Races Watched (2019 Week 14): IndyCar Catchup – St Pete, COTA, Barber

Week 14:  1-7 April 2019

Over the weekend I watched the first three NTT IndyCar Series rounds:

Friday night:  St. Petersburg, Florida (airport/street circuit)
Sunday morning:  Circuit of the Americas, Texas (road course)
Sunday night (live!):  Barber Motorsports Park, Alabama (road course)

NTT IndyCar – R1 – GP of St Petersburg
St Petersburg, Florida
10th March

Power on pole from Newgarden, Rosenqvist, Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Rossi.

Rosenqvist got by Newgarden at turn 1. Ed Jones got up four places in four laps. After a yellow for Hunter-Reay’s engine failure Rosenqvist took the lead from Power! Outstanding move for a series rookie. Highly rated from Formula E, Super Formula, Super GT, Blancpain GT, Formula 3…. the list goes on. He was showing why.

Jones hit the wall hard, seemed to misjudge it but might’ve been a car problem, Leist then clipped him and hit the wall too.

Newgarden got the lead through the pit stops by staying out and gapping the field, Power and Dixon similarly emerged ahead of Rosenqvist, Dixon much later passing Power. Good strategy call well executed.

Decent race but not much more to say. Glad it wasn’t the wreck-fest St Pete can sometimes be. And we already see we have a fantastic rookie field. Rosenqvist lived up to his billing, Herta impressed finishing 8th, Ericsson did well until mechanical problems at halfway.

I really appreciate NBC moving the scoring graphics to a tower on the left of the screen, in line with a lot of other series, but this time with the full driver name. Much better and easier to follow than the horizontal crawl across the top!

I didn’t like their obsession with the 2-seater passenger, interviews before, during and after the ride. Overkill coverage of a gimmick. Just speak to them after.

  1. Newgarden
  2. Dixon
  3. Power
  4. Rosenqvist
  5. Rossi

NTT IndyCar – R2 – IndyCar Classic
Circuit of the Americas
24th March

Power again on pole, from Rossi, Hunter-Reay, Herta, Rosenqvist, Dixon.

IndyCar’s first visit to COTA. They took the IMSA approach of ignoring track limits but it seemed to go into overdrive, the penultimate corner apparently was only advisory. Seemed to make a mockery of the designed length of the run-off. It seemed to work until the major race-changing incident.

Outstanding weekend from Colton Herta, son of Bryan, running for the Harding Steinbrunner team. He passed Hunter-Reay early then ran in the top three all race long. He had earned his 3rd place, before the Safety Car

Hinchcliffe qualified in the back half and made up several places to 12th in the first laps. Rosenqvist went down to 8th.

I felt the race had passing early but was largely uneventful in the second half with some field spread. It always happens at COTA. That tempted leader Power and 2nd-pace Rossi, who were running with Herta, into staying out a lot longer than the others. They needed to get to 17 laps to go, or less, to ensure their soft red tyres would last the final stint. At 16 laps to go the Safety Car came out. They hadn’t stopped yet.

Hinchcliffe and Rosenqvist hit each other in that Turn 19 runoff area, the IndyCar racing line, sending Rosenqvist into pit entry. Safety Car, pits closed.

Yes it sucks that IndyCar closes the pits and prevents the leader coming in when the SC is called, as the leader is entitled to in F1, but equally that’s the risk you take when you stay out and everyone else has pitted. They had equal opportunity to come in beforehand, it was a gamble worth taking and they lost, simple as that.

It got worse for Power. At the pit stop under this Safety Car he couldn’t engage gear. He was out on the spot. Disaster after leading every lap to that point. Rossi was also in and restarted something like 18th.

And that promoted Colton Herta to the lead with 10 laps to go! And he controlled it like a veteran, driving away and holding a gap despite Newgarden and Hunter-Reay slamming the push-to-pass button every lap. He is now IndyCar’s youngest ever winner!

Awful to see a dominant win punished through cruel luck, but that doesn’t detract from Herta’s fantastic performance. He was often fastest at COTA in winter testing, fast all through practice, ran with the leaders all day long. This was no fluke yellow-assist from 10th, he had the speed.

Shoutout to Jack Harvey, 10th in his part-season Meyer Shank Schmidt Peterson entry.

  1. Herta
  2. Newgarden
  3. Hunter-Reay
  4. Rahal
  5. Bourdais

NTT IndyCar – R3 – Grand Prix of Alabama
Barber Motorsports Park
7th April

Sato on pole from Rahal, Dixon, Hinchcliffe, Bourdais, Pigot.

A late green flag at the start held the field, but not Ed Jones who got the mother of all jump starts and cleared half the field! A penalty would see to that.

Ericsson took an early stop, just lap 7 or so. By lap 10 they were trickling in, more and more, right through to lap 19. This was becoming a strategy race, 3 stops versus 2 stops.

It later turned out many had planned for 2 stops but switched when the pace of the 3-stopper became viable. Only Bourdais (lap 29), Pigot and Harvey appeared to be the only ones sticking to a 2-stopper. But Power had made his second stop by then after spinning and flatspotting his tyres, he’d be forced to a 4-stopper.

Herta’s engine was stuttering, some fuel pickup problem which couldn’t be solved.

Reports from Twitter followers at the track were of overtakes everywhere, but TV spent most of their time looking at cars pitting. They had to, they couldn’t miss what might be a crucial stop. I’d have liked to have seen more passes on screen.

There were some great ones! O’Ward and Pagenaud had a great battle for 9th, passing, repassing. O’Ward was on fire all day. And a shout out to Ericsson who got 7th after starting 20th, largely through overtaking although I don’t remember seeing it.

A train of quality drivers running 9th to 15th covered by 3.5 seconds, very close racing.

For a while it looked like Bourdais and Sato were racing each other virtually, Sato had it covered though, he was pushing all the way. Bourdais had really good pace despite saving fuel and tyres which Pigot and Harvey couldn’t maintain.

Eventually the Safety Car came out on lap 56 of 90. Rahal’s car stopped on course with drive problems, he’d already suffered a problem earlier. As everyone rushed to the pits Kanaan nerfed Chilton into the wall. Race Control kept it green until everyone had a chance to come in, a good officiating call.

Strategy was out the window, now it was a flat out run to the flag for the last 25 laps. (It was a long yellow.) And Newgarden made the most of it, restarting 9th and was 4th at the flag!

Sato even cut the chicane, he was pushing so hard to stay ahead of Dixon, but held on for a classy and mostly clean win.

  1. Sato
  2. Dixon
  3. Bourdais
  4. Newgarden (from 16th!)
  5. Rossi

Points Table

50, 40, 35, 32, 30, 28, 26, 24, 22, 20 then subtract 1 for every position.
Bonuses:  +1 Pole Position, +1 Led A Lap, +2 Most Laps Led.

Driver Team Eng STP COTA ALA TOTAL
Josef Newgarden Penske Chevy 53 40 32 125
Scott Dixon Ganassi Honda 40 17 41 98
Takuma Sato Rahal Honda 11 26 54 91
Alexander Rossi Andretti Honda 31 22 31 84
Colton Herta Harding Honda 24 51 6 81
Sebastien Bourdais Coyne Honda 6 30 36 72
James Hinchcliffe Schmidt Honda 28 14 29 71
Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Honda 7 35 24 66
Will Power Penske Chevy 37 10 19 66
Marco Andretti Andretti Herta Honda 17 28 16 61

Look how competitive it is! Everyone’s had at least one mediocre race – except Newgarden hence an early lead.

Dixon had that poor race at COTA but otherwise is up there. Sato may prove a surprise contender. Rossi is threatening. Penske drivers Power and Pagenaud are not having a good early season.

Herta is seriously impressive! The easy favourite rookies were Rosenqvist and Ericsson, but Herta is going to give them a run all year.

There’s no teams championship but there is one for engine manufacturers.

Engine STP COTA ALA TOTAL
Honda 72 90 96 258
Chevrolet 91 65 54 210

The next race is Long Beach this coming weekend.

Catch-Up

Formula 1 – 2000 German Grand Prix

I’ve discovered by accident that Sky Sports F1 shows classic F1 races on a Wednesday night. The famous race at the old Hockenheim required dropping everything else and watching.

It might’ve been a combination of damp track and skinny wings for the straights but it struck me how much the cars moved around, Coulthard was on opposite lock through the top chicane, just like IndyCars are now. That again proves to me low downforce and high power is the way to go. And oh man I miss those V10s.

I love this race. Schumacher out early. Dry first half, a heavy rain shower over the pits at halfway but it only covered half the track. Do you take wets or stay on dry weather tyres? Usually you’d go wets but Barrichello stayed out and made it work. It was an amazing drive from a great wet weather driver, who had started 18th and passed most of the field before any rain fell. Coulthard tried dries too and couldn’t do it. Hakkinen tried wets and couldn’t do it, despite the pair leading when the rain came. Rubens’ first win, too.

Memorable. One of the best races ever.

Next Week

8th to 14th April

Your viewing options include:

  • F1 in Shanghai
  • IndyCar in Long Beach
  • IMSA in Long Beach
  • Formula E in Rome
  • MotoGP at COTA
  • World Superbike at Assen
  • ELMS at Paul Ricard
  • Blancpain GT at Monza
  • VLN at the Nordschleife
  • Supercars at Phillip Island
  • Super GT at Okayama

The first truly busy weekend of 2019 and it won’t be the last!

I’m planning F1 and IndyCar live to bookend Sunday. Hopefully also IMSA Saturday night, but I haven’t seen Sebring yet and won’t get the chance before the weekend. And Formula E is calling but I have things to do so that might be a DVR job. MotoGP will be Quest’s Monday highlights for me.

Secondly, what genius put the ELMS and Blancpain GT season openers and round 2 of VLN all on the same weekend? IMSA at Long Beach is slightly different on another continent, but these three European series, there must be drivers, teams and media who would be paid to work both?

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s