Sunday, May 31, 2015

First Impressions: Belle Isle 2015 Race Two

1. I am so tired after this race. Sébastien Bourdais wins. He switched to slicks at the right time and beat Juan Pablo Montoya off the pit lane, not to mention he stretched his fuel load to 30 laps, the longest stint of the race. Had this race run to the full 70 laps and not been a timed event, he probably doesn't win. Bourdais becomes the seventh different winner from eight races. Can't deny that IndyCar is a competitive series. The question is can one driver take control in the second half of the season and take the championship?

2. Takuma Sato scores his first podium since São Paulo 2013. Like Bourdais, he did 30 laps on his final stint and he held off a charging Graham Rahal. However, these races are anomalies for Sato. He might not score a top ten in the next five races.

3. Nice bounce back for Graham Rahal after being taken out early in race one. Three podiums from the second quarter of the season is not bad at all. It has been an amazing turn around season for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He could get a win this season but he will need Honda to step up their game.

4. Tristan Vautier scored his first career top five. Fourth place is an amazing run from last on the grid. Like the top three, he did 30 laps on his final stint. I think he has passed the audition. That #19 ride might just have become his for the rest of 2015.

5. Marco Andretti came home in fifth. A great weekend for him. Not a bad first half of the season for him. Six top tens from the first eight races.

6. What a weekend for Conor Daly. He was in contention for at least a top ten yesterday but damage killed that chance and today he works strategy into his favor, leads some laps, overcame having to pit under caution while everyone else stayed out, overcame a penalty for a block that probably didn't happen and he finished sixth. I think he has passed the audition. The #5 is his until James Hinchcliffe returns. Sorry Alex Tagliani. If you want to run at Toronto, you are probably going to have to look elsewhere.

7. Jack Hawksworth overcame two spins and finished seventh. Not a bad day for A.J. Foyt Racing considering at one point it looked like Hawksworth day was ruined after contact with Sage Karam.

8. Ryan Hunter-Reay managed an eighth-place finish. He needed a top ten today. Only three top tens from the first half of the season. He is going to be hoping for a big turn around in the final three months.

9. Gabby Chaves finished ninth. He really didn't have a memorable race but he kept his nose clean and it got him a top ten.

10. Juan Pablo Montoya, like the top four, did 30 laps on his final stint but coasted home to 10th instead of finishing in the top five and potentially on the podium. Not a great end to his weekend but he is fortunate all his championship rivals had worse days than him.

11. Quick summary of the back half of the field: Charlie Kimball and Scott Dixon got together and to just make this race even more insane Will Power and Hélio Castroneves got together. What the hell was going on out there? And then you had James Jakes finish 15th after going a lap down on lap ten and never getting his lap back. CFH had a bad day as both their cars had accidents with Josef Newgarden having the harder hit of the two. Carlos Muñoz had an engine problem end his day after five laps.

12. Race control can't decide to review something post race and then for incidents later in the race decide to make a decision a few laps later. Luca Filippi and Charlie Kimball made slight contact on the pit lane. They decide to review it post race. Sage Karam makes contact with Jack Hawksworth and Stefano Coletti and he is handed a penalty within two laps. Where is the consistency? You can't be too busy one moment to make a call and then 20 or 30 laps later be making penalty calls on the spot. Once they made the decision to review an incident post race, they can't then start making calls during the race because they are contradicting themselves.

13. The first half of this race was really good. Then Rodolfo González got into the tires literally at he halfway point of the race and it went to hell. Power passed three cars before start/finish on one restart. Exactly what does a driver have to do to jump a restart if it is OK to pass three cars before start/finish? I think IndyCar should adopt no passing before start/finish on restarts. That's one of the reasons for all these incidents on restarts. You have drivers trying to dive-bomb four drivers into a corner and there is going to be contact when that happens. We have seen with the DW12 chassis and the aero kits that these cars can pass on track even at a place like Belle Isle. Perhaps it's time to tell them to wait to pass until they pass start/finish.

14. One half of the IndyCar season down. No more races on ABC. I will have a first-half review later this week. Now to Texas and the second oval of the season. Five of the final eight races are on ovals and Toronto in a fortnight is the final street course of the season. A lot of questions still need to be answered. Does anyone want to win this championship? Will Honda win a dry race? Who else will be in the #18 and #19 this season? Will Penske and Ganassi keep it together? Stay tuned next week for another race from the mind-boggling, fantastic racing series known as the Verizon IndyCar Series.