Deserving or Undeserving, Graham Rahal Wins Fontana

Close racing, intense action, penalties and “non” penalties all resulted in Graham Rahal earning his first win since 2008.  A questionable call by IndyCar to not penalize him after removing pit equipment certainly aided him in breaking through his winless streak.  Clearly this can’t be blamed on Graham who simply exited his pit box when he was instructed to.  He ran a wonderful race and positioned himself perfectly be in front at the end.  Personally, I think if he had been penalized he was fast enough to overcome it and at least end up back near the front but we will never know that for sure.
IMG_2604
When the green flag signaled the start, Marco Andretti went straight to the front at lap one.  Simon Pagenaud, our pole sitter started to fall.  The field was more than tight, there was contact with JPM ever so slightly bumping into the right “rear wheel bumper cover wing” of Tony Kanaan.  Ryan Brisco came from the back of the field, starting in 15th, all the way up to battle for lead by lap 16.  At this point, there was more passing going on than could be kept track of.  One thing we saw for sure, Sage Karam was driving like a beast!

The first round of pit stops started at lap 35. All four of the Penske cars came in at the same time, lap 37/38, and we almost saw Pags almost slide in to the back of Montoya’s number 2.  Will Power botched his stop by placing his left front tire about 2 feet from the pit wall.  A good recovery by his crew appeared to have kept him from loosing much time.  Finally, we were reminded why Dale Coyne’s over the wall crew is staffed by some incredibly brave or insanely foolish people (depending on your position) people in the paddock.  For the third time this season, a Dale Coyne crew member was hit, as Tristian Vautier attempted to being his #19 Honda in for service.

Once the pit stops were complete, we had a new leader cycle to the front.  Takuma Sato landed in the front and, for the first time this season, we saw one of the Honda cars really look strong.  In fact, Sato was able to hold that lead fairly easily for the entire stint.  Thankfully the next round of pit stops was far less eventful than the last.  The only real bit of drama came when Scott Dixon’s machine didn’t feel like leaving the pit lane as quickly as everyone else.  He was nearly hit from behind by Ed Carpenter in the Fuzzy’s car.  We learned a few laps later that it was a clutch problem which caused him to be slow taking off.

When we reached half way the action hadn’t slowed.  Sato darted from top to bottom throwing his car through any gap he could find.  Brisco also took up a wild driving style as well and Rahal really came to life in this stint, fighting for the lead throughout.

The inevitable contact happened on lap 136.  It looked to me Ryan Brisco came up and into Helio coming out of turn 2.  This took the rear wheel bumper cover wing thing off of Brisco’s car and sent Helio spinning into the inside wall.  Brisco, of course, blamed Helio for “being there”.  Helio rode away on a scooter with his helmet still on.  The universal sign for, “don’t you dare try to $%^@ing talk to me right now”.  Ultimately, Ryan Brisco received a drive through penalty for the contact.  The Penske crew worked very quickly to get the car repaired and back on track before the race had even gone back to green but only ran a few laps before realizing the car was too compromised to continue.

Then came a heart breaking moment.  Ed Carpenter’s front end washed out which pushed him right into Josef Newgarden in the second CFH car.  So far this season Ed Carpenter hasn’t finished a single race.  Not only is this disappointing for obvious reasons, it stings even more when you consider last year’s oval success.  Couple that with a 1-2 finish in the last race, it is safe to say, Ed’s expectations have been much higher than his results so far.

The racing continued to be close and breathtaking.  We saw contact/near contact.  It was hard to tell at times.  There were at least lots of close calls and what was undeniable was how exciting it was to watch.  When the time came for refueling Rahal’s fuel man decided to reinsert the fuel rig right as the car started to leave the pit box cause the penetrating apparatus to rip free from the hose, spilling fuel down the pit lane and finally dropping debris on the back straight.  IndyCar decided to not penalize Rahal for his unsafe release until after the race.  I’m not really sure why that is, since there is no questioning the validity of a penalty.  I’m sure we’ll hear more about it in the coming week.

The race restarted with 50 laps to go and the on track action continued to impress.  At one point we actually saw five wide for the lead going into turn 1.  That close racing resulted in contact and debris which set us up for a legit finish, taking fuel strategy out of the picture.

Sadly, Sato’s “on the edge of control” style caught up with him before the end.  I wouldn’t say it was completely his fault, it’s just not surprising he was involved in something.  He did get loose, he recovered, then got squeezed between Power and Dixon.  Dixi got away, Will Power didn’t.  A visibly upset Power even gave a safety worker a little shove on his was to the infield care center.  The race was red flagged which meant a 3 lap shootout for the win.

It was an intense final few laps and coming to the white flag there was one last incident.  Ryan Hunter Reay got bumped and slid into Ryan Brisco.  Brisco’s car locked onto RHR’s allowing air to get under his tub which lifted his off the ground and flip when his nose dug into the grass.  The caution came out with Graham Rahal leading and that was it.  It was his second win in the series and first in 7 years.

There are some who are understandably questioning his win after not receiving a penalty for ripping his fuel rig out of his pit stall and spreading debris half way round the track.  I’m not sure how IndyCar is going to justify this considering it is completely inconsistent with how this has been handled in the past.  We will see what penalties are or aren’t handed down in the coming week.  Derrick Walker did little to clear the controversy up when he made an appearance during the television broadcast.  Time will tell and what it usually tells us is…. well…. we’ll just do what we want because… INDYCAR!!

Triple League Racing Podcast #20: Featuring John Hall of LiveFastRacing!!!!

Podcast Cover Image 14X14

As has become our annual tradition John Hall from the famous LiveFastRacing podcast joins me for about ninety minutes of podcasting goodness! We discuss MotoGP, MotoAmerica, Formula One (Longest F1 talk this year), and Nashville’s Josef Newgarden along with some interesting motorcycle issues. Following that James joins me as we discuss Indycar and a tiny bit of NASCAR. You’ll get to hear our thoughts on Texas, Toronto, and the NOLA crisis!

Episode 20

Newgarden Continues to Impress with CFH Racing 1-2

photo 1

It took 3 years for Josef Newgarden to find his way to victory lane for the first time in the Verizon IndyCar series. It only took 2 months to earn his way there a second time. (Race results shown below)

“Just an amazing team effort. I can’t believe we finished a 1-2.” Newgarden said, “Once the track dried up it was really consistent.”

There were a lot of strategy questions going into the race. The track was wet and nobody knew for sure if we’d actually see rain during the race. Everyone started on wet tires and from the start Will Power, the pole sitter, was the strongest out of the gate.

On lap 9 Marco Andretti was the first person, two weeks in a row, to gamble by coming in for dry tires. Unlike last week it didn’t pay off for Marco, he never had much of a presence in the race today. Others soon followed and with the track drying out quickly pretty much everyone had made the change by lap 15.

As we approached lap 20 Simon Pagenaud appeared to be the quickest guy on track in second. While is was clearly the quicker car he could manage to do no more than pester Will Power’s Verizon car lap after lap. Power didn’t break or budge holding the lead. Further back, there was another battle between Penske teammates Juan Montoya and Helio Castroneves. Montoya jumped inside of Helio and pushed him wide coming out of 5 to get by. This also allowed Graham Rahal to drive past Helio’s number 3 car. Rahal, continues to have a solid season with his 5th top ten of the year, ending up in 9th.

We got our first caution when James Jakes locked his tires and slid nose first into the tires. This gave everyone a chance to pit, which cycled Castroneves, Newgarden and Munoz to the front of the field. There was a tight race off of pit road between Scott Dixon and Sebastian Bourdais. Paul Tracy, holder of grudges, reminded all of us that 10 years ago Bourdais once knocked off his front wing. Thanks for the reminder Paul. Good to know it still isn’t your fault.

Coletti made a tried to make a move on Charlie Kimball. Instead, his front wing found Kimball’s right rear tire damaging the end plate. Coletti then promptly slid into the concrete barrier in turn 5, ending his run with rear suspention damage.

Helio Castroneves, off strategy, was forced to pit from the lead and head to the back of the field. This put Josef Newgarden at the front at the half way point and set up the rest of his day.

On the lap 47 restart, the racing started getting good. Lots of action near the front resulted in what could be Simon Pagenaud’s worst restart ever, loosing 4 positions in one lap. His countryman Sebastian Bourdais took the fight to Will Power stealing 3rd. Montoya puts his best move on Sato and, to no surprise, Sato refuses to roll over and give up the spot. Takuma fights off JPM, which allows Graham Rahal to sneak though.

At lap 60 Montoya comes out of the pits and locks up into the first turn nearly sliding into Will Power and breaking his momentum enough to allow Sebastian Bourdais to easily get by.

With 20 laps to go Helio finally pits from the lead forfeiting a 23 second gap. He comes out just behind Newgarden’s 67 and while his tires were still cold Lucca Filippi, in the other CFH Racing car, takes him in turn 3.

By lap 70 Gonzalez, whose name I now know, was in the lead, off strategy, holding everyone up in his Dale Coyne machine. When he finally came in on lap 73 he’d allowed the Penske cars of Helio and Power to pull right up to the back of the two CFH cars of Filippi and Newgarden.

In the end none of that mattered. Newgarden was able to hold his lead to end over his teammate and bring CFH Racing their first ever 1-2 finish. Josef’s second win of the season solidifies what we all have known for sometime. He is top tier and able to compete with the top-level drivers in the series. Yes, he’s had a terrible run since his win at Barber. Maybe consistency is still where improvement is needed most. For now, he’s proven himself and made good on the respect he already had in the paddock and fans alike.

photo 2

Unofficial Results
The Honda Indy Toronto
Pos. Car # Driver Manufacturer Laps Running / Reason Out
1 67 Josef Newgarden Chevrolet 85 Running
2 20 Luca Filippi Chevrolet 85 Running
3 3 Helio Castroneves Chevrolet 85 Running
4 1 Will Power Chevrolet 85 Running
5 11 Sebastien Bourdais Chevrolet 85 Running
6 10 Tony Kanaan Chevrolet 85 Running
7 2 Juan Pablo Montoya Chevrolet 85 Running
8 9 Scott Dixon Chevrolet 85 Running
9 15 Graham Rahal Honda 85 Running
10 14 Takuma Sato Honda 85 Running
11 22 Simon Pagenaud Chevrolet 85 Running
12 5 Conor Daly (R) Honda 85 Running
13 27 Marco Andretti Honda 85 Running
14 41 Jack Hawksworth Honda 85 Running
15 98 Gabby Chaves (R) Honda 85 Running
16 8 Sebastian Saavedra Chevrolet 85 Running
17 19 Tristan Vautier Honda 85 Running
18 18 Rodolfo Gonzalez (R) Honda 85 Running
19 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay Honda 84 Running
20 83 Charlie Kimball Chevrolet 84 Running
21 7 James Jakes Honda 84 Running
22 26 Carlos Munoz Honda 69 Mechanical
23 4 Stefano Coletti (R) Chevrolet 40 Contact

Indycar Race Review Texas 2015: Boredom in the Lone Star State

Texas used to be one of the most anticipated race on the Indycar calendar. Since the DW-12 Era started the racing at Texas has become sub par. Even in the controversial “pack racing” era from 2007-2011 there were no packs at Texas. The hot and worn track prevented packs from forming. Whether the racing at Indycar 1.5 mile tracks should be pack racing or not is a topic for another day. What cannot really be argued is that the race Saturday night at Texas was not exciting. The racing at Texas does not have to be pack racing, but it needs to be closer and more competitive than what we saw last night.

In many ways Texas brought out the worst of Indycar’s 2015 season. Honda’s were ridiculously uncompetitive and the entire race was dominated by Penske and Ganassi. Only 5 cars finished on the lead lap and once Dixon took the lead he simply walked away from the field. While some people enjoyed the strategy and difficulty in driving the cars, for many the race wasn’t much of the race. The winner could have been predicted from a mile away. Another race with a Penske/Ganassi pole winner. It was a night were very little worth talking about actually happened.

What makes it frustrating to me is that Indycar racing on 1.5 mile ovals is what got me into Indycar. I got into the whole thing based on Kentucky and Chicagoland. Both of those tracks are gone. All we have left is Texas. So I want a better race. It doesn’t need to be pack racing; Indy is good racing and not a full pack. That would be fine. What is not fine is the glorified NASCAR race we have seen at Texas every year since 2012. Actually, that’s an insult to NASCAR at a 1.5 mile oval. At least in NASCAR more than two teams can win. NASCAR can produce great racing but the racing on the 1.5 mile tracks has been bad for almost a decade. Indycar used to produce great racing at the 1.5 mile tracks, but now? Well… if you like dominance, fuel strategy, and tire management I guess it was a good race. For me, if I wanted to see that I would have watched Formula One’s ridiculously boring GP of Cananda. Note: I did not watch the Formula One race from Canada this weekend.

As the attendance drop at Texas has shown, I’m not the only one who feels this way. Eddie Gossange is upset at the lack of action at Texas and he has every right to be. How is he supposed to sell tickets to a Penske and Ganassi parade with more tire changes than lead changes? Eddie has been an excellent partner for Indycar and it is a shame to see how tense the relationship between the two has been. Say what you will about Eddie Gossange, he actually promotes his events.

This year the areo kits brought a bit more downforce to Texas. To their credit the racing was good at the start and on the loan restart. The biggest issue seemed to be the tire wear rather than downforce levels. In NASCAR faster wearing tires tend to be a good thing. Heavy tire wear can also be a good thing on road courses (RE: Barber). But perhaps Indycar on ovals should have a somewhat harder tire. Because the racing was pretty good on the starts and as the tires wore out the racing spread out significantly. Compounding this issue was the lack of cautions. I don’t want to see anyone get hurt, and I don’t watch racing for the crashes. But, when you have a race with only one caution, you get a race with minimal action and only 5 cars on the lead lap. Honestly, after the Indycar ovals of the last two years I no longer complain about NASCAR style “debris” cautions. Those aren’t good… but neither is a caution free (or nearly so) Indycar race. Unless you like to see 2 cars on the lead lap.

Some people enjoyed Texas. They like seeing drivers on the edge of control and want to see the best drivers and teams do well irregardless of the amount of action. Some people enjoyed the strategy and nuanced racing. Others say this (P/G Dominance/Awful Honda’s) is what it takes to break out of spec cars. Good for them. But I don’t think you can sell a racing series in America on those things. If you could I would imagine the American Le Mans Series would still be around. AMA Pro Racing would be more popular than the X-Games, and Champcar would have won the Split. Others have talked about how times change and racing changes to defend the difference between past exciting Texas races and modern dull ones. Change can be good, but it should be progress, not regression. And outside of people who love technical racing, I doubt you can sell what we’ve seen at Texas (Or Long Beach or the Indy GP) to anyone who’s not into it. How well did that theory work for the ALMS or Champcar? Answer… not very well.

My final thought for people who enjoyed Texas’s Indycar race is that I hope they watch NASCAR. Because Indycar at Texas since 2012 has been like a bad NASCAR race. There was little difference between Indycar at Texas and Pocono’s NASCAR race, other than the fact that an underdog team won in NASCAR. Something tells me most of those who praised the last few Texas races weren’t watching Pocono and won’t watch NASCAR at Michigan next week. It’s too bad, because if tire wear and spread out racing with minimal passing is what you want to watch…. NASCAR provides plenty of that with more parity than we saw at Texas.

I’ve enjoyed some races that had an element of strategy to them. I enjoyed Barber and despite many issues Belle Isle exceeded my expectations. But I found almost nothing exciting about Texas. The tire wear was the main issue, but overall it was just Penske and Ganassi cars running up front lap after lap. Other teams didn’t have a hope. Honda’s had no real shot. I know some people like to see the best be the best or whatever, but I found very little worth watching at Texas and I’m not sure what those people were seeing. Perhaps I haven’t read enough Ayn Rand to understand? If you find all racing compelling, or you just really like watching technical and dry racing it makes sense that you enjoyed Texas. Someone who’s watched Formula One a lot might indeed find a lot to enjoy about Texas. But I honestly don’t know what about Texas could really have been considered compelling or exciting. In what possible way could that race be considered any more compelling than Long Beach? Or NASCAR’s race at Pocono/Coke 600/Dover? How is it any better than Monaco or Montreal this year? To me… all of those things seem the same. If you like all of those then that makes sense, whether I agree with you or not. But if you thought Indycar at Texas was a great race but Montreal and Pocono were boring than we must have watched something completely different.

I’m sorry for those I’ve offended for wanting more exciting racing than what we saw at Texas… Actually… I’m not sorry. At Texas it seems like excitement will be a zero sum game. Either those of us like me who want close racing will be happy, or those who want technical racing will be satisfied. There seems to be no middle ground. I would hope Indycar will listen to one of their longest supporters and make the racing better. With only six oval races it would be insane to imperil the last 1.5 mile oval on the schedule. I’m sure plenty of current fans got involved in Indycar because of the 1.5 mile races, and it would be insane to drive them off by removing all of them. Again, it DOES NOT NEED TO BE PACK RACING, but what we see at Texas in the future has GOT to be better than what we’ve seen from 2012-2015. You can’t sell that kind of racing to most fans. Just ask Eddie.

To draw more fans (Especially those under 40) to Texas it might be advantages to not run against the X-Games at Austin. A lot of people seem to like the idea of dumping Texas for COTA. That’s insane. I’m sure COTA would be a good Indycar track, and I would like to see them there. But not at the expense of one of the few ovals left in Indycar and a race which historically has been both exciting and popular. Indycar at Texas does not need to end. It cannot be allowed to end. All it needs is a better aero and tire package. Surely racing a little bit closer and more like Indy isn’t too much to ask, right? The reason why this matters to me more than lets say the Indy GP or Sonoma is that Indycar at 1.5 mile tracks is the whole reason why I got into Indycar in 2007! Kentucky and Chicagoland were all that sustained me during the less than exciting seasons of 2009 and 2010. I know I’m not the only one who feels that way. Let’s not lose the thing that many of us started watching Indycar for! In 2016, Indycar needs to provided a better tire an aero package to produce good racing! And while we’re at it aero kits either need to be heavily modified or killed off. Parity and passing have both suffered from the kits. We can only hope Fontana will be a better race than this was.

Triple League Racing Podcast #19: With Special Guest Brian C From AR1!

Podcast Cover Image 14X14

Triple League Racing Podcast #19 feature Brian from Autoracing1 discussing Indycar and NASCAR! He had to leave towards the end and so James and I wrapped up the NASCAR discussion to end the episode! Remember to review and subscribe on Itunes! Just search for Triple League Racing Podcast on the Itunes store! This is our best episode yet, so make sure to listen!

Triple League Racing Podcast 19

Bourdais Outsmarts and Outlasts Field in Detroit

FullSizeRender

Sebastien Bourdais could do no wrong today in Detroit. The timing of his tire choices was perfect and his fuel strategy was perfect. He simply put himself in the right position and waiting for the race to come to him. Through a series of cautions and the decision to shorten the race by two laps, because we’re IndyCar and we make the rules, it all came together perfectly.

We saw one of the best starting formations in a long time as well as a clean first turn. Will Power got the jump on Juan Pablo Montoya, taking the lead through the first turn. By lap 2, James Jakes decided he’d had about enough of his car pointing forward all of the time, so he came into the pits for slicks. Credit to Jakes for keeping it out of the wall while he was sliding around the next 15 or so laps.

On lap 3, Montoya pulled off a brilliant over-under pass for the lead on Will Power. Carlos Munoz’s Honda let go at lap 7. He reported a loss in water pressure and was able to find his way off the track without causing a caution. A little bit later Power’s car suffered an electronic problem that wouldn’t allow the transmission to shift properly. He was forced to come in and replace his steering where, which did, in fact, solve the problem without losing the lead lap. That was pretty much it for a while.

Rodolfo Gonzalez, a name I absolutely swear I’d never hear before in my entire life, stuffed one of Dale Coyne’s cars into the tires. Apparently, he raced the 18 car in race one, completing 25 laps before quietly slipping out with a mechanical problem. Personally, I’m thinking of answering Dale Coyne’s craigslist ad and jumping in for Texas next weekend. I’m only a few hundred thousand dollars short. Maybe a kick starter campaign would get me there. During that caution, Montoya’s crew put approximately 23 tons of down force into the front wing. At the same time, Coletti and Filippi thought it would be a good time to put on some slick tires. The green flag flew and both promptly wrecked on the very next lap in completely separate wrecks. A few laps later Jophef Newgarden suffered a near identical wreck to Charlie Kimball’s from yesterday keeping his steak of bad luck alive.

The race was becoming a “start/stop” affair at this point. On the next restart, Coletti was involved in a wreck that wasn’t his fault, one of the first in his career. Sage Karam slid into the back of Jack Hawksworth, who subsequently knocked Coletti into the tire barrier. Not satisfied, Sage turned Hawsworth around a second time on the next restart. We then saw teammates start to turn against each another. First off, Charlie Kimball pushed Scott Dixon into the grass prompting, the always insightful, Eddie Cheever to inform us that, there isn’t much grip over there”. It was clear that Charlie didn’t know Dixon was there. I assume Dixon thought Charlie was trying to pass Will Power on the inside and was going to stay to the right. Soon after, Will Power lost control and spun square into Helio Castroneves. The race was red flagged which sets us up for the finish.

Sebastien Bourdais led but was still 1 lap short on fuel. When the race red was flagged there were 6 scheduled laps to go. Suddenly, we’re told it’s going to be a timed race. Something I hadn’t heard mentioned all day. This was a very popular decision with the front of the field as many were in danger of not making it to the end. Once we went back to green, there was never a serious challenge to Bourdais’ lead, winning the “time shortened” 68 lap race. Even with the distance being shortened by two laps, Montoya coasted across the line out of fuel, dropping him from 4th to 10th on the last lap.

Bourdais made the first attempt at victory doughnuts we’ve seen in sometime was made. Ultimately this was an unsuccessful pursuit and Sebastien simply abandoned his car a walked to victory lane. Next it’s onto Texas where we’ll see how the new aero kits will perform on a high-banked superspeedway.

1 11 Sebastien Bourdais Chevrolet 68 Running
2 14 Takuma Sato Honda 68 Running
3 15 Graham Rahal Honda 68 Running
4 19 Tristan Vautier Honda 68 Running
5 27 Marco Andretti Honda 68 Running
6 5 Conor Daly (R) Honda 68 Running
7 41 Jack Hawksworth Honda 68 Running
8 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay Honda 68 Running
9 98 Gabby Chaves (R) Honda 68 Running
10 2 Juan Pablo Montoya Chevrolet 68 Running
11 83 Charlie Kimball Chevrolet 68 Running
12 8 Sage Karam (R) Chevrolet 68 Running
13 10 Tony Kanaan Chevrolet 68 Running
14 22 Simon Pagenaud Chevrolet 68 Running
15 7 James Jakes Honda 67 Running
16 4 Stefano Coletti (R) Chevrolet 67 Running
17 20 Luca Filippi Chevrolet 66 Running
18 1 Will Power Chevrolet 64 Contact
19 3 Helio Castroneves Chevrolet 64 Contact
20 9 Scott Dixon Chevrolet 58 Contact
21 67 Josef Newgarden Chevrolet 49 Contact
22 18 Rodolfo Gonzalez (R) Honda 35 Contact
23 26 Carlos Munoz Honda 5 Mechanical

Munoz, Top of the Rain Soaked Heap in Detroit

image1

A win counts as a win regardless of how it comes. Carlos Munoz was in the right place at the right time when the race was called early at Bell Isle. After an eventful race we saw Honda drivers dominant for the first time this year.

Wet racing can be great racing. At the very least it makes things a bit more interesting, adding another dimension to what it takes to win. Before the race even started it was regulated to 70 laps or 2 hours, whichever comes first, for some reason. Takuma Sato was the class of the field when the green flag dropped moving from 4th to 1st, passing three Penske cars along the way.   In a style we’ve become accustomed to, over aggression would soon cause him problems.

For the second race in a row we saw a wreck in the first turn of the first lap. Today’s wreck was the result of a, fairly over-ambitious, overtake by Stefano Coletti. The move ended with James Jakes, Tony Kanaan and Graham Rahal in the wall. His KV Racing team appeared to think this was a brilliant move and praised him on the team radio. Something tells me if he had been in one of the other cars they would hold a completely different opinion of the scenario.

Once we went back to green it didn’t last long. Charlie Kimball pancaked the right side of the Novo Nordisk Chevy giving everyone a chance to pit for new tires as the track had been drying out. Marco Andretti was one of the first drivers brave enough to go from wet tire to slicks and it paid off for him in a big way. His early pit stop put him into position to cycle to the front when everyone else was forced to make the same move.

Marco quickly gapped the field while Sato’s front wing found the back of Josef Newgarden’s CFH Racing number 67. Takuma was able to spread enough debris around the track to bring the caution out saving him from going down a lap. Andretti remained the class of the field and stayed in dry tires 6 laps longer than the rest of the field finally pitting on lap 41. This put Carlos Munoz into the lead and when the rain did finally come, it came with lightning.

With 23 laps, or 30 minutes, or whatever, left to go, IndyCar officials decided we’d had enough fun for one day and Carlos Munoz should win the race. There’s no doubt that Munoz and his Andretti Autosport team did exactly what was called for to take race 1 of this weekend’s double-header. Credit where credit is deserved. After the race, Carlos acknowledged he would have preferred his first IndyCar win come after a full-length race but as the first line reads, “A win counts as a win regardless of how it comes”. The decision by IndyCar to call the race when they did was a little perplexing and a lot disappointing. With 35 minutes left in the scheduled television broadcast, the lightning was gone, rain slowed and radar looked clear. It appeared, to me, the race potentially could have been restarted. I’ll be curious to find out later tonight what the ultimate reason for not restarting was. My best guess is that by the time all the cameramen, corner workers, safety team, crews, officials, etc were back in position the TV window would be over. Regardless of the reason, 47 laps is what we got and we’ll do it all over again tomorrow.

1 26 Carlos Munoz Honda 47 Running
2 27 Marco Andretti Honda 47 Running
3 22 Simon Pagenaud Chevrolet 47 Running
4 1 Will Power Chevrolet 47 Running
5 9 Scott Dixon Chevrolet 47 Running
6 3 Helio Castroneves Chevrolet 47 Running
7 41 Jack Hawksworth Honda 47 Running
8 67 Josef Newgarden Chevrolet 47 Running
9 20 Luca Filippi Chevrolet 47 Contact
10 2 Juan Pablo Montoya Chevrolet 46 Running
11 14 Takuma Sato Honda 46 Running
12 7 James Jakes Honda 46 Running
13 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay Honda 46 Running
14 11 Sebastien Bourdais Chevrolet 46 Running
15 4 Stefano Coletti (R) Chevrolet 46 Running
16 8 Sage Karam (R) Chevrolet 46 Running
17 19 Tristan Vautier Honda 46 Running
18 98 Gabby Chaves (R) Honda 46 Running
19 5 Conor Daly (R) Honda 46 Running
20 10 Tony Kanaan Chevrolet 33 Running
21 18 Rodolfo Gonzalez (R) Honda 25 Mechanical
22 83 Charlie Kimball Chevrolet 13 Contact
23 15 Graham Rahal Honda 5 Contact

Race called after 47 laps completed due to weather conditions

Triple League Racing Podcast #18 Weekend Triple Addition

Podcast Cover Image 14X14

Here is Triple League Racing Podcast #18. It’s all about Indy, the Coke 600, and Monaco. James liked the 500 a lot more than I did, FYI.

Episode 18

Penske Asserts Qualifying Dominance at Belle Isle

Will Power, driver of the #1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet V6 IndyCar, qualifies fastest Saturday, March 28, 2015, winning the pole position for Sunday's Verizon IndyCar Series Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in St. Petersburg, Florida. Power, the defending champion driver of the series, led his Chevrolet Team Penske teammates to a 1-2-3-4 qualifying sweep. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)

@IndyCar_Rebirth

It was a new track record for Will Power at Belle Isle today. The pole-winning lap came in at 1:16.09, besting a track record set last year by Takuma Sato of 1:16.12. In fact it is only because of Sato that team Penske didn’t completely lock out the first two rows. Takuma managed to wedge himself between Juan Pablo Montoya and Simon Pagenaud for fourth.

This is the third pole Will Power, last season’s series champion, has won this season and the 39th of his career. Despite winning the championship, Power consistently struggled in qualifying throughout 2014, an area where he is typically excels. So far this season he’s been looking like the Power of old.

While The Captain’s team is poised for a great race tomorrow, it was a disappointing day for many others. Most visibly, Tony Kanaan will be starting 15th in a car adorned by non-other than Taylor Swift. His teammate Scott Dixon qualified a respectable 7th, but the popular Brazilian was not able to match his pace. The #67 of Josef Newgarden, a car we’ve come accustomed to seeing near the front on street courses, could only manage a time worthy of 18th.

1 1 Will Power Chevrolet 1:16.0941 111.178 Firestone Fast Six
2 3 Helio Castroneves Chevrolet 1:16.1200 111.140 Firestone Fast Six
3 2 Juan Pablo Montoya Chevrolet 1:16.4428 110.671 Firestone Fast Six
4 14 Takuma Sato Honda 1:16.5363 110.536 Firestone Fast Six
5 22 Simon Pagenaud Chevrolet 1:16.6656 110.349 Firestone Fast Six
6 11 Sebastien Bourdais Chevrolet 1:17.0406 109.812 Firestone Fast Six
7 9 Scott Dixon Chevrolet 1:16.9768 109.903 Round 2 / Top 12
8 4 Stefano Coletti (R) Chevrolet 1:17.3638 109.353 Round 2 / Top 12
9 27 Marco Andretti Honda 1:17.3785 109.333 Round 2 / Top 12
10 7 James Jakes Honda 1:17.5158 109.139 Round 2 / Top 12
11 19 Tristan Vautier Honda 1:17.8140 108.721 Round 2 / Top 12
12 8 Sage Karam (R) Chevrolet 1:17.9046 108.594 Round 2 / Top 12
13 15 Graham Rahal Honda 1:18.2239 108.151 Qual / Group 1
14 41 Jack Hawksworth Honda 1:18.7504 107.428 Qual / Group 2
15 10 Tony Kanaan Chevrolet 1:18.3144 108.026 Qual / Group 1
16 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay Honda 1:19.3634 106.598 Qual / Group 2
17 83 Charlie Kimball Chevrolet 1:18.3303 108.004 Qual / Group 1
18 67 Josef Newgarden Chevrolet 1:21.4632 103.851 Qual / Group 2
19 20 Luca Filippi Chevrolet 1:18.4404 107.853 Qual / Group 1
20 26 Carlos Munoz Honda 1:21.4796 103.830 Qual / Group 2
21 5 Conor Daly (R) Honda 1:18.4937 107.779 Qual / Group 1
22 18 Rodolfo Gonzalez (R) Honda 1:21.8208 103.397 Qual / Group 2
23 98 Gabby Chaves (R) Honda 1:19.2306 106.777 Qual / Group 1

With two full points races happening this weekend, there is plenty of time for a poor start to turn into a great run. The tough part is going to be getting around the Penske stable. Last year Will Power took the lead with 11 laps to go, holding off Graham Rahal for the win. The next day Helio Castroneves completed a Penske sweep, winning race number two. Power finished second after charging from the back of the field, the result of a pit lane speeding penalty near the start of the race.

Now with the field set, it time to focus on what really matters. The green flag drops tomorrow, May 30th, at 3:30 EST on NBC Sports.

2015 Indianapolis 500 Race Review: 2 Teams Dominate

Was the 2015 Indianapolis 500 a good race? That depends on how you feel about Penske and Ganassi. If you enjoy watching Penske and Ganassi dominate than it was a good Indy 500. They led over 190 of 200 laps! If you, like me, are bored with Penske and Ganassi the you probably were bored with this race. Penske and Ganassi have dominated the 2015 Indycar season in a way that they haven’t dominated since 2009 or 2010. To me the race was a disappointment compared to 2013 or 2014. The race apparently had the 2nd most lead changes in history (behind only 2013) but unlike 2012 and 2014 there was no sense of unpredictability up front. A Penske or Ganassi car was up front, and with one exception for Kimball, it was as predictable as could be. There might have been more lead changes than in 2014, but at least in 2014 we had Marco and Ed and Hinch and RHR up front. This time???? Just JPM and Pagenaud and TK and Dixon.

The field seemed significantly more spread out than the last three years. In particular the gap between the front runners and everyone else seemed significantly more pronounced. The first half of the race saw the top three get a gap of over five seconds to fourth place. The difference may have been due to aero kits, or it could have just been due to the huge gap between Penske and Ganassi which has opened up this year. It felt to me like there was a lot less passing; if not then the passing was so divided between the people in contention for the win and those who were not that it was not as exciting as the last few years when it really felt like a lot of the field could win. This year if you were not in a Penske or Ganassi car you had no shot. Charlie Kimball’s run to 4th place illustrated this perfectly. To the Indy 500’s credit I have heard from those who attended that there was more passing in the field. Perhaps ABC missed most of it. ABC’s broadcast was poor. They missed too many of the passes for the lead while at the same time showing almost none of the racing behind the top 3. Helio Castroneves spent most of the race between 5th and 7th and he got almost no airtime.

What makes ABC’s terrible broadcast so mystifying is that the pre-race show was so good. The pre race show was well produced, emotional, and helped humanize the drivers. Considering how many people are only exposed to Indycar at the 500 that is a good thing. But the race broadcast was bad. Eddie Cheever and Scott Goodyear are not good commentators. They are too dry and too uninformed to be effective commentators. Eddie Cheever seems to have an axe to grind with Simona De Silvestro which… I don’t really understand. Did she refuse to go on a date with him?

One of the few intelligent things to come out of the booth was explaining how passing this year was different than last. According to the booth this year cars must get closer to the car ahead of them to draft and pass. This added to some of the risk of crashing and made it a bit more difficult to pass. What illustrated the difficulty to pass for me was how much the top cars struggled to lap other cars. The only time lapping came into play was in the first half of the race, and despite the massive advantage the Penske and Ganassi cars had on the field even they struggled to lap Dale Coyne’s cars! Some people didn’t like the draft and pass of the last few years. I loved it, and it made the Indy 500 my favorite race of the year. This year draft and pass didn’t totally go away. But it was reduced, and that wasn’t good. When even the overly dominate Penske and Ganassi cars struggle to pass…. that’s a problem. JPM made a lot of passes (few of which were televised) but he also made up a lot of ground on pit road (I think… ABC wasn’t great at showing what was going on behind the leaders).

There were a lot more crashes this year compared to last. The race started with a very unfortunate series of events. Conor Daly’s car caught fire before the race started so there were only 32 starters. Then Sage Karam was crashed out by Takuma Sato. Two American’s down before the race ran a full green lap! Later Ed Carpenter would crash with Oriol Servia and Bryan Clauson also wrecked. The worst accident of the day came when Coletti, Saadavera (the only slow Ganassi), and Jack Hawksworth crashed. Saadavera suffered a leg injury which required medical attention. He will be fine, but may not be back in the car for a few weeks.

I will say that the cautions probably saved the race from being 5 cars on the lead lap separated by a mile. The first part of the race was significantly more spread out than the second half. I’m not sure if there is a curse or not, but it seemed odd how poorly fan favorites and American’s did at the Indy 500. Simona De Silvestro, Pippa Mann, Josef Newgarden, Ed Carpenter, Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Bryan Clauson, Conor Daly, and James Hinchcliffe all suffered serious incidents over the Month of May. Hinch is still hospitalized for his although he will be released in a few days according to Jerry Punch. I’m not sure why so many fan favorites were taken out, but that may also explain why I was not in love with this race. I think that Ed Carpenter and Josef Newgarden might have been competitive had they not wrecked in practice and gone to backup cars. No one in a backup car, including Helio, ever seriously contended for the win. Newgarden salvaged a top 10 finish at least.

Honda allegedly focused their aero kit design work around the Indy 500. If that is the case then they have a serious issue. Honda was completely noncompetitive at Indy. Graham Rahal was the highest finishing Honda in 5th, but no Honda serious challenged for the lead. Wilson, Munoz and Tagliani led a few laps by clever pitting (the 7 non Penske/Ganassi laps) but that was it. Part of the drop in parity has to be attributed to the utter failure of Honda’s aero kits. I was worried about what aero kits would do to parity and both issues have come true. The kits have made Honda incredibly slow while allowing Penske and Ganassi to gap the field both Chevy and Honda.

I wish the aero kits were never developed. What good have they brought? The racing was better in 2012, 2013, and 2014. There was more parity and more passing. The cars were safer. Honda’s had a chance to win races! What frustrates me most is the parity issue. We had that with the DW-12, and we do not have it with the aero kits. Some say that they want to “see the best teams/drivers win” and that Penske and Ganassi domination is based upon that. My issue is that the way aero kit testing was handled (allowing certain teams, especially Penske to do a ton of kit testing) gave those teams and drivers an unnatural advantage. The last thing Indycar needed to do was use the rulebook to help Penske and Ganassi and yet that is exactly what they did!!!

Of the Penske and Ganassi cars what stood out the most to me was how good Simon Pagenaud drove until the end. He did not finish well, but for much of the race he was the driver most able to challenge Dixon and Kanaan for the lead. Pagenaud has had a rough 2015 season but Indy should provide a lot of hope for him and Penske. Juan Pablo Montoya qualified poorly and was involved in an incident with Simona De Silvestro causing both to pit early under yellow. Despite an awful pit stop a little while after this JPM managed to use passing and strategy to get up front and ultimately win. Dixon appeared the likely winner until Montoya aggressively passed him and forced him to lift. Dixon then lost 3rd to Kimball while JPM easily held Will Power off for the win.

A lot of people loved the Indy 500 this year. I’m happy for them, but I just can’t get that excited over a race that was simply 7 Penske and Ganassi cars utterly dominating a race. There are those who say the best drivers and teams should win. That there is nothing wrong with dominance. That Penske and Ganassi are deserving. That this is how it “should be.” Maybe that is true and maybe it isn’t. Perhaps I am a bad Indycar fan. Despite this I watch racing to be entertained and for fun. To me, Penske and Ganassi domination was neither fun or entertaining. I am sure Dixon and the rest are nice people, but I would much rather see Simona or Newgarden or Hildebrand or Hawskworth or Marco or Rahal or Bell or basically anyone else in the field to win over the six primary Penske and Ganassi drivers. I don’t lump Karam or Kimball into that since their cars are not quite up to spec with the rest of the Penske and Ganassi cars. The only way I can describe this Indy 500 is watching an event where you just don’t care one way or another. I spent most of the race hoping a CFH driver or Rahal would get into it. In the end there was a dramatic finish, but whether this makes me a bad fan or not I just could not get that into watching one Penske or Ganassi car pass another. I had zero emotional investment, and no feeling of excitement as that happened. I was just… numb.

The Indy 500 was a better race than Monaco. It was a better race than Charlotte. But that doesn’t make it a great race. Or maybe it was a great race and I just did not care about the people running up front. At all. I liked Juan Pablo Montoya a lot in NASCAR and part of me liked seeing him win today… but mostly I just felt bored. He won because he had a Penske car, and had he been in a CFH car while Newgarden had a Penske car I guarantee the results would have flipped. I just don’t get the aero kits. They’ve ruined the parity and made for less close racing. What’s the point? I am all for ripping the kits off and going back to the 2014 aero package for the rest of the ovals. Maybe then Honda will win a few races? The only problem with doing that (besides the massive embarrassment) is that we won’t get to see the higher downforce setup at Texas which I wanted to see. Now we’re off to Belle Isle which is not Indycar’s best race. Despite my criticism I will be watching for one simple reason. Graham Rahal ran well at Belle Isle last year. If he’s going to get a win this season, my money is it will be at Detroit!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 650 other followers