James and Co.
Team James (or Schmidt Peterson Motorsports to the racing world) had a great race. James Hinchcliffe, who was unflattering with his pace during practice, qualifying, and even the race pulled out a strategy filled win. His teammate, aptly named James Jakes, spun early on, leading to Jack Hawksworth's retirement. This didn't get Jakes down, as he battled back and used strategy to capture his second career podium. A bizarre result to a bizarre race.
Out of all of the big guns, it was Helio Castroneves who cashed in the biggest. Helio, who didn't even make it out of the first group of qualifying on Saturday, was bailed out by qualifying being cancelled. Then, in the race, Helio showed great pace. On a restart, Helio punted Francesco Dracone. Now, I know Dracone was probably five laps down and in the middle of a battle anyways, but we are already seeing inconsistency in officiating. Graham Rahal got penalized for the same thing last race, but Helio got off with a warning, which is infuriating. Anyhow, Helio managed to scrap out a second place finish by going off strategy.
Simona de Silvestro
Simona de Silvestro had a great recovery race after having a less than stellar race at St. Pete. This is the Simona I have been waiting for for years. Hopefully results like this continue so she can lock up a full season ride and fight for the championship in proper fashion. If the race craft has improved on ovals, watch out for this potential winner.
Unnamed Corner Worker Dude
So, the hero of the race was some old white guy in a white button down shirt and some slacks. Gabby Chaves spun and got stuck in the wet grass. Expecting a yellow, I waited for Gabby to start waiving his hands for a push. Then, out of nowhere, a man appeared and began pushing Chaves out of the trap. Even though Chaves never got going and a yellow was thrown, the man has been immortalized as a hero. If you ever are in a sticky situation, call that dude.
It sucks that such a pitiful excuse for a race occurred at a place that promoted the hell out of the event and drew a huge crowd. I think the track has every chance to be great. There's lots of grip, great passing opportunities, high speed, and some excellent corners. The people showed up, and the response by the community was great. But fans won't comeback without an explanation as to what happened yesterday. Hopefully, a better show is put on next season.
Three of the four Team Penske drivers gathered some good points. The one who didn't was Simon Pagenaud. Simon was running in the top-ten all race until the last incident of the day, where Ryan Hunter-Reay and Pagenaud ran out of room, forcing Simon off the track. Simon couldn't control his car in the wet grass, and he came back on the track and clobbered RHR and innocent victim Sebastien Bourdais. Pagenaud, who is a clear championship contender, takes an early hit to his campaign.
Last year, it was Long Beach. This year, Ryan Hunter-Reay's irrational moment of the year came at NOLA. As discussed above, RHR caused the wreck. He said he didn't have any room. I would like to point out a tweet by James Beavers that accurately makes my point:
RHR asks where @simonpagenaud expected him to go. I have an answer. pic.twitter.com/2M2Q0NotiA
— James (@IndyCar_Rebirth) April 12, 2015
RHR was in complete denial at Long Beach when the whole world knew he shafted Josef Newgarden and the other drivers behind him. The same was said at NOLA when RHR said he didn't have enough room to move over. You could have fit a semi in the space between him and Bourdais. Own up to the mistake.
Is Sage Karam a fish out of water in Indycar? The Mazda Road to Indy standout and the Indy 500 phenom from 2014 has had a terrible start to 2015. Sage did nothing impressive in St. Pete and caused two of the six cautions at NOLA yesterday. He was also involved in a third incident with teammate Charlie Kimball, where Karam broke too late and hit his font wing on Kimball. If Karam hopes to make this ride count, he'll need to start being consistent, or he will quickly become a liability at Chip Ganassi Racing. A shame because the kid is full of talent.
Cone of Shame
No driver has received quite the unwelcoming welcome in recent years quite like Francesco Dracone. Dracone, a 31 year old Italian, has had an unimpressive career in racing. Yet, somehow, he landed a ride with Dale Coyne Racing ($$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$). I have no problem with ride buying, but if you're going to let someone buy your ride, make sure they know how to drive. Personally, I thought I'd give Dracone a chance before calling him worthless. Early on, it was clear that Dracone was not in the same universe as the rest of the Indycar field. Dracone is three seconds off the pace to just about everyone, while teammate Carlos Huertas shows signs of pace. The cherry on top was Dracone coming into the pits under yellow and absolutely mauling one of his crew guys, who's very lucky to be alive. If you haven't seen the video, I'd advise watching it with caution. Two things to note from that video: 1) He drove into the pits like a reckless buffoon 2) Rookie driver Gabby Chaves, who has little experience with hot pit stops and who was in the pit stall in front of Dracone, slowed down considerably and came into his stall calmly and crisply. I have no beef with Dracone as a person, but get the hell out of Indycar.
This isn't over. A rant will be posted later this week on what happened yesterday. Stay tuned.