IndyCar Recap: March 2017 – St Pete

The opening round of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series.

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Introductory Note: I have decided to recap the seasons of those series I watch which make video available. Rather than do it by race I thought it would be interesting to look at it month by month to see the points change in that time. The focus is on track action and not news. It’ll make more sense in a month with more races. I hope it proves interesting.

2017 Verizon IndyCar Series

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2017 Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg

12th March 2017 – Race 1 of 17 – Albert Whitted Airport, St Petersburg, Florida, USA

Recommendation:  Should you watch this race?  Yes, but maybe FFwd the last quarter.

Video

Watch the full race on YouTube:

Comment

The season opener took place on a slightly reconfigured St Pete airport / street hybrid course. At turn 3 they moved a wall and install high kerbs, unfortunately this made the race track narrower, though they were at least prudent enough to allow room for an escape lane on the inside.

As feared, this caught people out on the first lap as the field tried to get single-file before they reached the area. Graham Rahal was spun, two other cars were in the wall and so the Safety Car was out immediately. Rahal blamed Kimball but really it looked as though the pair just ran out of room as the track narrowed. James Hinchcliffe made a good pass around the outside of turn 1 to take the lead on the restart, a position he’d hold for a while.

As always at St Pete the overtaking was difficult on a bumpy track in cars with no power steering, but you could really see how hard the drivers were working. The first race after the long winter break is a testing one. Cars get beaten up here and a Safety Car was called for debris, unfortunately it fell halfway through a green flag pit sequence.

In IndyCar the pits close during a Safety Car period and only reopen when the field is bunched up. This means the leaders, who were yet to pit, were forced to stop under the SC and come out behind everyone who stopped earlier. This gave the lead to Simon Pagenaud, demoting Hinchcliffe to 10th. After the race many argued the pits should stay open as they do in F1, so the leader can pit and not lose out so badly. Others argued staying out is your own risk, you had the chance to pit earlier and cover a potential SC but you chose to take the risk. I can see both sides!

Pagenaud led after the restart, until Sebastien Bourdais then took the lead just before halfway. The second half of the race was a lot less event-filled. Bourdais held the lead for the remainder of the race, a tremendous performance in the perennially underfunded Dale Coyne Racing Dallara-Honda entry. Pagenaud and Dixon represented the dominant Penske and Ganassi teams on the podium.

Ryan Hunter-Reay recovered lost ground after early car troubles to finish 4th, leading 3 Andretti Autosport cars in the top ten. Ed Jones made some good moves and seriously impressed on his IndyCar debut for Dale Coyne in what was a brilliant race for the restructured team.

Result (Top Ten)

  1. [18] Sebastien Bourdais (Dale Coyne / Honda);
  2. [1] Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske / Chevrolet);
  3. [9] Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi / Honda);
  4. [28] Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport / Honda);
  5. [26] Takuma Sato (Andretti Autosport / Honda);
  6. [3] Helio Castroneves (Team Penske / Chevrolet);
  7. [27] Marco Andretti (Andretti Autosport / Honda);
  8. [2] Josef Newgarden (Team Penske / Chevrolet);
  9. [5] James Hinchcliffe (Schmidt Peterson / Chevrolet);
  10. [19] Ed Jones (Dale Coyne / Honda);

Car number in square brackets.

Points

Pos Name STP Total
1 Sebastien Bourdais 53 53
2 Simon Pagenaud 41 41
3 Scott Dixon 35 35
4 Ryan Hunter-Reay 32 32
5 Takuma Sato 31 31
6 Helio Castroneves 28 28
7 Marco Andretti 26 26
8 Josef Newgarden 24 24
9 James Hinchcliffe 23 23
10 Ed Jones 20 20
11 Alexander Rossi 19 19
12 Tony Kanaan 18 18
13 JR Hildebrand 17 17
14 Mikhail Aleshin 16 16
15 Conor Daly 15 15
16 Max Chilton 14 14
17 Will Power 13 13
= Graham Rahal 13 13
19 Charlie Kimball 12 12
20 Spencer Pigot 10 10
21 Carlos Munoz 9 9

In later months this table will show points accrued in each month so we can see who had a good month and who less so.

If you’re unfamiliar with it the IndyCar points system is quite generous. Points are awarded for every position, there is no rule about minimum distance in order to be classified (so you can do 2 laps and still get 9pts for 21st), the winner gets 50 points and there are bonuses for pole position (2pt), leading most laps (1pt), and a point if you lead a lap at any point (1pt awarded once per driver to achieve it). The differences between positions are very well weighted and the system often ends up with 2 or 3 drivers in contention at the final round.

Next

April is a busy one with Long Beach, Barber Motorsports Park and the Phoenix short oval. Catch my recap here this time next week.

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