Sunday, June 4, 2017

First Impressions: Belle Isle 2017 Race Two

1. Whoa. Graham Rahal seemed to be cruising to sweeping the weekend and then James Hinchcliffe lost an engine and then Spencer Pigot lost an engine and IndyCar red-flagged the race with three laps to go to create a two-lap shootout. Rahal held on but it had to be nervy for him. He didn't dominate this one like he did yesterday but he controlled this one once he jumped Takuma Sato and Will Power on the first pit cycle. It was a great weekend for him and he heads to Texas, where he won last year, on a great wave of momentum. Could he go three-for-three?

2. Josef Newgarden had a great weekend, arguably the second-best weekend of them all. For the second consecutive day, Newgarden was top driver on the three-stop strategy and he picked up fastest lap again. A lot of people worried Newgarden would have a slump in year one with Penske just like Simon Pagenaud in 2015. That doesn't appear to be the case.

3. Will Power finished third but he has to be kicking himself because he blew his flyer during qualifying and had to start seventh. He likely would have topped his group and won pole position. It was a good points day for him after he finished 18th. 

4. Takuma Sato didn't let the Indianapolis 500 hangover get the best of him as he finished fourth today the day after finishing eighth. He didn't waste the double points and qualifying points he earned at Indianapolis. Did it take him until he was 40 years old to gain control over his aggression and turn his speed into results? The man is at the highest point of his career.

5. Simon Pagenaud finished fifth but was never really a factor in this one. Like his teammate Will Power, this is a great day after a dismal Saturday when he finished 16th. 

6. Scott Dixon finishes sixth in what was a quiet day for him going with the three-stop strategy over the two-strategy he worked yesterday. Not bad for him since he is driving with a bad left ankle.

7. Alexander Rossi with another solid finish in seventh. He just didn't seem to have that little bit extra speed and this is a pretty good day considering he started 14th. 

8. Charlie Kimball finally gets a good day with an eighth-place finish. He didn't put a wheel wrong and he kept his nose clean. What else can you ask from a driver? 

9. Hélio Castroneves cut a tire after contact with Ryan Hunter-Reay. He was fortunate to rebound to a ninth-place finish. 

10. Tony Kanaan did nothing and finished tenth.

11. Carlos Muñoz finished 11th and Conor Daly finished 12th but Daly spent most of the day in the final few positions of the top ten and he was ninth on that final and only restart and he lost three positions. Daly finally finishes a race on the lead lap but it has to be frustrating that a top ten slipped through his fingers and even worse is he finished behind his teammate.

12. Marco Andretti had an average day in 13th. He started in the top ten and the strategy choice didn't go his way. 

13. Esteban Gutiérrez picks up his best career IndyCar finish in 14th. He really wasn't noticed at all this weekend, which is a good thing considering he didn't put it in the barriers. For a guy who didn't get into the car until Friday this is a good debut weekend on what couldn't have been a more physically demanding weekend.

14. Max Chilton finished a lap down in 15th. Mikhail Aleshin was in the top ten and had an improper pit exit force him to serve a penalty and kill his day. Ryan Hunter-Reay wasn't the same after the contact with Castroneves and this seems like a missed opportunity after starting second. J.R. Hildebrand was hit by Ed Jones and that killed all his hope of a top ten finish on the three-stop strategy. Oriol Servià was penalized for pit lane speeding for the second consecutive day. You know about Hinchcliffe and Pigot and this was the first bad day of Ed Jones' IndyCar career but I still think he has the IndyCar Rookie of the Year locked up.

15. Normally this is the point where I celebrate the ABC portion of the schedule ending and get one final chances to tear apart Eddie Cheever and Scott Goodyear and as much as I really want to I won't because Allen Bestwick is officially unemployed and so is Dr. Jerry Punch. We don't know what the ABC team will look like next year for what will be its final year of this current television contract. That is a hell of a lot scarier than if we had another year with the status quo. 

And it sucks. It sucks to see Bestwick is out. He did a really good job for his relatively short stint as IndyCar's voice on network television and Dr. Punch has become a face I just always expected to see. I hope they find work. They both are too good to be unemployed. 

16. I will tear apart Davey Hamilton though. During the qualifying session on Sunday, after one of the commentators accidentally said Esteban Guerrieri when meaning Esteban Gutiérrez, Hamilton said he had been struggling with Gutiérrez's name and said we need to "Americanize" it. 

I don't know where Hamilton has been the last week but the last week's Indianapolis 500 got more buzz not because it was a great finish or a great story that Sato won but it got attention because a sports reporter sent out a racist and ignorant tweet about the winner. Then in the middle of the week Andretti Autosport had to address racist and xenophobic comments left on its Facebook page. Suggesting we need to "Americanize" a name to make your job easier is unprofessional. If you want to be a broadcaster take the time to learn the name and pronunciation and practice it over and over and over again and if you are not sure you are pronouncing it correctly ask said driver. If you don't want to do that Mr. Hamilton than quit. There are plenty of drivers out of rides that I am sure would love to be the driver analyst on the radio broadcast.

17. Now we head to Texas. Let's hope the rain isn't waiting.