IndyCar Feast or Famine

Five races in fifteen days to begin the month of July, then three weeks off before returning to Mid-Ohio and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indianapolis 500. There has also been talk (I’m not sure it is confirmed) that both Mid-Ohio and Gateway will become double headers. If so then in the span of 23 days we would have five races plus qualifying and practice days at Indy which are much more intense than practice and qualifying at other venues. Honestly, it’s fun for us fans but it has to be exhausting for drivers and teams. Many of us our still on lighter schedules due to the pandemic so we welcome the busy race weekends but I’d also be fine with spreading the joy out.

So I’m going to dive in talking about the Iowa double header, announcements about the Indy 500 and thoughts on the remaining races.

Iowa was a blast! I loved pretty much everything about the races at Iowa. The qualifying just made sense for such a busy weekend. Each driver ran two laps. The first lap counted for the first race, second lap for the second race. One slip can send you way back but one good run sends you to the top. It was fun to watch and see where everyone ended up. Even more fun was having a first time pole winner with Conor Daly. He had a fantastic qualifying run for both laps but only held onto the pole for race 1. Josef Newgarden won the pole for race two. I have always been a Josef fan but now that he is with Penske it’s not as exciting to see him win- it’s expected. Conor winning the pole for the Carlin team- that’s exciting. I’m always rooting for the underdog.

Simon Pagenaud had a problem and wasn’t able to qualify which meant he would be starting at the back for both races. Since he won race one and finished fourth for race two this wasn’t a problem but I could see how that could have been a much bigger problem for a smaller team. I still like the qualifying system for the double header but had it been a different team I might have been saying they need to rethink the strategy or give a team a second chance to get the car going. Yes I hear myself, just being honest.

Loved that Tony Kanaan gave the command to start engines from the car. Race two Helio Castroneves gave the command. Helio gave a whole little speech. TK just gave the command. Would have loved to have heard a bit more from Tony. Honestly, he appeared a bit nervous about it. I think the whole weekend was an emotional one for him as he winds down his IndyCar career.

The invocation was way too long. Let me preface this by saying I am a Christian and I have always appreciated that they broadcast the prayer. What a great way to share about the love of Jesus. Well apparently the preacher that was asked to pray on Friday felt the same way and then some. He turned his prayer into a sermon. Sadly, rather than reach others it turned them off. I saw many complaints about it on Twitter. You can’t make anyone feel any different by forcing them to do something they don’t want to do. The following night the invocation wasn’t aired. Hmm? Maybe because there was a shortened pre-show, maybe because the preacher went way too long on Friday. I have always appreciated IndyCar Ministry. They say a beautiful prayer and are there to pray with drivers before the race, hold services at the track and teach about Jesus to those who want to hear. If we have many more invocations like fridays I’m afraid the series will stop broadcasting them.

The race had its share of excitement. TK brushes the wall. Will Power looses a tire. Colton Herta and Rinus VeeKay are involved in a very scary accident (more on that in a bit) and Simon Pagenaud goes from last to first to win the race. Loved every minute. Oh and don’t forget James Hinchcliffe in the booth. Wish he was in a car but love having him as part of the broadcast team. Now if we could just get Kevin Lee back I’d be thrilled.

As the race was going back to green after a caution what was expected to be a green flag lap remained yellow. The cars in the back of the pack didn’t slow enough and Colton Herta and Rinus VeeKay were involved in an accident. Herta’s car vaulted over Rinus Veekay’s car. The new aero screen definitely helped keep the drivers safe. There is no doubt about that in my mind. It also protected Marcus Erickson from some debris. The aero screen did its job. However, I also wonder if the screen played a part in launching Herta’s car into the air. Did it act as a ramp? It looked like it from my perspective but of course I am not even close to an expert on things like that. I hope it didn’t. I do know it protected Rinus and Markus. I’m so thankful for that.

Simon Pagenaud was the winner working his way from last to first. Never change your fantasy pick when they have a bad qualifying you will regret it. I felt Simon could still have a good race but doubted he would get the win. Well I was wrong. So much for my fantasy points.

Race Two

The race is much hotter. 90 degrees. This has to make the back to back racing so much harder.

Hinch looks great in his suit and tie. So snazzy and does a great job in the booth. Just want to see him in the race suit for a few more years.

As stated Helio gives the command to start engines. Loved it. Miss him in the series.

Ed Carpenter hits the wall. Ryan Hunter-Reay has the same accident that he had in race one, hitting the pit exit. He does more damage the second time. Pato O’Ward has a bad pit stop. He had been running second and then he drops down a lap after everyone cycles through their stops. Simon Pagenaud had another great race finishing fourth. Tony Kanaan finishes eleventh and on the lead lap. Marco Andretti gets a top ten. Oliver Askew finishes sixth- great two nights for him. Josef Newgarden wins from the pole and Will Power and Graham Rahal round out the podium. Good to see some who have been struggling have a good night. Will Power was completely spent after the race.

I wrote about race one a few days ago, gave a quick abbreviated review of race two today. Since I began this post we have learned that the race scheduled has once again changed, making my post title even more relevant.

So while the teams enjoy three weeks off the fans miss racing. It was hinted at that Portland and Laguna Seca might not happen. It was announced today they are no longer on the schedule. To replace them three more weekends have become double headers. Mid-Ohio, Gateway and the October Harvest GP at IMS Will now each be double headers. I appreciate all Roger Penske and IndyCar have done to make sure we have a good mount of races this season. I know there are things in our world right now we can’t change so double headers sure beat no race at all. However, I really feel for the teams and drivers. You could see how tired they were after the Iowa races. Late nights to repair cars or even to change liveries makes the weekend even longer for the teams. As a fan I enjoy the races but I am hopeful that next year we will be back to single race weekends for the most part. Double headers need to be spread out if they do continue.

Let’s close with the Indy 500. It has been announced that it will run at 25% capacity. I can’t even imagine how different it will look. I am thankful that anyone who wanted to attend is able. Many chose to stay at home this year. We hope to be at qualifying but honestly if masks must be worn and it’s a hot humid day I’m not sure like that sounds fun. Might be a wait and see for us.

Mid Ohio 2019

Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! I wasn’t sure what to expect in Sunday’s race at Mid-Ohio but I was fearful after Will Power won the pole that we would have a Penske parade with no passing. Instead we were treated to a great race and Penske didn’t even make the podium.

So many stories let’s jump right in.

Will Power- Will has not been having a great season but we all know what he is capable of. He won the pole and I thought that might help him get over the slump he has been in. I picked him in my Fantasy League (a Facebook league where we can only choose one driver). I imagined Power running away from the field and easily winning this race leading a Penske Parade. However, that is not at all what we saw. While Power did lead in the beginning and remained up front for most of the race he didn’t have what he needed to win the race. He settled for fourth place.

James Hinchcliffe and Marcus Ericsson – Sadly, these two were in a first lap incident that ended the day for Marcus and had James running in the back. I believe he finished three laps down by the checkered flag. So frustrating for the Arrow Schmidt Peterson team.

Josef Newgarden- Josef was having a good day and was leading for several laps and even appeared to be recovering from an incident in the pits with a fuel hose malfunction. While a few teams were on a two stop strategy most were on a three stop. This can cause some confusion but throughout most of the race Josef looked very strong. In the final laps however he was running in fourth and seeking a podium finish. He tried to make a move on Ryan Hunter-Reay. RHR would not give in though as he was also desperate for a podium. Newgarden spun out and lost a lot of his points advantage to Alexander Rossi. I believe Rossi is now 16 points behind Newgarden. It would have been in the 30’s had Josef been happy with fourth position.

Felix Rosenqvist- This young man is the reason I began my post with 5 Wows. His drive was absolutely amazing. The entire race he was someone to watch. Lots of passing and he appeared to be on a two stop strategy which I assumed would have given him an advantage. However, he did make three stops but was so far ahead when he did and had such speed that he found himself running up front most of the race. In the final few laps he was gaining on Scott Dixon but had several lapped cars between them. I believe that had Felix had a few more laps or had the lapped cars given way, he would have won the race. Dixon was clearly struggling with his tires and Felix was gaining. He gave Scott a run for his money and while many thought Felix should be happy with his first podium and not push the issue, Felix wanted nothing less than the top step. Dixon has way too much experience though and was able to keep Felix behind him. Dixon won and Felix had to settle for second. Wow though, he sure made it exciting. It’s just a matter of time before he wins.

Scott Dixon- Well we shouldn’t be surprised. Dixon now has six wins at Mid-Ohio. He has the track figured out and he never gives in to pressure. He had to work for this win but it was what we have come to expect from Scott- a win at Mid-Ohio. The pressure of the championship won’t get to him. He is still one to watch.

Hello Castroneves- No Helio wasn’t in the race but rather working in the pits for the qualifying show. If you have NBCSN Gold you were able to see even more coverage with Helio. He might need a bit more practice but I enjoyed watching him. His smile is contagious and he has such a passion for racing. I hope to see him in that role more often.

Kevin Lee- So it was very strange to me that Kevin Lee was not at the Toronto race and while most brushed it off as his weekend off I still find it peculiar. The week prior on Trackside it sounded to me (although I haven’t listened again) like Kevin was preparing for his weekend in Toronto. He was telling listeners that he was practicing the correct way to say Toronto, which is apparently without the last T. So I was completely surprised to not see him on the broadcast. This week though he took over the anchor position as Leigh Diffey was working elsewhere. Kevin did a fine job and I always enjoy his involvement in the broadcast. Hope he is around for years to come.

All in all what could have been a snoozer with not a single yellow on a road course turned out to be a fantastic race. The championship is still very much open and the passing throughout the field made for an exciting race. How has the season gone so fast? Next up is Pocono. I have such mixed feeling about this race. It can be so exciting and so dangerous. Praying for a safe, fun day.

Long Beach

  Race Notes

Finally watching live

Roger Penske to drive pace car at Indy

Conor Daly is becoming my favorite. Starting 13th. Not bad. Has some experience. 

Hate that Marco starts last. 

Hinch hopefully has a good weekend. 
Hubby bought a boat so I’m no longer live. 
Chilton- jumping curb. Race control finally says no. 

Lap 40- no yellows
Smart move for Dixon lap 52 pit when stuck in traffic. 

And just like that Dixon won the race. 

Pagenaud just in front of Dixon. Tires just on blend line coming off pit lane. Wow. Race control reviewing. Simon given a warning. Wow. Race winning move was actually a violation. Kinda sucks. 

Dixon told no penalty and Dixon is on it. The race is on!

Sato is 6th. Many push to pass left. Looking good. 
Rahal biggest mover. 

Sato passes TK. Cmon Sato!

Hinch so close to Power

New system would be no warnings. Mike Hull upset. 

Not a lot of passing so the line crossing played a huge role in Pagenauds win  

Sato 6 push to pass left. 

Montoya blocks Sato- I’m not a Montoya fan so yes he should be penalized. Regardless Sato proves to be a threat to Montoya. No action taken. 

Cmon Pagenaud 

Sweet!  

5th for Sato

Hinch in 8th, Daly-13th

Didn’t need another Penske win but glad for Pagenaud. 

Feel for Dixon but I know how this win is for Pagenaud after going winless last year. 

5th win for Pags continues to lead in championship 

I decided to leave my race notes in my post. I just jot down a few things during the race to help me write after.

 I was very excited to finally be watching a race live. The first two races we had commitments so I watched St. Pete on the DVR and listened live to Phoenix on IndyCar radio. Both were enjoyable but I prefer watching live. Then Long Beach turned out to be just a ho hum race until we get to the move Simon Pagenaud made cutting over the blend line. 

Helio Castrineves won the pole and Chevy’s dominated as we have seen in the past. The race got off clean except for a little bit of debris but I never heard or saw who damaged their bodywork so it must not have been too bad. The entire race stayed green and wasn’t very exciting. Max Chilton continually took a short cut, not going around a curb. I loved that. He found a shorter way- why didn’t everyone use it? Finally race control told him to stop but he had done it quite a few times. The race continued on without too much excitement. Well at least not in the race. Here at home I got a text from Steve saying he bought a boat. My husband usually does not just make big purchases on the spur of the moment so that was a surprise. I paused the tv and got some details. Looks like our summer just got a bit more exciting. 

I returned to the race. The leaders were being held up by race traffic and Dixon pitted. I thought for sure that was the race winning move and that we would see another win for Dixon. We probably would have too except that when Simon Pagenaud exited pit lane he crossed over the blend line placing himself in front of Scott Dixon and took over the race lead. The TV coverage immediately showed that Pagenaud made an error and would most likely be penalized. Early in the coverage it was explained that any car exiting pit lane must keep the right side tires from crossing the yellow line. Pagenaud was oh so close but the replay clearly shows all four tires crossing the line and it was a move that put him in the race lead. I can only imagine that Dixon was not overly aggressive because he assumed Pagenaud would be given a penalty and that the minimum penalty would be giving up the spot. That was what I thought anyway. Turns out Pagenaud was only given a warning and was able to keep the race lead. Once Dixon learned this you could see him push harder to get passed but was never able to and Simon Pagenaud won the race, his first win with Team Penske. 

I didn’t want a Penske win not did I want a second win for Dixon. I did want a new winner for the season so I guess I should be thankful for that. I always root for the smaller teams so while I am glad Simon finally won again I am also disappointed. Dixon winning two races in a row would have been a disappointment too. Of course regardless of the winner the biggest disappointment was the non call from Race Control. I understand a warning if a car went over the line but did not gain positions however that was not the case.  I don’t believe Pagenaud purposely cheated so I think a drive through would have been harsh but I did expect him to have to give up the position and let Scott Dixon pass. So I leave the race with mixed emotions. Glad Pagenaud won, yet disappointed in how it happened. I expected more from the new steward system. 

Let’s talk Honda’s. Clearly they are not the preferred engine/aero kit but Takuma Sato finished fifth and I swear he would have passed Montoya if we had a couple more laps. Loved seeing AJ Foyt racing having such a good weekend. Hinch did well too after two not so good races. As I said in my race notes- Conor Daly is becoming a favorite of mine. He started and finished 13th. I would have loved to see him in the top ten but he held his own and I’m looking forward to watching him improve as the season continues. 

Less than a week until the race at Barber.  Personally, I’m hoping it’s the week we see a team other than Penske or Ganassi win.