
Some Not So Pleasant Items:
Joe Leonard, former AMA motorcycle champion and two time Indycar champion, died last Thursday, at 84.