At last, we had a race that wasn’t a fuel saving race. It was a tire saving race. Will Power won after using up his first set of rubber earlier than he anticipated, then adjusted his pace to make the tires last last an entire stint. Helio Castroneves tried saving his primary set until the end of the race, but could not keep with those on reds and lost three spots at the end. Scott Dixon put on a late charge, cutting Power’s lead in half before his tires were used up. he most likely didn’t have anything for Power in any case.
While the leader, whether it was Power or Castroneves, jumped into large leads, the action behind them was furious. Graham Rahal moved up from starting twentieth to a sixth place finish. Improving fourteen spots without the benefit of a caution is a tremendous drive. Spencer Pigot seemed to pass everyone in the field except the leaders. His ninth place finish was a season high. He had the same type of run going at St. Pete until his brakes exploded. Alexander Rossi passed several cars at the start. He had great runs early in a stint, but faded at the end of each pit rotation.
It was another bad day for Sebastien Bourdais. The St. Pete winner suffered engine failure on the third lap. Bourdais has completed just three total laps in the last two races. He has gone from leading the points to seventh. Charlie Kimball appeared to suffer a similar fate a few laps later.
Marco Andretti”s tough season continues. After a drive through penalty for unavoidable contact with Tony Kanaan on lap one, he spent the race a lap down to the leader. The good news for the Andretti team is all four cars were running at the finish, including a third for Ryan Hunter-Reay. Rossi finished eight and Takuma Sato twelfth.
Overall, I thought it was one of the better races so far this year in this year of not really great racing overall. There was lots of passing and strategy to hold my interest. Not sure we should panic yet, but we are getting close to 2008 levels of dull racing.
This race has only had two winners in its four years and has been won from the pole the last three years.
The attendance looked to be around 35-40, 000, probably about what this event can draw consistently. Last year the weather held the crowd down a lot. Unless it’s the 500, it is impossible to make the Speedway look full.
One improvement I’d like to see during qualifying for the Grand Prix:
During Round 1 Group 1 the top of the pylon showed time remaining in the session. for all groups after that, it showed the top speed of the leader. I would prefer to see time remaining for all groups, especially the Firestone Fast 6. The session leader’s speed can be shown at the end of the session. Time remaining wasn’t even displayed on the video boards.
I think we are in for a great points battle this year. Pagenaud leads Dixon by just ten, and Scott has not won a race yet. Power won his first of the season Saturday. He rarely wins just one. Power is fifth, just 46 points behind. With all the points available for the next two weeks, the standings should look quite different on May 29. I still think Power can win the title, but his teammate Josef Newgarden could be a dark horse.
There’s Another Race this Month:
Now begins my favorite fortnight of the year, the lead-up to the Indianapolis 500.I’m fortunate that i can go to the track each practice day. I love the daily ebb and flow of cars that are great one day and awful the next. Qualifying weekend si still exciting, even though I find this new format dreadful on many levels. I understand much of it is dictated by economics, but surely there has to be a better way to do this.
This Honda’s time to shine. Last year they had the superior speedway package and I expect them to again. I know Ganassi drivers can’t wait for practice to begin. We shall see.
I am planning two more posts this week, one on an Indycar newbie’s 2-seaqter ride, and I hope one on a former winner from the 30″s. Before you ask, it was not a race I saw. I will also have a qualifying preview Friday evening and a wrap up next Monday. Have a great week. i hope to see you at the track.