St. Petersburg Race Recap: Oh, Canada!


2013 St. Petersburg StartIt had been 190 days since the IZOD IndyCar Series went dark for the long, cold winter when the engines fired once again for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg to open the 2013 campaign for the series title.  Will Power started from the Pole Position after winning the inaugural Verizon Pole Award on Saturday.  Power set sail early leaving the field looking small in his mirrors.  Things changed on lap 19 when Dario Franchitti, exiting the pits, found his way to the wall on cold black primary tires.  Tires would become a central story as the race unfolded.

The ensuing restart saw Power’s Team Penske teammate grab the lead on a brilliant outside pass, a move that Power questioned Race Control about in a post-race interview.  Nonetheless, Castroneves’ pass was legal and Helio set sail in clean air looking much like his teammate did in the first stint leading the most laps through the middle portions of the race.  Then things got crazy.

Sebastien Saavedra brought out the caution flag when his No. 6 Dragon Racing entry found its way into the tire barrier at the exit of turn 10 bringing out the full course caution flag.  The leaders ducked into pit lane for fuel and tires for the final stint of the race.  The exchange of pit stops saw JR Hildebrand pass Simona de Silvestro under the caution flag putting the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing car behind the Verizon machine of Will Power.  Coming to the restart, Hildebrand, apparently distracted, drove over the right rear tire of the car directly in front of him which, unfortunately, all but ended the day for the race’s polesitter.  Power’s car was repaired and he rejoined the fight, but he would find the tire barrier in the wining stages of the race saddling him with a disappointing 16th place result to begin his campaign.

Helio Castroneves made his only mistake of the day on the following restart when he was a fraction of a second late getting on the brakes getting into turn 1 locking the right front tire and opening the door for James Hinchcliffe to claim the lead.  While Castroneves attempted to chase Hinchcliffe down, the battle behind them was the thing to watch in the closing stages of the race.

Simona de Silvestro began her final stint on a used set of the red alternate tires which, according to teams, began losing their grip after as few as four laps at speed.  Chasing her first career podium, de Silvestro was holding on for dear life to keep third position but was unable to hold off a hard charging Marco Andretti who passed her coming to take the race’s white flag signalling the final lap.  Teammate Tony Kanaan followed Andretti through but it was far from over for the de Silvestro as she had to try to fend off Scott Dixon and EJ Viso in a crazy three wide finish back in the pack while James Hinchcliffe captured his first win in the IZOD IndyCar Series.  De Silvestro would bring it home in 6th which is a major turnaround from the 2012 she endured.

UP NEXT:

The IZOD IndyCar Series takes a week off for the Easter holiday after which they load into the Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama for the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama.  Will Power looks for his third consecutive win at the facility where he came from 9th place on the starting grid to win the 2012 race.

IZOD INDYCAR SERIES POINTS STANDINGS (FOLLOWING ST. PETERSBURG):

1. James Hinchcliffe (Leader)

2. Helio Castroneves (-8)

3. Marco Andretti (-16)

4. Tony Kanaan (-19)

5. Scott Dixon (-21)

6. Simona de Silvestro (-23)

7. EJ Viso (-25)

8. Takuma Sato (-27)

9. Justin Wilson (-29)

10. Alex Tagliani (-31)

14. Will Power (-35)

18. Ryan Hunter-Reay (-39)

25. Dario Franchitti (-46)

CONGRATULATIONS TO JAMES HINCHCLIFFE AND ANDRETT AUTOSPORT

WINNERS OF THE HONDA GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG

James Hinchcliffe 2013 St. Pete Victory Lane

2013 Race Preview: Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg


StPete LogoTRACK LAYOUT:

GP St. Pete Track MapOn March 24, the IZOD IndyCar Series awakens from its offseason slumber with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in the event’s ninth year of competition.  It is hard to believe that almost a decade has passed since the circuit hosted the IndyCar Series’ first right turn.  The course, a classic street circuit configuration, encompasses fourteen turns with the main straight normally an airport runway.

Now a staple on the IndyCar schedule, the event’s ninth edition has all the makings of the best race in the event’s history.  The IZOD IndyCar Series prepares to grid the most competitive field in history with everyone powered by the horsepower muscle of Chevrolet or Honda.

INDYCAR Spring TrainingTeam Penske’s record at the track is unmatched as the team looks to capture its sixth win at St. Pete and Will Power fired the first salvo winning the Verizon Pole Position recording a record breaking 105.87 mph. Teammate Helio Castroneves will be striving for his fourth St. Petersburg crown starting from the fifth position.

The positive surprise of the weekend is lone rookie driver Tristan Vautier who outqualified his veteran teammate by thirteen positions making the Firestone Fast Six.  Vautier, a graduate of Indy Lights, showed great speed in testing but it was unsure if it would translate to a competition weekend.  His speed is impressive, however, the verdict is out on whether he will be able to translate his speed into finishes that match.

IndyCar’s heavy hitters are spread throughout the field which should mean for some serious excitement with some, historically, fast drivers needing to weave their way through the field using daring passing and pit strategy that could result in chaos on starts and restarts.  These factors are a breeding ground for exciting racing and unpredictable outcomes.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:

  • Chevrolet locked down seven of the top ten starting grid positions, but will Honda find speed to challenge on race day?
  • Chip Ganassi Racing is having a tough time getting their cars to turn through the center of the corners inhibiting their speed
  • Sebastien Bourdais, Simon Pagenaud, and Scott Dixon are starting outside the top-15 so there will be a long day ahead for these drivers
  • Firestone, at the drivers’ request, brought vastly different grip levels on the red tires and black tires so tire strategy will be important to the victor’s race
  • Lap 1, Turn 1…enough said

Enjoy the Race!

 

Race Recap: Honda 200 @ Mid-Ohio


The IZOD IndyCar Series made its annual stop at the technical, demanding Mid-Ohio Sports car course, a track notorious for discouraging passing and excitement.  But that was on the old Dallara and the Dallara DW12 proved at Barber Motorsports Park that on the tightest of tracks it could provoke fans to arise from their seats and cheer as the cars went by.  Not only is the DW12 faster, in general, than its predecessor, it has shown incredible ability to create passing opportunities where there were none before.  Mid-Ohio featured the 2012 debut of the Push-To-Pass horsepower boost feature on a permanent road course venue.  Added to the drivers calculations was a five second delay from when he/she pushed the button to when the turbocharged engines would give the extra boost making the drivers plan ahead when planning their attack on the car ahead.  The purpose being to encourage use of Push-To-Pass in a more offensive manner rather than defensive.

Team Penske began the weekend building on the momentum gained from Helio Castroneves’ victory at Edmonton City Centre Airport two weeks earlier.  Weather conditions wreaked havoc on the preparations for the race and Helio Castroneves suffered a bruised wrist in the morning practice before qualifications where the Brazilian failed to transfer to the second round of qualifying resulting in no better than 13th Place starting position.  Castroneves’ race got exponentially more difficult when Team Penske elected to change the Chevrolet engine in the No. 3 Penske Truck Rental DW12 resulting in a ten-spot grid penalty as per the IZOD IndyCar Series Rule Book meaning Castroneves would start 23rd.  Castroneves’ Team Penske teammates fared better on Saturday qualifying with both Briscoe and Power making the top-6 shootout for the Pole.  Briscoe held station qualifying in 6th right behind Scott Dixon.  All Will Power did was shatter the IndyCar track qualifying record on the way to netting his third Pole Position start of 2012 eclipsing Dario Franchitti’s fast lap by two tenths of a second.  The top six was Power and Franchitti followed by Pagenaud, Tagliani, Dixon, and Briscoe.

Andretti Autosport driver Ryan Hunter-Reay entered Mid-Ohio Sports Car course with the points lead and looked to continue momentum gained from three straight wins at Milwaukee, Iowa, and Toronto and a 7th Place result at Edmonton.  Very early in the race, Hunter-Reay’s team became concerned that something inside the No. 28 DHL/SunDrop Pelonia Chevrolet was amiss and may cast a dark cloud over their day.  Hunter-Reay remained stationed in the top-10 for much of the early portions of the race, but coming to the last round of pit stops the car began sounding, according to Jon Beekhuis, very sour and ill and Hunter-Reay fell sharply off the race leaders’ pace.  Eventually, Hunter-Reay was called to pit lane inside ten laps to go marking the first time Hunter-Reay was not running at the finish since Texas in June.  The silver lining in this is Hunter-Reay’s engine will be regarded as a mechanical failure during the race so no grid penalty will be assessed at Sonoma.

Looking at IZOD IndyCar Series history, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course could have Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s name stamped on it, driver Scott Dixon’s in particular.  Since the first IndyCar Series Race at the storied facility, Dixon had won three of the five races.  His only blemishes, a third place in 2008 and fifth in 2010.  Dixon just has a knack for this course which, due to its tight nature and minimal passing opportunities, requires strong qualifying efforts, tire and fuel management, and flawless pit stops to achieve the top step on the podium when the checkers fall.  Dixon excels at all of these factors giving him essential ownership of the IndyCar Race on this circuit.

Race day began ominously as the course was drenched by overnight and morning rainfall making the morning warmup almost useless to determining a race setup just because of the uncertainty surrounding the conditions for the 85-lap event.  The race began in insanity as a huge pack of 25 DW12 IndyCars fought for the same piece of real estate causing Justin Wilson to spin and continue, but losing precious positions.  Common in IndyCar Series races, varying pit strategies became a game changer.  Teams had the option to select a three-stop or two-stop pit strategies.  Those toward the back opted to go for the three stop strategy hoping that the yellow caution flags would wave in their favor.  The one problem with this strategy was, for the second consecutive race, there were no cautions and the race was run under green from start to the checkered flag.  This race was won on the final pit stop when Scott Dixon, who stalked the rear wing of the Verizon Team Penske car of Will Power for the first two fuel stints, benefitted from a clear pit entry giving Dixon a faster pit stop by the smallest of margins, but it was enough.  Dixon’s crew was able to insert the fuel probe just milliseconds faster than Power’s resulting in the change of position.  Then Dixon went to work driving away from Power to Victory Lane for his second win of the season also pulling Dixon back into the heat of the points race with tough days for Castroneves and Hunter-Reay.

CONGRATULATIONS TO SCOTT DIXON AND TARGET CHIP GANASSI RACING: WINNERS OF THE HONDA 200 @ MID-OHIO

R.I.P. DAN WHELDON

RACE RECAP: IOWA CORN INDY 250


The IZOD IndyCar Series returned to the Iowa Speedway June 22nd for some old fashioned Saturday night short track racing.  Racing at Iowa is uniquely challenging for the IndyCar Paddock as the track surface is only 7/8 of a mile in length, but progressive banking gives the track the characteristics of a superspeedway and lightning fast lap times under 18 seconds.  IZOD IndyCar drivers requested a low downforce setup similar to that run at Texas Motor Speedway earlier in the month.  The result was a race that the drivers had to drive instead of mashing the gas pedal and hoping for the best.  The hope was the race would be much like Texas with competitive side-by-side racing but with the driver a big part of the winning equation.  Iowa Speedway delivered!

Over recent years, the IZOD IndyCar Series has not shied away from trying new formats to spice up their schedule and encourage new fans to pay attention.  In Iowa, they tried a new twist to the race weekend which was qualifying determined by three heat races as opposed to single car qualifying averaging the speed of two green flag laps.  Practice times determined the field for the three heat races with odd numbered cars from 11th on back fighting for the inside lane and even numbered cars fighting for 10th on back for the outside lane.  The top-9 practice times were the only cars able to contend for the Pole Position ultimately won by Dario Franchitti.  The format was interesting and worth exploring, but the contention for most drivers was that every heat race should have meaning for the winner.  A transfer spot to the final heat race for the Pole would remedy that situation.

The race’s already late start time was delayed by over an hour due to heavy rains earlier in the day.  Props to NBC Sports Network’s broadcast team as they navigated the rain delay by offering compelling interviews with just about every driver in the Paddock.  The Iowa Speedway crew completed the track drying procedure and drivers were called to their cars.  Polesitter Dario Franchitti saw his night come to an end before it started as his Honda engine gave out on the warm-up laps ending his day.  The race restarted and Helio Castroneves of Team Penske benefitted from Franchitti’s engine troubles to take the early lead being chased by James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay while all three drivers navigated early lap traffic.  The early laps provided exactly what the drivers were hoping for…competitive side-by-side racing but the cars were a handful to drive.

Will Power suffered another night to forget in Iowa when, early in the race, Power navigated his Verizon Team Penske car to the low side of the racetrack in turn 2.  The problem was that the No. 5 CITGO KV Racing Technology car piloted by EJ Viso was closing on Power and was inside the Team Penske driver at the time.  The two cars made contact sending both cars into the SAFER barrier ending the race for both drivers.  Power later admitted to his mistake and patched up any ill feelings with Viso.

As happens frequently in auto racing, strategy became paramount storyline in the race and Roger Penske looked to have given Ryan Briscoe an opportunity to win the race on a great fuel strategy.  At the end of a previous caution, Penske called Briscoe to bring the No. 2 Transitions Adaptive Lenses Dallara Chevrolet to the pits to top off the fuel in the car to go a little bit longer on the next stint than every other driver on the track.  As the next round of green flag stops cycled through, Briscoe found himself on a lap all on his own and was looking to be in a great position if a caution came out.  The caution came out, but, unfortunately, Briscoe was the driver in the wall bringing out the yellow.  Briscoe maintained the low lane as he was going to pit the next lap when he was dive bombed by Josef Newgarden who was just off pit lane with fresh tires.  The incident resulted in an end to the race for Briscoe and Newgarden.

The cars from Andretti Autosport, as in the 2011 race, appeared to be the strongest horses in the race with only Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon able to offer consistent challenges to Michael Andretti’s stable.  However, the race turned sour for another championship contender as James Hinchcliffe had his GoDaddy.com Chevrolet snap loose and get into the fence leaving Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay left to duke it out for the win.  Katherine Legge spun in turn 2 with two laps to go ending the race under caution giving Ryan Hunter-Reay his second win in a row.  With Power and Hinchcliffe having issues in the race and the late fade by Scott Dixon, the points were shaken up greatly in after Iowa.  Power maintaned the points lead by three points over Ryan Hunter-Reay with Dixon maintaining third and Helio Castroneves leapfrogging Hinchcliffe to 4th in points.

CONGRATULATIONS TO RYAN HUNTER-REAY AND ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT: WINNERS OF THE IOWA CORN INDY 250

  R.I.P. DAN WHELDON

Sao Paulo Recap: What Turbo Upgrade?


If Honda was frustrated and scratching their heads coming out of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, they must be fuming after Brazil.  Prior to the race weekend, Honda won the ability to upgrade their turbocharger to the behest of Chevrolet.  The turbo upgrade was installed to remove a noticeable turbo lag on exit of slow corners and make the Honda engine more competitive on the road and street courses.  The race weekend began with the same story, however, as Team Penske’s Will Power snagged the Pole Position, his second in the first four races and fourth on the season for Team Penske, by .04 seconds over Ganassi driver Dario Franchitti.

The fast six, in general, was more balanced with Power being joined by James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay for Chevrolet while Franchitti was joined by teammate Scott Dixon and Justin Wilson of Dale Coyne Racing representing Honda.  The pace overall of the Honda teams was much closer to that of Chevrolet which is a good sign.  A competitive Honda engine is important for the future of the IZOD IndyCar Series because manufacturer competition is imperative as the series continues to grow into the mainstream of sports in North America.  If Chevrolet was to come out and completely wipe the field with Honda, all of those Honda teams would run for Chevrolet at year’s end making IndyCar a spec series once again

The most amazing thing about this race, other than the fact that the rain failed to garner the race course with its presence, was that all 26 cars made it through the first turn without incident on the start.  The race ran caution free until Ryan Briscoe smacked the wall on his outlap following his first pit stop.  The ensuing restart saw Dario Franchitti punted by Mike Conway bringing out the yellow flag almost as soon as the green flew for the restart.  As is typical on street courses, strategy played a huge factor in determining the race winner.  The only driver able to touch Will Power in this race was Scott Dixon, however, Dixon was forced to make three pit stops to Power’s two thus sealing his fate.  A couple late incidents involving Ed Carpenter and Josef Newgarden brought out late restarts, one of which saw a 7-8 car pileup ruining many driver’s chances at good results.  Ryan Hunter-Reay gave it all he had, but was to no avail and Will Power captured his third straight win of 2012 and remains unbeaten on the Sao Paulo circuit.

Power’s Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves drove from a miserable 20th place starting position to finish 4th and Dario Franchitti rebounded from the incident with Conway to finish 5th salvaging a good points day.  Takuma Sato also finished 3rd, his best result to date in the IZOD IndyCar Series.  Overall, the Honda engines were more competitive, but Chevrolet still has the advantage as it seems through four races.  Also, Oriol Servia finished 11th in Dreyer & Reinbold’s final race with the Lotus powerplant.

The biggest question being asked through the entire Paddock:

CAN ANYBODY SLOW DOWN WILL POWER?  Some oval races on the horizon to, perhaps, bring the field right back to Power’s rear wing.  Keep tuning in as this story develops over the next 8 weeks.

CONGRATULATIONS TO WILL POWER AND TEAM PENSKE:  WINNERS OF THE SAO PAULO INDY 300!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UP NEXT:

After an open test at Texas Motor Speedway the IndyCars will load into the world’s greatest race course, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the crown jewel on the schedule the Indianapolis 500.  This is destined to be a emotion-filled month as the series returns to the site of the late Dan Wheldon’s last win so the emotions will run high.  It is also the first oval on the schedule begging the question who, Chevrolet or Honda, will have the advantage when the engine spends all its time at high RPM.  Also, some entries are still to be filled and some still need engines so the drama will run high all month.  Make sure to tune in May 19-20 for Qualifying and the Race goes GREEN on May 27!

R.I.P. DAN WHELDON

Preview: Race 2 @ Barber Motorsports Park


TRACK MAP / LAYOUT:

The season opener is in the books with Team Penske and Helio Castroneves firing the first salvo in the war for the 2012 series championship.  Round two moves to Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama, a 2.38 mile permanent road course complete with elevation changes, straightaways and a corkscrew turn.

The box score for the 2011 race doesn’t exactly tell the whole story.  According to the statistics, Verizon Team Penske driver Will Power led every lap from start to finish.  Sounds boring, doesn’t it?  Lost in the numbers is the fact that Power had to withstand and and defend EIGHT double-file restarts holding of Target Chip Ganassi Driver Scott Dixon to lead all those laps.  The Toowoomba native was brilliant in this race and was, undoubtedly, the driver to beat in the race last year.  The 2011 edition was also filled with flaring tempers including Team Penske’s Ryan Briscoe who was forced to retire with a damaged right rear suspension after being punted by Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay entering the corkscrew turn.

Fast forward to the 2012 chapter to be written this weekend which is the third enstallment.  Team Penske enters as the only defending winners of the event with Castroneves taking victory in 2010 followed by Power in 2011. Coming off the opening weekend at St. Petersburg where Chevrolet and Team Penske established their early dominance it is hard to not call Team Penske the team to beat entering this weekend.  Now, St. Pete was only the first race of the season so things are bound to change at the top, but all these factors point to Roger Penske’s team having the early advantage when practice opens on Friday.  Major threats to qualify near the top are the three cars of Team Penske as well as Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport but surprises could arise from Simon Pagenaud, Takuma Sato, Tony Kanaan, and others.  Look for Rubens Barrichello to rebound from St. Petersburg and have a very fast weekend as long his gearbox holds together for the first practice this weekend.  The race should be exciting as passing will be difficult and drivers patience will be tested as they try to stick their nose where there is no room to do so.  If 2011 was any  indication, restarts will be amazing to watch, and the DW12 should have another record-setting weekend at Barber.  The action spot to watch will be turns 5 and 6 where most of the contact and frustration occured last year, as well as the corkscrew in turns 10 and 11.

PREDICTION:

POLE WINNER: Will Power Verizon Team Penske

RACE WINNER: Will Power Verizon Team Penske

ENTRANT LIST:

# 2 Ryan Briscoe HITACHI Team Penske Chevrolet

# 3 Helio Castroneves AAA Team Penske Chevrolet

# 4 JR Hildebrand National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet

# 5 EJ Viso CITGO KV Racing Technology Chevrolet

# 6 Katherine Legge TrueCar Dragon Racing Lotus

# 7 Sebastien Bourdais Dragon Racing Lotus

# 8 Rubens Barrichello BMC KV Racing Technology Chevrolet

# 9 Scott Dixon Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

# 10 Dario Franchitti Clorox Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

# 11 Tony Kanaan GEICO KV Racing Technology Chevrolet

# 12 Will Power Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet

# 14 Mike Conway ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda

# 15 Takuma Sato MiJack Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

# 18 Justin Wilson Sonny’s Bar-B-Que Dale Coyne Racing Honda

# 19 James Jakes BSA Dale Coyne Racing Honda

# 20 Ed Carpenter Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

# 22 Oriol Servia Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Lotus

# 26 Marco Andretti Team RC Cola Andretti Autosport Chevrolet

# 27 James Hinchcliffe Team GoDaddy.com Andretti Autosport Chevrolet

# 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay Team DHL/SunDrop Andretti Autosport Chevrolet

# 38 Graham Rahal Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

# 67 Josef Newgarden Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda

# 77 Simon Pagenaud HP Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports Honda

# 78 Simona de Silvestro Entergy HVM Racing Lotus

# 83 Charlie Kimball Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

# 98 Alex Tagliani Barracuda Networks BHA Lotus