Sunday, April 24, 2016

First Impressions: Barber 2016

1. The race was exciting but that isn't necessarily a good thing. If driving etiquette was different, Simon Pagenaud might have won by 13.7476 seconds anyway. Either way, he and Graham Rahal had a great battle and unfortunately the back marker of Jack Hawksworth made a cameo. Pagenaud is the 14th driver since 1946 to have four podiums from the first four races. He is in command of the championship through the first quarter of the season.

2. Graham Rahal worked his way to the front and nearly won. He and Pagenaud had to battle lap traffic and unfortunately Hawksworth choose Rahal's lane instead of Pagenaud's. Rahal breaks his front wing and runs laps three seconds slower than the Frenchman. He nursed it home to second, which is every impressive. It must suck to be that close and lose it in such a way.

3. Josef Newgarden snuck onto the podium. While Pagenaud and Rahal and back markers where banging into one another, Newgarden slid by Will Power as they were chasing the wounded duck of Rahal. Another good run for Newgarden heading into the month of May.

4. Remember when Will Power missed St. Petersburg and everyone thought it would kill his championship run? Third, seventh and fourth from Power in his three starts this season. He is fine. He is eighth in the championship He will be in contention for the championship. Of course, if Pagenaud keeps finishing on the podium, it won't matter what Power does.

5. Juan Pablo Montoya went from 21st to fifth. He benefitted from Carlos Muñoz tapping Mikhail Aleshin and the Russian spinning into the path of Hawksworth before the green came out and then from Sébastien Bourdais tapping Scott Dixon. Still impressive from Montoya.

6. James Hinchcliffe finished sixth. Another strong race for Hinchcliffe as he was in the top ten all day. He battle with Montoya, Hélio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan through out the race and held his own.

7. Hélio Castroneves started and finished seventh. He did nothing sexy in this race. He never appeared to be making strides to the front.

8. Tony Kanaan started ninth and finished eighth. If it weren't for Dixon being spun, he would have started ninth and finished ninth. He and Castroneves ran the same race.

9. Charlie Kimball finished ninth. He made a few really impressive moves at the start but faded a little bit. Kimball has finished tenth, 11th, 12th and ninth through four races. So what is next, an eighth or a 13th?

10. Scott Dixon's podium streak ends at Barber, as does Chip Ganassi Racing's podium streak. He did a great job to keep the car running after being spun and worked his way back to tenth. Perhaps he could have given Pagenaud and company a run for their money. We will never know.

11. Andretti Autosport looks better in this race but not great. Ryan Hunter-Reay got up to 11th. Marco Andretti got up to 12th. They are still a step off but this is better than Long Beach.

12. A.J. Foyt Racing should petition for IndyCar races to be held on Fridays. Takuma Sato finished 13th and Hawksworth was 19th but they were both in the top five on Friday. Something is a miss and that can't be blamed on Honda.

13. Speaking of Andretti Autosport, Carlos Muñoz finished 14th despite his contact prior to the green flag and Alexander Rossi finished 15th. Rossi had a great start but the Andretti cars weren't able to take advantage of strategy like Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

14. Quickly through the rest of the field: Sébastien Bourdais spun Dixon and was penalized and never recovered. Mikhail Aleshin was spun but never was a threat. Luca Filippi continues to have great qualifying runs and terrible races. We have talked so much about Jack Hawksworth already and he only finished 19th. Conor Daly and Max Chilton rounded out the field.

15. We need to talk about back marker etiquette. A driver should never race out his or her mirrors so when a car on the tail end of the lead lap sees the leader is approaching they should let the leader by. By saying a driver has "the right to fight to stay on the lead lap" gives a back marker more power than they should ever have. Does that mean they can run the leader wide or block or make contact with the leader? No. The power should always be in the hands of the leader. If the leader is reeling in a back marker, the leader should be allowed to go by because the back marker isn't racing the leader, the back marker is racing the driver ahead of them. Conor Daly was 20th and the leader Simon Pagenaud caught him. Daly isn't racing Pagenaud; he is racing the driver in 19th.

16. What if position in the championship determined how many push-to-passes a driver received? Watching James Hinchcliffe struggle behind Tony Kanaan and losing time to the leaders during the second stint got me thinking that a varying amount of push-to-passes could spice up a race. Give the drivers a base of ten pushes but give a few more to drivers lower in the championship. There were 21 drivers in the field. The top seven in the championship could get the base ten pushes with the next seven getting 18 pushes and the final third getting 15 pushes. Instead of playing with the aero kits, just balance it with pushes-to-pass. It could lead to more passing on track. I am sure it is something the engine manufactures could make possible.

17. We are one-fourth of the way through the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season and now the month of May and two races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I need a nap after this one. Luckily there are two weeks off until the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Sleep well my friends. And don't forget to be polite to faster traffic.