Sunday, July 12, 2015

First Impressions: Milwaukee 2015

Sébastien Bourdais won at Milwaukee. But how?
1. Let's get the story out of the way. I didn't see this race but I did follow along to timing and scoring and to Twitter and it's sounds like I was fortunate due to some NBCSN audio problems. Anyway, why did I miss the race? A family friend's niece is an actress and apparently won an Emmy Award and she was performing in a play. Not going to this play was not an option. So I got to follow the race and see a show. I will try and watch the race replay tomorrow and if I don't catch that I will watch it when it is posted on YouTube. After that I may write a second impressions but for now, my first impressions will be from what I picked up following along on my phone.

2. Where did Sébastien Bourdais come from? He was up in the top ten from the start but things fell into his lap with pit strategy. When the leaders Josef Newgarden, Tony Kanaan and co. stopped under a caution, Bourdais stayed out and couldn't be caught and he was running laps better than Newgarden, Kanaan and co. despite pitting 16 laps prior to them. How did Bourdais open up a 17-second lead on tires that were 16 laps older? What an impressive drive and now we have four winners with multiple wins this season.

3. I honestly thought this race was going to end up falling in Hélio Castroneves' lap. He started last because of not getting in line for qualifying on time and he nearly pulled off a Mike Mosley. He past a fair amount of drivers on his first stint and he did that under each stint. When the final caution occurred, Castroneves was second and must have been a lap or two away from stopping because he had done 53 laps on that stint and there were about 25 to go and Bourdais was good on fuel. Castroneves made a slight charge but all he could do was pick up his 38th runner-up finish, second most in IndyCar history.

4. Solid day for Graham Rahal and that's what his season has been made up of, solid runs. This is the turn around season Rahal needed. I don't know if he will have enough to make a championship run. He will probably need to win at least two of the five four races to have a shot but a top ten in the championship would have been great for him after the last few seasons. I am sure he will be happy with this season even if he doesn't win the title.

5. Speaking of the title, championship leader Juan Pablo Montoya finished fourth despite a pit lane speeding violation. He was one of three drivers along with Bourdais and Ed Carpenter to not pit under the final caution and it got him a top five. These are what championship runs are made of. Look at Will Power. Every time Power appeared to stumble last year, he would still find a way to get a top five. Montoya is doing the same thing in 2015.

6. Josef Newgarden finished fifth but had a better race than that. He dominated the first half and then he pitted under the first caution when Bourdais stayed out and he had nothing for him. And Newgarden wasn't that far into a stint when that caution occurred. He could have easily stayed out when Bourdais did and he might have won this one. It was a great weekend for him but when you are fastest in every session going into the race, anything but winning will be a disappointment.

7. Good day for Tony Kanaan finishing sixth. Could have been a little higher if it wasn't for Castroneves and Montoya catching breaks. He was up front all day.

8. Scott Dixon finished seventh. He seemed to be just on the outside of the top five all race. Like Kanaan, he probably would have finished a little better had Castroneves and Montoya not caught the breaks they did. The championship might be slipping from his grasp, especially if Montoya keeps finishing in the top five. Like Rahal, Dixon will have to win at least two of the final four races to have a shot at the title.

9. Not a bad day for Marco Andretti in eighth. Simon Pagenaud finished ninth. Ed Carpenter benefitted by not having to stop under the final caution and got a top ten despite not being near the top ten all race. Gabby Chaves was around tenth all race and he finished 11th.

10. Just a few other things I noticed: Sage Karam had a good day going and then he hit the barrier and it ruined his day. Ryan Briscoe had a bad pit stop take him out of contention and a spin took himself and Will Power out and that's a shame for the both of them. James Jakes was up in the top ten until an engine failure but I don't think this was Honda's fault. It seems like Jakes has had a lot of engine failures this year and I doubt Jakes gives rolling snake eyes in the Honda engines lot. He had a failure at Fontana. He had a failure in practice for the Indianapolis 500. I just wonder if his driving style has something to do with it.

11. I hope this wasn't the final Milwaukee race. IndyCar can't afford to lose any races especially one that has been apart of the series for so long. If Indianapolis is IndyCar's heart, Milwaukee is IndyCar's stomach and you can't live without your stomach. Or as I called it a few weeks ago, Milwaukee is to IndyCar what Monza is to Formula One.

12. On to Iowa and don't think there are any family friend's nieces that are doing anything important.