Saturday, May 13, 2017

First Impressions: 4th Grand Prix of Indianapolis

1. Will Power dominated. He lost the lead on the first round of pit stops to Hélio Castroneves but he got it back by having the fastest car and timing his pit stops correctly. After his rough start to the season, this is a day Power deserved. He pulled away from the field and other than Castroneves for a brief third of the race no one came close to him. He is the 11th driver in IndyCar history to get to 30 career victories. He had a phenomenal drive and he will probably have another one or two of those this year.

2. Scott Dixon methodically finished second. He wasn't right at the front all day but he was consistently quick and it paid off. It was a typical Scott Dixon race and he was carving a few seconds out of Power's lead at the end but never really got close. Still a great day for him.

3. Ryan Hunter-Reay rebounded after three rough races with a third-place finish. After seeming to stumble into bad luck in April, he starts May cruising at the front and making a few key moves to get to third. He had a good car all weekend.

4. Simon Pagenaud didn't have it to challenge Power but he ran around the top five all race. This was a good outing for him and he will retain the championship lead heading into Indianapolis 500 qualifying next week.

5. Hélio Castroneves looked for a moment as if he was going to challenge for the victory and then his crew kept him out for two laps after Power's second stop and his chance of victory vanished like that as Power flew by and Castroneves couldn't keep up. It was a good day but it was a Castroneves-esque day of good but not good enough.

6. I am not sure how Graham Rahal went from 20th to sixth but he did and he did it a year after going from 24th to fourth in this same race. He had a quick car after struggling with speed all day yesterday. He picked his way through the middle of the field on the first stint and each stint he just seemed to get a few more positions each time. Great day for him.

7. This might have been Max Chilton's best race of his IndyCar career and he matched his career-best finish with a seventh-place finish. He didn't put a wheel wrong and this was a day he has probably been waiting for since entering the series.

8. Alexander Rossi had a really good start but he seemed to go in fuel-save mode earlier than everyone else during each stint and was running in the high-71s/low-72s when everyone was in the mid-71s. He still managed an eighth-place finish and that isn't something to complain about.

9. Spencer Pigot was P6 at his first pit stop and then he stalled and came out in P15 but he didn't quit and picked his way back through the field and finished ninth. He has been very impressive this season and he probably should have had two other top ten finishes. This is a promising sophomore season for Pigot.

10. Juan Pablo Montoya returned to IndyCar and he finished tenth. He started fifth but didn't seem to have the race pace with the other front-runners. Not bad. Montoya probably should still be full-time in this series

11. Josef Newgarden got not one but two pit lane speeding penalties and it cost him a shot at the podium but he rallied to finish 11th. Rough but it could have been worse.

12. Takuma Sato wasn't really mentioned and finished 12th. James Hinchcliffe had a great first stint and found himself up to seventh but he dropped to 13th by the end of the race.

13. Through the rest of the field: J.R. Hildebrand was a non-factor and finished 14th. Carlos Muñoz wasn't mentioned once and finished 15th. Marco Andretti got into the back of Tony Kanaan on lap one and was penalized and he finished 16th. Conor Daly, like Hinchcliffe, was in the top ten after his first stop but lost a few spots, stalled on his second stop and finished 17th. Mikhail Aleshin did nothing and finished 18th. Ed Jones went in the grass to avoid the spinning Kanaan on lap one and he had to make an extra pit stop and finished 19th. Tony Kanaan was 20th after the spin and his car lost speed. Charlie Kimball had a mechanical issue and retired after 32 laps. Sébastien Bourdais' engine expired after three laps.

14. The racing ended up being really good from P3 to P16 for most of the race. You are going to have races where there is no action at the front but it is happening everywhere else. It happens. The crowd looked good for what was a beautiful day at Indianapolis and it was caution-free, I think that is a good thing.

15. The ABC booth was the ABC booth but it was actually better than I expected. Eddie Cheever only mentioned the Indianapolis 500 six times. They missed passes. They didn't mention Fernando Alonso until about 70 laps into the race, which I am not sure if that showed control or lack of awareness of what it means. The booth was dull at times. So this was a usual ABC race.

16. I know this is the fourth year of the event but I like calling it the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and not the IndyCar Grand Prix. I think Grand Prix of Indianapolis sounds more formal. It isn't that big of a deal but I thought I would share my opinion.

17. Indianapolis 500 practice begins Monday. I hope you are ready.