Juan Pablo Montoya
Wow, does Juan Pablo Montoya look like his 1999-form one race in to season or what?! JPM continued his success from the second-half of 2014 right away in 2015, nailing his in-and-out laps on his last pit stop to jump ahead of Will Power on pit sequence to capture the win. Not only did he hold off Power, but JPM was also quick all weekend. If JPM continues in this form, the rest of the field may be in trouble.
Along with JPM and Power were the other two Team Penske drivers of Helio Castroneves and newby Simon Pagenaud. Together, the four drivers took the top four spots in qualifying (something I think has never been done in Indycar) and captured four of the five top spots in the race. Of the four, Pagenaud had to overcome the most adversity, getting put mid-pack several times and damaging his front wing, but he still found a way to finish in fifth. I have a feeling Team Penske will appear in the Winners category of these blogs for a whole lot of races this season.
The man who denied Penske of their 1-2-3-4 finish is Tony Kanaan. Kanaan had a solid weekend, continually showing pace and keeping a very clean nose on his way to a P5 finish. His other teammates Scott Dixon (air-jack issues), Charlie Kimball (multiple incidents), and Sage Karam (not sure what his deal was, maybe just simply put being a rookie?) couldn't hold a candle to him in the race. During the broadcast, the ABC analysts talked about Kanaan becoming more comfortable within the team. Remember that before yesterday, Kanaan was the last driver to win a race in the series (Fontana '14). Like JPM, if Kanaan can keep up his form from the second half of last season, the other drivers might be in trouble.
Was it the greatest race in Indycar history? Of course not. There was debris cautions for days (at least there was legitimate debris on the track and not phantom debris cautions or menacing hot dog wrappers like that other series) that took forever to clean up. There were times of stale action where we had to talk about how great Marco Andretti was doing in P13. But overall, the race had moments of excitement, including ballsy passing and dramatic, albeit boneheaded moves on the track. I enjoyed the speed, the passes, the aggressiveness, and the slight strategy that took place which didn't involve an entire race of fuel conservation. Overall, I am very pleased with the race that took place!
What's stronger: Tony George's rationale for creating the IRL or a Honda front wing? The Honda wings, which kept getting damaged throughout the race, were so weak that ABC began having a counter of wings broken between Chevy and Honda. At one point, Honda was "leading" 7-1. That's awful. As mentioned during the broadcast, the front wing designs had to meet the same weight that they were in 2014 after the modifications, so obviously Honda did not make a sturdy enough wing. Either that or their drivers are all knuckleheads.
Simona de Silvestro
A driver that really needed to have a great race was Simona de Silvestro. For Simona, the raced served as a tryout for Andretti Autosport for future races or possibly the 2015 season. She qualified well, despite being down during some practice sessions. In the race, well, it didn't go too well. She was involved with teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and Carlos Munoz early on. RHR passed her in turn ten. Seeing his successful pass, Munoz tried to follow. While I would pin most of the fault on Carlos, being in any incident with your teammate, regardless of fault, is not good. In the grand scheme though, this incident wouldn't matter if Simona could rebound. Later on, she missed her braking zone by a lot (my words exactly were "wasn't even close," which were later echoed by Eddie Cheever) and rammed James Jakes. Jakes race was ruined, and Simona suffered damage. Overall, a P18 was not what Michael Andretti had in mind.
Dale Coyne Racing
Francesco Dracone finished P23 and Carlos Huertas P24. Need I say more?
Gabby Chaves was unflattering in his first race of the season. Early on in the race, Chaves was seen slowing down abruptly on the exit of a turn, causing Marco Andretti to run into the back of him (I'm not one to defend Marco often, but he's right in this situation) leaving Marco with a damaged front wing. Accidents happen, that's fine. But later on. Chaves really misjudged a maneuver on James Hinchcliffe, leaving Hinch with a flat tire for one lap and effectively ruining his race. Hopefully Chaves tones down the miscues for the remainder of the season.
Cone of Shame
Graham Rahal gained a lot of "fans" following the race. To recap what set him off, Charlie Kimball got damage from contact (from I believe Simon Pagenaud), leaving his rear gaurd with a serious rub on his rear tire. Half-a-lap later, Graham, who was following Kimball, decided to try to make a move around the damaged yet still on-pace Kimball. Rahal put Kimball into the tires and received a penalty. People noted that Graham said over the radio, "They'll find any way they can to screw me, it's just the way it goes." Hold on now Graham. Please tell me how Indycar screws you? a) the incident was questionable, I could see fault with both drivers. b) you've been irrelevant outside of two or three races since 2013. Indycar hasn't had a chance to screw you out of a good result. c) maybe, MABYE I'll take that arguement from Will Power, but not you. After finishing P11, which isn't bad, Graham took to Twitter and was, well, colorful. Now I am not a fan of @TonyJWriter (he blocked me, we just don't like each other), but he and Graham got into after the race. Graham made the arguement that anyone who knows anything about racing knows that he shouldn't have gotten that penalty. Well, apparently I know nothing about racing. Tony tweeted, "Gotta have a better arguement than "If you don't agree with me, you know nothing about racing." I agree with Tony (gasp, I know). I can't exactly declare myself innocent of never being stubborn on a subject, but Graham was way out of line here. Dennouncing anyone with a differing opinion as yours as a "hater" is obtuse. I am not oblviious to the fact that Graham does have trolls who are pretty ruthless, but those who rationally disagreed with him aren't "haters." My immediate reaction to the incident was a flashback to Long Beach in 2014. Both Graham and RHR would have been well off by waiting a couple turns to capitalize on a off-the-pace car rather than forcing a pass. But hey, I don't know anything about racing.
Let me know what you think!