Saturday, May 14, 2016

First Impressions: 3rd Grand Prix of Indianapolis

1. Simon Pagenaud is on a roll and the bounces keep going his way. He was third when the final round of pit stops started. He exited with a three-second lead. Pagenaud has been great and fortunate. Had the officials been properly penalizing drivers for blend line penalties, he doesn't win at Long Beach. Had Jack Hawksworth picked the outside line in turn five, he doesn't win at Barber. Had Conor Daly and Hélio Castroneves not exited into lap traffic, he probably doesn't win today. Pagenaud is having a historic season but will it continue into the Indianapolis 500? Can this run continue for a sixth race? All we know is Pagenaud is the championship leader and comfortably in control.

2. Hélio Castroneves did not have a great weekend and he still finished second. A timely caution put him on the podium. This is what Castroneves does. He rarely has the fastest car but he methodically works his way to the front and gets top five finishes.

3. James Hinchcliffe had a great weekend from start to finish. Quietly Hinchcliffe has put together an impressive start to the season and he finally has had a good result at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It is coming at the right time.

4. Two years ago, had Graham Rahal lost a second row starting position due to his car being underweight in qualifying, he would have been fortunate to finish in the top fifteen. Rahal has changed and he worked his way to a fourth place finish. Another year where it appears Rahal will be hanging around for sometime.

5. Charlie Kimball finished another Grand Prix of Indianapolis in fifth. Could he be a sleeper in the Indianapolis 500? He was competitive. He gave James Hinchcliffe a real run early in the race. Kimball keeps his nose clean but taking that next step and becoming a contender week in and week out will require taking risks.

6. Conor Daly was just as fortunate as Castroneves and for about 15 laps, it appeared Daly was headed for an emotional victory. Daly abused his rear tires more than anyone else and he faded but sixth for a struggling Dale Coyne Racing is a wonderful result and he held off Scott Dixon.

7. Speaking of Scott Dixon, he wasn't hit by a Penske driver this year in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Seventh isn't good enough though especially as Pagenaud makes the podium his weekend vacation home.

8. Juan Pablo Montoya overcame a blend line penalty to finish eighth. Race control started handing out drive-through penalties for blend line violations. Good. Was that so hard to do from the start?

9. Ryan Hunter-Reay and Andretti Autosport finally got off the mat. He went from 15th to 7th in the first turn and finished ninth. This was a race Andretti Autosport needed.

10. Alexander Rossi gets his first career top ten. He had an impressive race as he made Will Power blink and stayed in the top ten almost all race.

11. Spencer Pigot finished 11th. This kid deserves more races beyond the Indianapolis 500. Hopefully he gets it but this is IndyCar and rarely is young talent rewarded properly.

12. Quickly round outing the top 18: Carlos Muñoz kept his nose clean except for a lazy spin in turn ten and he finished 12th. Mikhail Aleshin was in the top ten for the first stint but faded. Max Chilton did nothing and finished 14th. Marco Andretti made a few good passes but could only managed 15th. Matthew Brabham had a really good debut and finished 16th. Gabby Chaves held his own in his return and finished 17th. Takuma Sato had a blend line violation and finished 18th.

13. The rest of the field: Will Power had a rough two days and finished 19th. Just when it appeared Jack Hawksworth was taking a step in the right direction, he dropped like a rock and finished 20th. Josef Newgarden was doing better than Graham Rahal on the first stint but he could get passed 15th and a blend line violation cost him a top twenty finish. J.R. Hildebrand's race was ruined when it appeared he ran out of fuel under caution. Alex Tagliani was penalized after each practice session and was speeding on the pit lane in today's race. This was the best Foyt could do? Sébastien Bourdais and Tony Kanaan had their days ruined in turn one. No more to say on that.

14. This was a good race. You had drivers moving up from deep in the field. A few top dogs stubbed their toes. It wasn't delayed by many cautions. What else can you ask for?

15. Tagliani's livery should become Hawksworth's or Sato's livery for the rest of the season so we can tell the two full-time Foyt drivers apart.

16. And now we move our attention to the Indianapolis 500. Do you have goose bumps? Sleep well and enjoy your Sunday. Practice begins Monday.